Tales of the Cocktail 2009

Despite the ad to the right of the screen, I’m not currently at the drink.write conference that’s heralding in this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, which starts tomorrow in New Orleans. Despite the ad to the left, I will also not be attending Tales this year. My long bout of underemployment left me no way to scrape up the funds to attend, I’m afraid. I am still, however, co-editing the Tales blog, along with Paul Clarke, Gabriel Szaszko, and Anita and Cameron Crotty.

Notes from the underground

First up, those of you who listened to my radio debut might want to know that my wife, Jen, will be appearing on tomorrow’s edition of Jen’s Dish, on WNRI radio. Listen live at wnri.com

Second, having just returned from Indiana (for family) and NYC (for the Beefeater 24 TDN), I’m off again, this time with Jen, to see her family.

Finally, and this is directed at you who are going to Tales of the Cocktail this year. (We’re still working on getting me there, but it’s looking gloomy.) The Hotel Monteleone, which hosts Tales, is sponsoring a cocktail contest. Here’s what the Monteleone has to say about it:

The Hotel Monteleone is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Carousel Bar on May 21, 2009. From 1949 until about the late 60’s or 70’s there was a drink on the specialty drink menu called the Monteleone Cocktail. Unfortunately, we have no idea what the exact recipe or ingredients were. The Hotel Monteleone is hosting an online contest to accept drink recipe nominations for a new official Monteleone Cocktail. The recipes will be judged by VIPs who will be at the Carousel anniversary celebration on May 21. There are no requirements on types of liquor or style of drink, but all drink entries must be received by May 18, so that the ingredients may be acquired and drinks prepared at the May 21 event. Participating bloggers should post their entries online, and all participants should e-mail their drink recipes, along with their name, address and phone number, to athornton@hotelmonteleone.com. The winning entry will become the new official Monteleone Cocktail, and the winner will receive four free nights at the Hotel Monteleone during Tales of the Cocktail 2009.

Best of luck to any of you who choose to participate. I might try to create the killer drink myself, since it’s probably the only chance I have of making it down this year.

Shrubbin’ and shrubbin’

My fellow cocktail bloggers have been working on shrubs and gastriques for a while now. I don’t know why I’ve held off until now. Lack of ambition, perhaps. But I came back from Tales with a drive to try it out, and I’ll credit that impetus entirely to the Cabana Shrub.

Cabana Cachaça (link, NSFW) was a sponsor at Tales, and more specifically, Cabana sponsored both the Tales blog and the blogger meetup party at Tales. At the meetup party, Cabana served up two drinks: a traditional caipirinha and the Cabana Shrub.

No bullshit here: I could not get enough of the Cabana Shrub. My memory’s a little hazy, but I think I remember that Chicago bartender Bridget Albert came up with this drink. (Edited to add: Danielle Sarna, who represents Cabana at Nike Communications, confirms my memory on this. Bridget Albert did create the Cabana Shrub.)

It’s fabulous–balanced and refreshing, with each ingredient present but not overweening. I could taste the cachaça, the fruit, and the tarty vinegar, but no single element predominated. I kept going back for more, to the point where I honestly lost count of how many I drank. In a long weekend with many fine drinks, this one was among my favorites.

Here’s the recipe that Tales provided:

Cabana Shrub

  • 1-1/2 oz. Cabana Cachaça
  • 1 oz. Raspberry Shrub Syrup*
  • 1/8 oz. lime juice
  • 1 oz. Fever Tree Premium Ginger Ale
  • Sugar-cane stick, for garnish

Technique: Build in a short ice-filled glass. Top with ginger ale. Add garnish.

*Raspberry Shrub Syrup

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 pints fresh raspberries
  • Splash of water

Technique: Bring ingredients to a boil. Stir. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain into a glass bottle.

When I tasted this drink, I had two reactions–Wow, this is good; and, Jen is going to love this.

By the time I got home, raspberry season had ended in our part of New England, but blueberries and gooseberries were going strong. So over the weekend I cooked up some shrub syrup, using champagne vinegar and a mix of gooseberries and raspberries. I tinkered a bit with the recipe, in part because I had no ginger ale/beer ready.

Modified Cabana Shrub

  • 1-1/2 oz. Cabana
  • 1 oz. Blueberry-Gooseberry Shrub Syrup (prepared in same proportions as Rasp. syrup above)
  • 1/4 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
  • 1 oz. soda water (mine, from my new seltzer bottle)

Technique: Build in a short ice filled glass. Garnish with nothing. (The printed recipe calls for sugar cane, but it wasn’t served that way at Tales, and how easy is it to find sugar cane sticks anyway?)

MxMo in the Crescent City

Mixology Monday logoFor this month’s Mixology Monday, which has a New Orleans theme, I’m going with a couple of drinks, both inspired by panels that I attended at Tales of the Cocktail.

The first drink is the Sloppy Joe’s Mojito, inspired obliquely by the To Have and Have Another panel, on the drinking life of Ernest Hemingway. Whether Hemingway actually drank Mojitos appears to be in some dispute. The eminent Eric Felten argues persuasively that he probably did not, but it is clear that old Papa frequented the Havana bar that originated this version of the classic rum drink. He even apparently persuaded the proprietor of a Key West saloon to rip off the Havana original’s name. So, who knows?

Charles Baker, writing in The Gentleman’s Companion, describes the drink thus:

Put several lumps of ice into a 16 oz collins glass, toss in 1 tsp sugar or gomme, insinuate a spiral green lime peel about the ice, turn in 1-1/2 jiggers of Bacardi; white, or Gold Seal, and the strained juice of 1 small green lime–not a lemon. Stir once, fill with really good club soda and garnish with a bunch of fresh mint.

What I love about this variant is that a) it’s not too sweet, and b) it’s not too minty. I don’t feel like I’m chewing rum-spiked Doublemint gum.

The second drink comes straight from the Beefeater reception at Palace Cafe and also the Juniperlooza session. I had heard of this drink prior to Tales, but I had never tried it. It’s the Jasmine cocktail, devised by architect and booze writer Paul Harrington. It tastes remarkably like grapefruit juice even though it contains no grapefruit whatsoever. Honestly, this is one of those drinks that I often post where I’m sure the majority of my single-digit readership is thinking, “What! New to the Jasmine? He needs to crawl out from under Plymouth Rock or wherever the hell he lives and actually drink from time to time!”

No argument here, Skippy. I will say this, though. I’ve mixed a lot of cocktails at home, and I’ve had many others out. It’s a rare treat when something passes my lips and earns a spot in my regular drinks rotation. The Jasmine is right there. Jen and I both adore it. It tastes like an old-school cocktail, even though it’s not old enough to drive, let alone drink, and the ingredients are perfectly balanced. A new favorite.

Jasmine

  • 1-1/2 oz gin
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz Cointreau
  • 1/4 oz Campari
  • lemon twist for garnish

Technique: Shake, strain, add garnish, sip, and smile.

Many thanks to Paulernum Clarke for hosting.

Photos by Jennifer Hess.

Tales of the Cocktail Webcast

Natalie Bovis-Nelsen from The Liquid Muse has a series of webcasts from this year’s Tales of the Cocktail. In installment 3, she attends the blogger party and invites each blogger to introduce himself or herself to the camera. I’m in there, too.

I have lots more to say, but since I had to dive back into the freelance life today, I haven’t had a chance to write much. More soon, I hope.

Also, I plan to announce soon what I hope will be fun new feature of this blog, so stay tuned. Next up, though, will be tonight’s Mixology Monday post, as if I haven’t blogged enough in the past week. (ETA: I just noticed Paul’s announcement of the extension. Whoo hoo!)