Drink of the Week

orange-blossom

There was a time, extending basically  from the 17th century until World War II, when the only clear liquor available in the English-speaking world was gin. Somehow our wartime alliance with the Russians — a people who fight tirelessly and fearlessly, and thus pretty good allies to have — opened up our markets to vodka. Before this time, vodka had been enjoyed outside Russia only by bohemian Frenchmen in Paris and their American hangers-on (one of whom invented the Bloody Mary at the American bar in Paris in the 1920s). As happy as I am that the Allied side won World War II, I hope I will be forgiven for regretting that the allied relationship led to gin being displaced by vodka in most Americans’ cocktail vocabulary.

A consequence of this displacement is that one of the most well known cocktails to Americans — whether teenagers or adults — is the Screwdriver. This drink is made by pouring a glass of orange juice and then pouring in as much vodka as the “mixologist” thinks appropriate. The Screwdriver finds its counterpoint in the drink known as Sex on the Beach, so popular a decade ago, which adds fruit schnapps to make the mixture even more fruity and alcoholic. If you appreciate good, well balanced cocktails, this lazy approach should strike you as an affront.

Contrast the Screwdriver to its gin-based predecessor, the Orange Blossom. The Orange Blossom is subtle and tasty. Unlike the Screwdriver, it doesn’t just taste like orange juice with some toxicity added.

The Orange Blossom (Will’s take):

1 1/2 oz. gin

1 1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed orange juice

1 oz. Cointreau

1 dash orange bitters

Mix over ice and shake. Serve in a cocktail glass with a sugared rim. Now tell me this isn’t better than every Screwdriver you’ve ever had.

Cheers!

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

{ 1 comment }

Holiday Cocktail Blogging: Homemade Eggnog

by Will on December 30, 2012

1eggnog

Eggnog is probably the best nog there is. Unfortunately, it is only tolerated during advent, because of its traditional connection to Christmas. After that, though, and for the rest of the year, the Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms round it up and destroy it. Perhaps one day there will be a ballot proposition that will change this, but for now it’s the reality we’re stuck with.

Luckily, there is still a way to enjoy eggnog outside of the holiday season: make your own! Here is one of the many eggnog recipes out there:

4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/3 quart whole milk
1/2 quart heavy cream
Bourbon, rum, or brandy
Freshly grated nutmeg

You separate the yolks from the eggwhites. Then you beat the eggwhites until they’re thick and mix in the milk and cream. Meanwhile, add the sugar to the yolks and whisk them. Then, add it all together and beat it stiff. Then combine the frothy concoction with a shot or so of your liquor of choice. Sprinkle the nutmeg on top.

Cheers!

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

{ 0 comments }

A Basil Gimlet Adventure

by Jen on May 27, 2011

Awhile back I had the most delicious cocktail I have ever had.  It was at Fonda, a tapas restaurant in Albany. Composed of muddled basil, simple syrup, lime juice and gin, it was sweet, so very spicy and all around delicious.  My mouth waters just thinking about it.

When my mother joined us for dinner last Friday, I got it in my head that I was going to try making Basil Gimlets for us.  A Google search yielded a collection of recipes.  Many required that I create a basil-infused simple syrup a day or so ahead of time.  As it was just hours before dinner that I decided on this venture, those recipes were out of the question.

For my first try, I muddled five leaves of basil in the juice of one lime and a teaspoon of white sugar in a Collins glass.  This is where I made my first mistake.  I put whole basil leaves in the glass and expected the muddler to make mincemeat out of them.  It wasn’t happening, and I realized this was the first muddled drink I had made.  I asked Will why it wasn’t working, and he said he was surprised I hadn’t chopped the basil first.  Some things are so obvious to some people!

I grabbed my kitchen scissors and used them to coarsely chop the basil in the glasses.   I added 1 1/2 ounces of gin (Beefeater’s…it’s what we had on hand), some ice and stirred.

It looked yummy enough and we couldn’t wait to try it.  But once we had, we were almost sorry.  It wasn’t nearly sweet enough.  I added a dash of simple syrup to each and it was better.  But it still didn’t have the incredibly sweet spicy taste of the one Fonda had made.

We drank it anyway, and it was, actually, pretty good.  But as we drank it, it dawned on me…this was one dangerous drink.  The large bits of basil were always getting stuck on our teeth!

Not a good drink for date night.

Determined to get the drink right, I tried again.  This time I chopped the basil in our mini Cuisinart until it couldn’t be chopped any longer.

No basil was getting stuck in our teeth this time!

I muddled 1 heaping teaspoon of chopped basil with the juice of one lime, and 1 1/2 teaspoon white sugar in a cocktail shaker.  I added 1 1/2 ounces of gin and stirred over ice.

This time, though, I poured the cocktail through a strainer into a stemless martini glass.

This one was better, and delicious, but still nowhere near as good as the Basil Gimlet in my memory.

Basil Gimlet Try #2, you were delicious, but my quest is far from over!

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

{ 3 comments }

The Polish Kiss

by Jen on May 20, 2011

One of my oldest friends Jessica came over and introduced me to this cocktail that stars Żubrówka, or Bison Grass Vodka.  Żubrówka, a traditional Polish spirit, is made from rye and flavored with – you guessed it – the grass that the bison munch on.

The traditional drink is made with apple juice, but on Jessica’s suggestion, we used sparkling apple cider for a less sweet variation.  Thank goodness we did!  Even without the apple juice, this is a drink to satisfy your sweet tooth.

I enjoyed how light and refreshing it was.  Tasted separately, the Żubrówka has a unique flavor that is almost nutty.   The word Żubrówka comes from the Polish word for grass and bison.  You can always find the Żubrówka among the other vodkas because the bottle contains a long strand of bison grass.

Jessica, the Żubrówka expert, assured me that this is not the best Żubrówka. I thought it was pretty good though!

The Polish Kiss

Stir 1 1/2 ounces Żubrówka with 1 1/2 ounces of apple juice or sparkling apple cider.  Jessica served it cold and up, but it would be good on ice on a hot day.

Jessica refused to take a photo with me, but I assure you, she was there.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

{ 0 comments }

The Margarita

by Jen on April 26, 2011

We were honored to celebrate an Easter birthday with our friends Sue, Phoebe and Mike.  Sue made her favorite drink in honor of her birthday: the margarita.  Not normally tequila drinkers, we make an exception for Sue’s fantastic margaritas.

Her magic recipe is roughly:

  • 2 parts tequila
  • one part triple sec
  • one part rose’s lime juice
  • 1 part fresh squeezed lime juice.

Serve on ice with a salted rim and celebrate!

Phoebe’s version was orange juice with a salted rim.  Mmmm.

Happy Birthday Sue!  We are honored to count you, Phoebe and Mike among our very best friends. To many more!

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

{ 0 comments }

The Jack Rose is a cheerily pink cocktail that was all the rage back in the 20s and 30s. Despite the frivolity of its color, its flavor immediately announces it as a serious drink, worthy of attention. The masculinity-conscious man who would shun it due to its girlish hue foolishly limits himself. As my authority may not be sufficient to establish this point, I yield the floor to none other than Ernest Hemingway, in his classic The Sun Also Rises:

At five o’clock I was in the Hotel Crillon waiting for Brett. She was not there, so I sat down and wrote some letters. They were not very good letters but I hoped their being on Crillon stationery would help them. Brett did not turn up, so about quarter to six I went down to the bar and had a Jack Rose with George the barman. (Ch. VI)

Of course, it could be that the choice of drink is supposed to be symbolic of Jake’s lack of manful fortitude — I’ll take my chances.

1 1/2 oz. applejack

1/2 oz. lemon or lime juice

1/2 oz. grenadine

Shake or stir on ice, serve straight up with a lime garnish

Applejack is brandy made with apples, but it is not called Calvados because it is made in the United States, and Calvados can only be made in France. Compared to Calvados, applejack has a more whiskeyish flavor. It is also more affordable. Laird’s applejack costs about $20 a bottle and seems to be somewhat easy to find.

Applejack happens to be close to this blog’s heart thanks to its role in the ruin of Richard Whitney, president of the New York Stock Exchange in the era of the Jack Rose:

Whitney’s dishonesty was of a casual, rather juvenile sort. Associates of the day have since explained it as a result of an unfortunate failure to realize that the rules, which were meant for other people, also applied to him. Much more striking than Whitney’s dishonesty was the clear fact that he was one of the most disastrous businessmen in modern history. Theft was almost a minor incident pertaining to his business misfortunes.

In the twenties the Wall Street firm of Richard Whitney and Company was an unspectacular bond house with a modest business. Whitney apparently felt that it provided insufficient scope for his imagination, and with the passing years he moved on to other enterprises… He had also become interested in the distilling of alcoholic beverages, mainly applejack, in New Jersey. Nothing is so voracious as a losing business, and eventually Whitney had three of them… When one loan came due he was forced to replace it with another and to borrow still more for the interest on those outstanding. Beginning in 1933 his stock exchange firm was insolvent, although this did not become evident for some five years…

In 1933, Richard Whitney and Company… had invested in between ten and fifteen thousand shares of Distilled Liquors Corporation, the New Jersey manufacturer of applejack and other intoxicants…

Unhappily, popular enthusiasm for the products of the firm, even in the undiscriminating days following repeal, was remarkably slight. The firm made no money and by June 1936 the price of the stock was down to 11. This drop had a disastrous effect on its value as collateral, and the unhappy Whitney tried to maintain its value by buying more of it. (He later made the claim that he wanted to provide the other investors in the company with a market for their stock, which if true meant that he was engaging in one of the most selfless acts since the death of Sydney Carton.)… Mention has been made of the tendency of people in this period to swindle themselves. Whitney, in his effort to support the stock of Distilled Liquors Corporation, unquestionably emerged as the Ponzi of financial self-deception. (J.K. Galbraith, The Great Crash, pp. 166-167)

Cheers, to better luck and better judgment than Richard Whitney’s!

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

{ 0 comments }

It’s that time of the year again, the one day I wear that ugly green shirt.

This blog does not endorse making light of political violence, or competitive drinking as a sport. In spite of those disclaimers, we take the day of old Eire to blog one of the few beer cocktails I’ve ever found palatable* — some others are quite loathsome –, and one that has been the misfortune of many an unsuspecting college student: the Irish Car Bomb.

All participants combine the following:

1 pint Guinness beer

3/4 oz. Irish whisky

3/4 oz. Bailey’s Irish cream

Pour Guinness into a pint glass, drop shot of whisky and cream into the beer. All participants then consume the resulting mixture as quickly as they can. The one who does it the fastest wins.

A Guinness float, made with Guinness and vanilla ice cream, can also be quite pleasant.

Fun Fact about Ireland: In Ireland they serve Guinness at room temperature, and enjoy disallowing people access to bars based upon their age and preferences in footwear.

*Jen wants it noted that she does not like this drink, as would prefer to sip a drink and dislikes having to chug

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

{ 0 comments }

The aptly named cocktail of times past, recently re-popularized by television’s Don Draper:

1 1/2 oz. Bourbon or rye whiskey

1 sugar cube

5 or 6 vigorous dashes of Angostura bitters

Muddle the sugar and bitters at the bottom of an old-fashioned glass, put ice and whiskey on top, serve with a cherry, orange slice, and anything else you might feel like adding.

As previously noted, there was a time when “cocktail” referred specifically to this basic recipe: spirit + sugar + bitters. In America, whiskey cocktails would be the preferred mix, though in Wisconsin the state drink is the Brandy Old-Fashioned, which uses the same recipe but with brandy as the spirit. Two-hundred years ago that drink would have been called a “brandy cocktail.”

The first printed definition of the word “cocktail” gives evidence of this fact, and is otherwise fairly awesome. It is from a paper named The Balance, from 1803:

Cocktail is a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters—it is vulgarly called a bittered sling and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a Democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow anything else.

Sante!

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

{ 2 comments }

This is a drink that I sometimes use to trick people into liking gin.

1 1/2 oz. gin

1/2 oz. Rose’s lime juice

Mix on ice in an old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a slice of lime.

Raymond Chandler, the great author of detective novels, liked to make this drink with half gin and half Rose’s. Indeed, if you consult the “Gimlet” entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, you will find a quotation from Chandler recommending just this recipe. I think that such a ratio would make a disgustingly sweet drink, but that was the age of dictators and of the atom bomb, after all, and people needed some comfort.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

{ 2 comments }

The Perfect Martini

by Jen on January 11, 2011

The perfect martini is by far my favorite cocktail.  I crave it around 5pm every Friday and avoid bars because I dare not try their rendition.

Vermouth lost popularity sometime in the past century (Will could tell you more about that), and the martini is a drink that has really suffered as a result. Nowadays people make it with just a wash of vermouth and rarely include bitters.  You wind up with a chilled glass of gin (or vodka).  That’s not a cocktail.  That’s a gin (or vodka) on the rocks.

Traditional martinis, on the other hand, contain:

  • 1 1/2 ounce gin
  • 1/2 ounce either sweet (for a Sweet Martini) or dry (for a Dry Martini) vermouth
  • 1 liberal dash of orange bitters

Stir all the ingredients over ice till chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish the sweet martini with a brandied cherry or a twist of orange and the dry martini with a cocktail onion or olive.

While I enjoy both the sweet and dry martinis, the perfect martini is my favorite. Made with both sweet and dry vermouth, the perfect martini is a little sweet but has the savory tastes of the gin and dry vermouth.

The Perfect Martini

  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1 1/2 ounces gin
  • 1 liberal dash of orange bitters

Stir all the ingredients over ice till chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass. The perfect martini steals its garnish from the sweet martini so top it with a brandied cherry or a twist of orange and enjoy!

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

{ 2 comments }