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Pause

As is demonstrated by my lack of posts for almost a year-and-a-half, I have an extended pause in effect for the klatsch. Pregnancy and motherhood have forced me to put my drinking and my writing on hiatus. I (very!) briefly fell under the spell that I could do non-alcoholic cocktails, but found every drink I tried lacking. So the liquor cabinet hasn’t received any attention and my time on the Internet is typically focused on all things baby rather than cocktail research. Hopefully later this year I will be able to begin hosting more klatsches. I’ve given thought over the last 20 months on what my first drink will be once I’m back. No clear front-runners yet. Thoughts/suggestions?

Rise and Shake

We’ve been on a breakfast kick of late at my house- pain perdu with strawberry cream cheese, blueberry cornmeal pancakes, coconut lime bread – and naturally need cocktails to go along. While Bloody Marys (liquid salsa in my opinion) and Mimosas (just give me Champagne, please) are fine for some, I prefer drinks such as the Ramos Gin Fizz (RGF), the Brandy Milk Punch (BMP), or Red Rooster Punch. Living in New Orleans, we have plenty of access to and variety of drinks and morning is no exception. It was an adjustment for both my husband and me to get comfortable with the general acceptability here of “drinking before noon.”

Chris McMillian, currently at Bar Uncommon, makes a excellent Ramos Gin Fizz and can teach you about the history of the drink and its creator Henry Ramos as well. The RGF is not relegated to just the a.m. hours, but is particularly well suited for easing into the morning or for those recovering from the effects of the previous evening. Chris actually made me my first RGF the first time I visited him at his bar. I had just read about how Huey P. Long would speak about this great drink during his travels and even went so far to bring along his own bartender so he could have a correctly made RGF. It’s silky, creamy, and zippy. The gin is stealthily hidden, so if you consume too many you might end up needing a hangover cure for your hangover cure. You will definitely need the energy or a second person in reserve to shake this drink for a long time, but the effort is well worth it. Watch this video of Chris making the RGF from his days at the Ritz Carlton and then try it out for yourself. We prefer a modified version of the recipe from The Joy of Mixology: The Consummate Guide to the Bartender’s Craft by Gary Regan:

    Ramos_Gin_FizzRamos Gin Fizz, makes 2 cocktails

    2 oz gin
    1 oz cream
    1 raw egg white
    ½ oz simple syrup
    ½ oz fresh lime juice
    ½ oz fresh lemon juice
    ¼ oz orange-flower water
    couple of drops of pure vanilla extract

    Combine ingredients in shaker, add ice, shake vigorously, and strain into chilled, highball glass without ice. You will need to shake for well over a minute to get the correct texture.

My other drink that I have fallen in love is the Brandy Milk Punch. I had it for the first time visiting Commander’s Palace where we had Easter brunch. It’s simple to make, requires few ingredients compared to the RGF, and can be batched in large quantities if you’re having a large party or heading off to the parades. Chris McMillian has a video on this as well. While the video presents different proportions, I prefer the Commander’s version of the BMP as printed within the In the Land of Cocktails: Recipes and Adventures from the Cocktail Chicks:

    Brandy Milk Punch

    2 oz brandy
    1 oz simple syrup
    ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1½ oz milk
    Freshly grated nutmeg

    Combine ingredients except for nutmeg in shaker, add ice, shake vigorously, and strain into rocks glass with ice. Grate a light dusting of the nutmeg on top.

Lastly, my mom unwittingly established a Thanksgiving day tradition for me by making a Red Rooster Punch many years ago. I believe she had seen it on one of Emeril Lagasse’s shows on the Food Network. The flavors represent fall and it can easily be batched up and enjoyed by a group with breakfast or throughout the morning and afternoon as the big meal is being prepared. I’ve changed it up over the years by freezing the vodka and really chilling the cranberry juice to serve it as a liquid drink with a minimal amount of “ice” crystals. Flavored vodkas (such as citrus, spice, pear, etc.) would also work well with this.
Red_Rooster

    Red Rooster Punch, makes about 8 cocktails

    1½ quarts cranberry juice, very chilled
    One 6 oz can frozen orange juice
    2 cups vodka, pulled straight from the freezer
    Cranberries and/or orange slice to garnish, optional

    Combine all ingredients in a pitcher, garnish with fruit, and serve immediately. Leftovers can be stored in the freezer.

photo by Angel Franco/The New York Times (2005)

photo by Angel Franco/The New York Times (2005)

I was trying to trace back to the point in time when I really developed my appreciation and love for cocktails and mixed drinks. I think the turning point was April 2005 in NYC. It was my first trip up and right before we left I read the weekly Shaken and Stirred article in the Sunday Style section of the New York Times that happened to feature the spring drink trends for 2005. The concept of using fresh, seasonal ingredients caught my attention.

With article in tow, my husband and I visited Gramercy Tavern where I had the Belle du Jour that has permanently secured my love for lavender and gin. The drink was created by Barry Johnson and named after Catherine Deneuve, since he felt it reflected the feminine nature of the lavender simple syrup, gin, and lemon juice.

Once we came home, I experimented to recreate the Belle du Jour and came up with the following:

    Belle du Jour – Retour
    2 oz gin
    1 oz lemon juice
    ½ oz lavender simple syrup

    Combine ingredients in shaker, add ice, shake vigorously, and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

    Lavender Simple Syrup
    1¼ cups water
    ¾ cup granulated sugar
    1 oz fresh lavender leaves (preferably french), chopped

    Bring water to boil in a saucepan, add sugar, stir until sugar dissolves, and add lavender leaves. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature and strain syrup into a bottle. Store in refrigerator for up to one month.

Blood_OrangeWe also stopped by Lure Fishbar where I had a delicious blood orange margarita and my husband had a basil-strawberry drink (can’t remember the base spirit). The margarita was made with fresh blood orange puree, tequila, and orange curacao and happens to be still/back on their menu. While not the recipe from Rainlove Lampariello (who created the cocktails for Lure at that time) I did find another version:

    Blue Smoke’s Blood Orange Margarita from Mix Shake Stir: Recipes from Danny Meyer’s Acclaimed New York City Restaurants
    2 oz blanco tequila
    1½ oz fresh lime juice
    ¾ oz orange liqueur (such as GranGala or Cointreau)
    ½ oz simple syrup
    ¾ oz blood orange purée
    1 lime wheel (optional)
    1 blood orange wheel (optional)

    Moisten the edge of a rocks glass using a wedge of lime. Sprinkle salt on a plate and dip the outside rim of the glass into the salt. Fill both the glass and a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the tequila, lime juice, orange liqueur, simple syrup, and purée to the shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into glass and garnish with orange and lime wheels.

    Blood Orange Puree
    4 blood oranges, peeled, segmented, and seeded
    1 tblsp simple syrup, or to taste
    1 tsp lemon juice

    In a blender, combine the orange segments, simple syrup, and lemon juice and purée until smooth. (Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to two days.)

So what was your first love and who was behind it?

Crème Yvette

Yvette Guilbert Scala - Ferdinand BacTales of the Cocktail 2009 is finishing up today. One of the highlights yesterday was the unveiling of Crème Yvette by Cooper Spirits International of St-Germain fame. Crème Yvette is a liqueur with a blend of berries, vanilla and other spices, and violets. According to Dr. Cocktail it was originally named after Yvette Guilbert, a singer/actress in Paris at the turn of the 20th century. It has been unavailable for the most part since the 1960s and, from what I’ve heard from others, was the preferred violet liqueur – much better than Crème de Violette or Parfait Amour.

The tasting room that was set up at Tales had the lights turned low, was clad in black, fitted with about half-a-dozen high cafe tables and stools, and had a single bar in spotlight where Jamie Boudreau was mixing up Aviations and Blue Moons.

The new Crème Yvette is sexy from the start – the bottle is buxom and beautiful. Unfortunately due to the lighting and the crowd I couldn’t get a picture (although you can find a picture in a Time Out NY article from earlier this year). I sampled an Aviation, which unfortunately featured the maraschino liqueur more than the Crème Yvette. I can’t wait until Crème Yvette hits the shelves so that I can try out some drinks on my own such as:

    Blue Moon Variation from CocktailDB
    1½ oz Gin
    1 egg white
    ¾ oz lemon juice
    ¼ oz Crème Yvette

    Shake over ice and strain into cocktail glass.

    Violet Fizz adapted from Dr. Cocktail (Ted Haigh)
    1½ oz Gin
    ½ oz Crème Yvette
    1 oz lemon juice
    ½ oz sugar
    Soda water

    Combine gin, Crème Yvette, lemon juice, and sugar in shaker; add ice; shake; and strain into highball glass filled with ice. Top off with soda water.

    Attention adapted from Jamie Boudreau’s recipe in July/August 2007 Imbibe
    2 oz gin
    ¼ oz dry vermouth
    ¼ oz Crème Yvette
    ¼ oz Herbasint, Pernod or other pastis
    2 dashes orange bitters
    Lemon twist

    Combine all ingredients except for twist in a mixing glass. Fill with cracked ice and stir for 30 seconds (or until frost develops on the glass). Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Paloma Flight

GrapefruitIt’s hot. So hot. With the sun blazing down and heat radiating off the surrounding pavement and buildings, I desperately seek out shade, air-conditioning and a cool drink. However, drinks that are too strong or sweet just aren’t appealing even if they’re cold. Citrus fruits, even though they’re technically winter produce, provide an ideal refreshment. As a kid if I was allowed to have a soda, I’d choose either Squirt, Mellow Yellow, and to a lesser degree Fresca. Now I thankfully graduated to versions without all the processed ingredients and sugars and can indulge with drinks having a bit more complexity. The Paloma embodies the tart/sweet/salty flavors of a great summer drink.

Back in April, Julio Bermejo was in town giving a seminar at the Museum of the American Cocktail on his favorite subject, tequila. One of the drinks presented and served was the Paloma, but this one was different from the standard variety that you pick-up in Mexico or as represented in the many recipes online (such as the Cazadores Paloma demonstrated in this hilarious, campy video).

Rather than use grapefruit soda, such as Jarritos, Julio used fresh grapefruit juice carbonated with a seltzer bottle. Muy bueno! This simple drink forced my husband and me to purchase a Sodastream Pure Home Soda Maker (Charcoal/Stainless) so we could do this at home.

    Dr. Kern’s Paloma by Julio Bermejo
    2 oz 100% agave tequila (Ocho Resposado)
    4 oz fresh, force-carbonated ruby red grapefruit juice
    Pinch of salt

    In a boston shaker filled with ice, pour tequila, add carbonated ruby red grapefruit juice, and shake. Strain into glass and add pinch of salt.

For some additional variations to the Paloma, I have found these others:

    Paloma, Mi Amante by Paul Clarke
    2 oz Tequila por Mi Amante
    ½ a lime
    Pinch of coarse salt
    Grapefruit soda

    Add ingredients to an ice-filled Collins glass; top with grapefruit soda (Jarritos, Squirt, or if you just can’t find any, try Sprite with a healthy squeeze of fresh grapefruit).

I’m fortunate to have a batch of Tequila por Mi Amante sitting in the frig that I made a while back when Louisiana strawberries were in season. Using this strawberry-infused tequila is a nice twist to the standard Paloma.

    Paloma Pura Cocktail from Kitchen Caravan
    2 grapefruits, halved
    1 lime, halved
    1 tablespoon sugar
    2 oz tequila
    soda water
    2 fresh basil leaves

    Squeeze the juice of the grapefruit and lime into a bowl; it should equal about 1 cup. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Prepare two cocktail glasses with ice. Divide the juice between the glasses and pour 1 oz of tequila into each. Top off with a little bit of soda water. If using basil, tear up the leaves and add to the glass. Serves 2.

If you can no longer get your hands on any good grapefruit, the traditional preparation remains, but there are better alternatives to the grapefruit soda such as Izze’s or Hansen’s. In addition, I created another version since I had some extra rose sparkling wine and named it to fit along with its parentage (“paloma” means dove) and the pink hue from both the juice and the sparkling wine:

Paloma_Rose Colombe de Rose
1 oz fresh, ruby red grapefruit juice
¾ oz reposado tequila
Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé
Pinch of pink finishing salt

Strain the grapefruit juice into a champagne glass, add tequila and top off the glass with the Rosé. Sprinkle the salt into the glass.

Chamomile Nosegay

German ChamomileSpring delivered me a sweet nosegay of chamomile from my garden, and offered me a great opportunity to experiment with floral cocktails. I love a soothing cup of chamomile tea and the scent brings back memories of summers in Germany where my aunt and uncle would have a huge(!) cup of tea each evening after dinner. Unfortunately, in the land of cocktails there are few offerings utilizing the lovely “mayweed.”

Square One Vodka has the Goodnight Ginger, created by founder Allison Evanow, which actually uses a chamomile myrtle tea to infuse the vodka:

    Goodnight Ginger
    2 oz Square One Organic Vodka infused with Numi Organic Chamomile Lemon Myrtle Teasan
    2 oz fresh lemon juice
    1/8 tsp fresh grated ginger
    1 oz organic agave nectar
    Splash of Vya Extra-Dry Vermouth

    Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds.
    Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Additionally, I came across a blog by Kelly Hightower who posted a recipe for a chamomile-infused rum punch:

    Flor de Caña Flip Flop Punch
    2 ozs Chamomile infused Flor De Caña 4-year old Rum
    4 sugar cubes
    3 oz club soda
    1 oz lemon juice
    1½ oz grapefruit juice

    Dissolve 4 sugar cubes in 1 oz of club soda (this generally involves muddling to help process). After sugar cubes are muddled/dissolved, add the rest of the ingredients except for the club soda one at a time and stir as added. Add ice once all of the ingredients have been added and stirred. Stir the punch until it is chilled. Top with remaining (2 oz) club soda and garnish with grapefruit slices.

Jamie Boudreau, who seemingly has a cocktail aligning with all my random musings, has a wonderful scotch-based sour:

    Chamomile Sour
    2 oz chamomile scotch
    ¾ oz lemon juice
    ½ oz simple syrup
    1 small egg white

    Place all ingredients in shaker and froth with cappuccino blade. Add ice and shake hard. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

According to Kelly, she made the chamomile-infused rum by adding 4 bar spoons of loose chamomile tea to 1 bottle of rum, letting it sit for an hour and 45 minutes, straining out the tea, and funneling the infused rum back into the bottle for storage.

Jamie’s instructions to make the chamomile scotch are: place half of an ounce of dried chamomile flowers into a jar with a bottle of scotch (e.g. Famous Grouse), let sit for 20 minutes, and then filter the chamomile from the scotch.

I actually tired two experiments with my fresh-picked chamomile: vodka (Absolut 100) and rum (Flor de Caña Gold 4 y.o. ). For each I used approximately two dozen flowers where most of the stems and petals had been removed. I placed these in my canning jars with 4 ounces of spirit. I let each infuse for a week in my refrigerator; agitating daily. I strained the infusions through coffee filters and bottled.

Spring-boarding from the flavors represented in both the Goodnight Ginger and the Flip Flop Punch, I tried making a cocktail using the chamomile-infused rum, Domaine de Canton, grapefruit juice, honey syrup, and bitters. However, the chamomile was too strong and I couldn’t find a combination that was enjoyable. If I were to do rum again, I wouldn’t let the flowers steep so long.

However, the chamomile vodka turned out wonderful – really like a pure, fresh tea. In the spirit of celebrating the flavors of Spring in the South, I combined fresh Texas peaches with the vodka to create:

Peach PoseyPeach Posey

1 small peach
2-3 teaspoons sugar
1½ oz chamomile-infused vodka
½ oz lemon juice
3 dashes Peychaud bitters

Slice the peach (reserving one slice for garnish) and muddle with sugar adjusting the amount of sugar based on the sweetness of the peach. Add vodka, lemon juice, bitters, and ice; shake hard and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the reserved peach slice.

Here’s to Spring’s bounty!

Louisiana StrawberriesI couldn’t pass up the strawberries at the farmers market today. The sweet smell of really ripe strawberries put me in some sort of mind-fog, and I ended up leaving with half a flat. Once I got home, the reality hit me of having so much ripe fruit just waiting to spoil. My mind started reeling on the different ways I could quickly use the bulk of the berries. Preserves? Soup? No, these wouldn’t do. Cocktails would be their fate. With vinegar… For some reason the combination of strawberries and balsamic vinegar got stuck in my head.

Last year I had clipped an article by Toby Cecchini about shrubs. Popular in the colonial days and revived during Prohibition, shrubs were brought back to life several years ago with the resurgence of the cocktail. Shrubs are basically fruit vinegars created by infusing vinegar with fresh fruit and adding sugar. The recipe Cecchini provides and others I’ve found seem to focus on raspberries. Tait Farm Foods makes and sells five varieites: cherry, cranberry, ginger, raspberry, and strawberry; therefore, I figured I could just substitute the same amount of strawberries for the raspberries in the recipes. Cecchini’s recipe is a cold infusion; while others required you to create a simple syrup, cook the fruit, and then lastly add the vinegar. Since I originally envisioned balsamic vinegar, I opted to go with a recipe that allowed me to cook the sugar and fruit together to get something closer to the syrupy, caramelized flavors of balsamic vinegar. I opted for a simple recipe published by Eric Felten, in How’s Your Drink (2007) based on Philadelphia’s City Tavern recipe:

    1 cup sugar
    1 cup water
    2 pints raspberries
    2 cups white wine vinegar

    In a saucepan, whisk sugar and water together at a boil. Reduce heat for a few minutes, then add raspberries, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Add vinegar and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Strain, cool, and bottle. Keep refrigerated.

Jamie Boudreau has another recipe using equal parts raspberries and blackberries, red wine vinegar, and half of the amount of simple syrup than the recipe above. Jeffrey Morgenthaler has a cranberry gastrique recipe, which is essentially the same thing as a shrub. His gastrique combines white vinegar, sugar, fresh cranberries, lemon juice and zest, star anise, and cloves.

Done with kitchen duty and chilled strawberry shrub in hand, it’s off to the bar to test some drinks. Since both Jamie Boudreau and Jeffery Morgenthler had cocktail recipes that used their shrub/gastrique, I figured it was a good place to start.

    Jan's ConundrumJan’s Conundrum by Jamie Boudreau
    2 ¼ oz Barbancourt 8 yr rum
    ½ oz Dry Amontillado Sherry
    ½ oz raspberry/blackberry shrub
    3 dashes of Angostura bitters
    lemon twist for garnish

    Stir all ingredients with ice and garnish with lemon twist.

    Flor De BayaFlor De Baya by Jeffrey Morgenthaler
    2 ounces reposado tequila
    3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
    1/2 ounce simple syrup
    1 teaspoon cranberry gastrique
    lime for garnish

    Shake ingredients with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime.

Since I don’t have Amontillado Sherry, I had to use the Manzanilla Sherry we have on hand. It’s more dry than an Amontilliado and isn’t fortified. In both I used my strawberry shrub in the same proportion as the shrub/gastrique called for. I think Jan’s Conundrum suffered for not having the Amontillado – it lacked a layer of sweetness and balance, but I could make out the flavors of the rum, sherry, and shrub. Flor De Baya called for very little of the gastrique and with my strawberry shrub I couldn’t really pick up any of the strawberries or acidity from the vinegar. When I increased the amount of shrub to 1/4 ounce, the drink was noticeably improved. Of the two, the Flor De Baya variation outscored Jan by one letter grade.

For my own part of the test, I submit a rum-based cocktail — I’ll let you grade it. It’s based on the Queen’s Park Swizzle:

    Lafayette Square Swizzle
    4 mint leaves
    2 ounces Demerara rum
    1/2 ounce cinnamon syrup
    1/2 ounce strawberry shrub
    3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
    crushed ice
    Mint spring for garnish

    Place mint in a highball glass and muddle gently just to bruise the leaves. Add remaining ingredients and crushed ice. Using a traditional swizzle stick or bar spoon, swizzle the drink until frost appears on the outside of the glass. Garnish with mint and serve with a straw.

Go on, take a sip and admit vinegar tastes good in a drink.