Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Maestro de Coco

A silky sensual mix of aged dry rum, coconut, ginger, and citrus notes. A fun blend of a tropical favorite and a New Orleans classic. This is a cocktail I created for the Brugal Battle competition. It is a small competition but it is for a good cause. The competition is partly vote based. For each vote in the Philadelphia competition, 10 cents is donated to Philabundance. They are a wonderful charity that feeds approximately 75,000 people every week. Please vote for me by texting "brugal016" to 34681.

1.5 oz. Brugal Extra Dry Rum
0.5 oz Domaine de Canton
1 oz Cream of Coconut
0.75 oz Lime Juice
0.25 oz Pineapple juice

White of one egg
Top with club soda

Dry shake all the ingredients except the club soda for about one minute. Hard shake with ice for another minute and double strain into a collins glass. Top with about an ounce of Club Soda. Garnish with a pinch of fresh grated nutmeg.

This drink took a lot of inspiration from the flavors of the rum. Coconut and vanilla came to mind and I brought them out with the Cream of coconut and a bit of pineapple. I also stressed the dryness of the drink with a bit of ginger. I tied it all together with a bit of lime and egg white for texture. The dryness certainly comes through, but you also pick up notes of vanilla and coconut. The style takes a lot from a proper fizz recipe, much like the Ramos Gin Fizz. Out of some happy coincidence, it bears a great similarity to the Pina Colada.

UPDATE: Due to lack of entrants in the Philadelphia region the competition has been canceled. A donation will still be made to Philabundance. I encourage you all to donate to the cause and, of course, support your local bartender. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Vodka 301: Let's try some Vodka Cocktails!

Vodka, it pays the bills. Bartenders pour it chilled as shots or martinis. We'll serve it warm with rye or pumpernickel bread to sniff and pickles to eat. Some of you may have seen this, either in House of Cards or another medium. Russians would drink vodka in a way even more bizarre than how people would drink tequila. Give it a try sometime; you get a bit loopy. Eat some oily food, clink your glasses, empty your lungs, do the shot as you breathe in, smell the rye or your armpit, eat your pickle, laugh loudly, wait five minutes and repeat. Na Zdorovie!

Cosmopolitan
1 1/2 oz. Vodka. 1/2 oz. Cointreau, 1 oz. Cranberry, 1/4 oz Lime
Add the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist or lime slice.
While I'm not personally a fan of Sex and the City, there's no denying the popularity of this drink. It seems to have come about in the 70's in the gay neighborhoods of Provincetown Massachusetts. At the time, it was not exactly the symbol of class and elegance it is today. Don't get me wrong, Provincetown is beautiful and the people are very friendly. But gay bars in the 70's were not exactly brimming with fresh juices and premium spirits. It was arguably Dale Degroff who revitalized the cocktail at the Rainbow Room in New York City. Madonna was photographed with the cocktail and it's been a staple cocktail in a bartender's repertoire. Sex in the City certainly also boosted the popularity of this drink among the national population. 

Vesper
3 oz. Gin, 1 oz. Vodka, 1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
Add the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake it until it's ice cold. Strain into a champagne coupe. Garnish with a large slice of lemon peel. Got it?
As many of you probably know this is the drink that James Bond ordered in Casino Royale. It is certainly a bit dominant on the gin side, but it is a classic spin on the martini. There's a lot of speculation as to why the drink was ordered this way. "Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?" James bond is a man who knows what he wants. He said he only drinks one drink before dinner, but he likes it large, strong, cold, and well made. Sean Connery adapted this to be a vodka martini shaken not stirred. 

Moscow Mule
2 oz. Vodka, 1/2oz fresh lime juice, 3 oz. Ginger Beer
Add the ingredients to a Copper mug with ice. Garnish with a lime wedge.
This drink was created in 1941 in Los Angeles by a partnership between a ginger beer producer, Cock 'n' Bull, and a liquor distributor trying to popularize vodka in America as it had just been introduced to the United States after World War 2. In the fifties, there was a massive vodka craze. Prohibition ended not twenty years before and world war 2 less than a decade. People liked the easily mixable liquor and started mixing it with virtually everything. Smirnoff claims to be the original vodka for a Moscow Mule. They actually host a competition as to who can redesign the Moscow Mule every year. 

White Russian
1 1/2 oz. Vodka, 3/4 oz. Kahlua, 3/4 oz. Cream
Add the vodka and Kahlua to a rocks glass with ice. Gently float some cream on top and stir lightly with a sip stick.
The Dude abides. This drink came about in the 60's as a simple variation to the black Russian. a white Russian is just a black Russian with the addition of cream. The drink really has nothing to do with Russia aside from the fact that the dominant ingredient is vodka. In the classic 1998 cult comedy film The Big Lebowski, the lead character, The Dude as played by Jeff Bridges, drinks White Russians. The fan base of the film is truly devoted so much so that they have even created a religion, Dudism, with 200,000 ordained Dudist priests. Given the devotion of the fan base it's natural that The Dude's signature drink be given a rise in popularity. 

Special mention to: appletini, sex on the beach, martini, screwdriver, vodka collins, bloody mary

"If you want to be happy, be."
Leo Tolstoy


Friday, March 6, 2015

Sparkling wine cocktails

Sparkling wine has been used in cocktails for well over 150 years. The first reference I know of comes from 1862 in the Bon Vivant's Companion. Though sparkling wines are nearly 500 years old, possibly older if you account for the Chinese, they weren't really mixed. Bubbles were and are a sign of freshness and quality. They still are in many countries, especially in Europe. Flat water really doesn't exist for consumption. Everything is bubbly, even the apple juice. Bubbles mean it's clean and healthy. Healthy doesn't mean it's no fun though.

Champagne Cocktail
Sugar cube, bitters, champagne
Place a sugar cube on a cocktail napkin. Soak the cube in bitters until it is fully colored and is spilling over onto the napkin. Place the soaked cube in a champagne flute and fill with Champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist
The champagne cocktail is, of course, following in the tradition of what a cocktail originally was. The original whiskey cocktail was just whiskey, sugar, and bitters. It has since been dubbed the Old Fashioned. But there were a number of cocktails: the brandy cocktail, gin cocktail, and our Champagne cocktail. Fortunately, this cocktail has held the test of time. This cocktail can be made with simple syrup and a few dashes of bitters, but it's not that elegant a presentation. With a nice course cube sitting at the bottom of a cocktail you get the bubbles flowing forth from every bump. The original is also said to include 1/3 oz. of brandy.


French 75
1oz Gin, 1/2oz Simple Syrup, 1/2oz Lemon, 3oz Champagne
Add the first three ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled and strain into a champagne glass. Fill with the remaining champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist.
This drink is named after the famous artillery piece. The cannon was called by some the first piece of modern artillery. It was invented at the end of the 19th century and could fire 15 rounds a minute up to five miles away. The drink was created in 1915 in Paris by the great Harry MacElhone. The drink was said to have such a kick it felt like you'd been hit by a shell from the cannon. Some people equate this to a scaled Tom Collins with the soda substituted for sparkling wine, typically champagne. I find that is a pretty apt description though these days many people use smaller proportions for the first three ingredients allowing the wine to shine through a bit more rather than the lemon and sugar. 

Mimosa
2 1/2 Orange Juice, 2 1/2 Sparkling Wine
Both ingredients should be kept chilled during storage. Simply mix equal parts orange juice and sparkling wine into a champagne flute and serve. Garnish with an optional quarter slice of orange or a strawberry. 
This has become the quintessential brunch drink. Sparkling wine and citrus play very nicely together. orange juice has simply been jazzed up a bit. do be sure not to use a very pulpy orange juice as that can create a very off texture for your guests. This drink is naturally not too strong; it's effectively a half glass of wine. Some people stiffen it up a bit by adding a half show of Cointreau which doesn't dramatically change the flavor but certainly adds a bit more kick. A more common variation is known as the Grand Mimosa. This is a mimosa with a half ounce of Grand Marnier floated on top. The orange flavors go well together, and the french made cognac in the Grand Marnier pairs with a french made sparkling wine, namely Champagne. 

Aperol  Spritz
3 oz. Prosecco, 1 oz. Soda, 1 oz. Aperol
Fill a white wine glass about 3/4 full with ice. Add the ingredients and throw in a slice or two of orange for good measure. 
This is a fun little number and an amazing summertime drink. It's similar to a sparkling sangria with a light bitter note. This is actually one of the only standard recipes I know that uses ice in a wine glass or with wine at all for that matter. This drink can be made with many other liqueurs in place of Aperol, such as St Germain, Hum, Midori, or even an amaretto. I find that Aperol has a light enough flavor to not dominate the drink and let the wine shine just enough. It also has a beautiful color and the orange note just makes it so much more summer.

Special mention to: Kir Royale, Bellini, Death in the Afternoon

Monday, March 2, 2015

Stereotyping a Cocktail

I've seen many posts as to how what you order makes you look a certain way. Like how Appletinis and Jack and Cokes make you seem amateurish, or Jager and Red Bull makes you seem jockish. People drinking Long Island Iced Teas want to get drunk. I'm curious what you as a person dictates about your drink.

Before I get into this article I would like to say that I don't regard myself as a hateful person, nor do I believe that a stereotype can be truly accurate. I acknowledge that every person falls on a spectrum not necessarily a category. That being said, bartenders often make assumptions about guests as to what they like. We, of course, take whatever information we can from dialogue with our customers but other information is acquired based on things like, their mood, how well they dress, any accent they might have, their gender, and even their race. Some might summarize it in less specific terms like aura, energy, presence, je ne sais quoi, using their intuition, or some other politically correct term. I think it's time to talk about some of these things though. Yes, the world is a melting pot and many of these stereotypes may be becoming less and less accurate but they're still there. 

Women like cosmopolitans. Black people like Hennessy. Rednecks like cheap macro beer. 
Girls don't like whiskey. Men shouldn't be seen with fruity drinks in a bar. and so on.

I know an exception to every statement I just wrote, but they are still commonly believed.

Some craft bartenders I know try to make a drink that everyone in the world can enjoy, and that is something to strive for. But there are some amazing cocktails throughout the years that clearly fit a niche market. I have never in my life met a 22-year-old woman who drinks a rusty nail. Nor have I met a 70-year-old man who would drink a fuzzy navel. Sometimes drinks are made for a certain personality. The best drink I ever had was one that was made for me. The person sitting next to me's favorite drink would be different. Every drink recipe I know I tailor to my guest, a splash more of this, double the whiskey in that for him, a little champagne on top for her.

Now bartenders, of course, use a bit of stereotyping and abductive reasoning. Women tend toward fruitier lighter drinks, along with a more colorful palette. Most men like to be seen as men, so they drink harder spirits, whiskeys and they like and don't mind a dirty brown color to their drink. Any fruit is meant for the women. Younger, light-hearted women tend to take the lighter spirits with the fruit juices. These are drinks like Fuzzy Navels, Sex on the Beaches, Malibu Bay Breezes, and shot's like the Silk Panties. More mature discerning women might go to a cosmopolitan, pomegranate martini, or have learned a taste in wine but still like lighter drinks than the opposite sex. Young men will drink Jack or Captain and Coke or stick to beer. Men who don't look like they're out at the bar for a party often stick to harder spirits like neat whiskey and martinis. Perhaps it's that the selecting sex that gets to drink whatever cocktails they want. Maybe drinking scotch at a bar has become a style of our mating dance. It may as well be noted that the rise of the feminist movement has also shown a rise in whiskey sales as well. Women are getting tired of drinks that infantilize them.

Wallet size is often correlated with beer knowledge. Young cheap people drink domestic. Someone who asks for a Belgian Style IPA tends to be a bit more world traveled. Different classes also have some drinks commonly associated with their culture. In more "urban settings" (you know what I mean) people, mainly men, tend to like drinks that show off in some way. Expensive products talked about in rap music tend to appeal, as do some drinks that make you seem bad-ass, like a shot of flaming 151. In fact, many people actually credit rap music to saving the cognac industry. The gaudy approach is intended to draw attention and admiration from those around you rather than actually be of quality. A corollary could be drawn from the similar desire to wear large ostentatious jewelry. The nightclub scene, dive bar scene, and craft cocktail scene are all very different of course.

There's a common practice among bars with experienced bartenders to have a "bartender's choice" on the menu. It's very hard to guess what a person wants besides what you can see. If you are self-conscious that you don't want to have people make an assumption about you or be pigeonholed, you might be best skipping this option. That said most bartenders are very good at it. Some bartenders can tell just by a person's hands things like what type of occupation they have, how long their work day was, and things like how much time they spend on personal appearance. That information is usually accurate and tells a bartender a lot about what kind of drink a guest might like. A bartender's ability to read a person's desires with as few words exchanged as possible is a skill in itself. It's truly impressive at times, and I find it fun to see what people think of me. 

I want to hear what you all have to say about this. 
What assumptions do you make about what cocktails your guests might like?