MxMo: Hair of the devil

mxmo18-orangeIt’s fitting that this month’s MxMo should be about orange. Some of the first mixed drinks I ever quaffed had orange juice as an ingredient. In fact, I’ll let you in on an embarrassing secret, one that will no doubt get me 86’d from any bar that any of you might happen to tend or haunt… one of those orangey drinks was <cough>fzynvl</cough>. What can I say?! I was 14!

As an adult I traded up to the screwdriver, but it wasn’t long before that just seemed boring. I mean, voddy and OJ? Let me tell ya something, buddy–that crap’s just watered-down fruit juice.

And now, unfortunately, although I love orange juice, I seldom mix with it. Mrs. Bitters is allergic, I’m afraid. She can have neither orange nor grapefruit. Luckily, other citrus is clear, and that’s a good thing because without lemon or lime at my disposal, I wouldn’t bother with this site.

But that brings us to today’s MxMo, hosted by the zodiacal intoxicant herself, Gwen. The theme, orange.
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MxMo 17: Aw, shucks…

mxmo17-blog loveI am aching with envy that so many of our fellow drinks nerds will be overheating and overimbibing in New Orleans later this week, for Tales of the Cocktail. I really can’t imagine a better way to spend a weekend. But this has just been a hard year, financially, for many reasons that I won’t elaborate on. We haven’t even seen our families this year, let alone traveled for fun. We’re hoping 2008 will be a better year, in that regard.

But staying at home is even harder for me since I really just genuinely like so many of the cocktail bloggers. We really seem to have carved out a very open subculture. I think it’s just the spirit of the bar, and don’t mind the pun. Belly up, and someone you’d snub on the subway is suddenly your drinking buddy.

It’s easy for me, then, to get into the mood of this month’s MxMo. Our host, Paul, asks, “Why’d you start crossing your cocktail shaker with your keyboard?” That’s a very good question. I post more sporadically than I’d like to, so I often ask myself how committed I am, and what I’m doing this for.

My wife, Jennifer, and I try to eat thoughtfully. We shop at farmers’ markets for seasonal, local ingredients; we love free-range, grass-fed meat and poultry; and we eat sustainable, low-mercury seafood. We also keep a garden of veggies and herbs, some of which wind up muddled in my mixing glass. Jen has a food blog, so beyond providing the context for our drinks, I’ll not belabor this point; if you want to know more about our eats, go see Jen.

We like to drink thoughtfully, as well. No, wait… we love to drink, just as we love to eat. Thoughtfully. We could hammer back Wendy’s cheeseburgers in the same way we could hammer back cosmos and cheap margaritas–but who wants that?

Loving something, especially food and drink, really means knowing that thing, so we put as much care into drink as we do into food. Jen’s thing is food; mine is drink.

So a few years ago, I decided to learn as much as I could about spirits and cocktails. To that end, I started reading a few cocktail blogs. I tested recipes from those blogs and slowly started buying up the books those bloggers recommended. After trying some classics (martinis, Manhattans, Aviations, etc.), I wanted to branch out. One of the first big challenges I tried was the Police Gazette cocktail, which Paul Clarke wrote about in June 2005, well before I even started blogging.

The Police Gazette comes to us via Straight Up or On the Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail, by William Grimes. Here’s the recipe, as Paul recounts it:

Police Gazette Cocktail

  • 3 ounces whiskey
  • 2 dashes French vermouth
  • 3 dashes simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters (Paul notes that “Fee Bros. Old-Fashioned Aromatic Bitters lend a nice, spicy touch to this drink”)
  • 2 dashes curacao
  • 2 dashes maraschino liqueur

Technique: Stir with ice & strain into cocktail glass; garnish with a cherry.

Boy, I can’t recall what whiskey I originally used for this drink, but I do know that I used some generic triple sec, in place of curacao, and Stock for the maraschino.

Tonight, however, I went a little higher scale in re-creating this drink. I used the Grimes proportions but better ingredients. I still don’t have a good curacao at home, but I do have Grand Marnier. I’ve also tossed over the Stock maraschino in favor of Luxardo (more on this at a later date). Finally, I now have both the Fee’s Old Fashioned Bitters and the Fee’s Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned. (Goddamn if that barrel-aged ain’t great.)

Also, although I’m usually fairly cavalier as to what constitutes a “dash,” in this case I knew I needed more precision since so many of the ingredients called for dashes. There’s no sense having a heavy dash for one ingredient and a light dash for another. So I adopted a convention where one dash equals one eighths teaspoon, so that two dashes could easily and consistently be one quarter teaspoon.

So, since I’ve already kept you too long, lemme give you my proportions for two drinks’ worth of the Police Gazette:

Police Gazette Cocktail

makes two drinks

  • 6 oz. whiskey (I used Rittenhouse bonded rye)
  • 1/2 t. French vermouth
  • 3/4 t. simple syrup
  • 1/2 t. Fee’s Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned Bitters
  • 1/2 t. Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 t. Luxardo Maraschino

Technique: Stir over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. I had no cherries, so I didn’t garnish.

This is a drink of spice and flavor, especially if you’re using good ingredients. I wouldn’t mix this often, simply because it’s too much precise measuring, but it’s great to have every so often, on those days when you really crave taking however long it takes to make something out of the ordinary.

MxMo: Not really

I really wanted to participate in this month’s Mixology Monday, but sometimes life just gets in the way of your plans, y’know?

We have a couple of stray cats who frequent our backyard. A few months ago, one of them done got herself knocked up. She delivered her babies at the end of April, and after eight weeks, they started moving to solid food. This was the ideal time to adopt them out.

Homeless kittens in Bushwick, Brooklyn, is just one of those great human-interest stories that no one can pass up, and so, to our surprise, we found shout-outs on New York magazine’s Intelligencer blog and Gothamist.

So that was my weekend. I might have, otherwise, sourced recipes, histories, and ingredients for Mixology Monday, but instead I rescued kittens from a neighbor’s yard (with the neighbor’s permission) and helped the babies get into new families.

They’re all adopted now, and we’re working on getting the mama cat into a safe home. The full story, with photos, is on my wife’s Flickr stream, if you’re interested.

For actual cocktail goodness, however, click over to Morsels & Musings for this month’s MxMo. I promise my next post will have fewer kittens and more cocktails.

MxMo 15: Tequila

mxmo15-tequilaHere we are, at the 15th Mixology Monday! This month’s host, Matt from My Bar Your Bar, chose as his theme tequila.

Now, I’m really just getting used to tequila. Jen and I don’t drink it often, so I’m still learning how it plays with other flavors. With that in mind, I wanted a simple drink, one that would allow me to test and tinker without having four or more ingredients to futz with.

So I went with the classic margarita, but I swapped out the triple sec for some pear liqueur. I wanted to just switch fruits–pear for orange–and see how it worked. And, in the end, we liked it. Jen made up a batch of guacamole and we sat out back on a sunny Sunday with icy drinks, chips, and guac.

That’s livin’.

Poire-a-rita, chips, guac

Photo by Jennifer Hess.

  • 2 oz. tequila
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • ¾ oz. pear liqueur (I used Mathilde)

Technique: Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, or use twice the ingredients, as I did, and strain into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass.

MxMo Quatorze: Champagne

mxmo14-champagneFor this month’s Mixology Monday, I decided to try something new–the Plum Royale.

I came to this with a melange of inspiration:

  • Anita’s post on the Rosemary Five got me thinking about pairing fruit and spice in a champagne drink.
  • A day after I read her post, I had a Gin Royale at brunch and decided to riff on that.
  • Finally, Jen brought home some beautiful black plums.

Plum Royale

photograph by Jennifer Hess

So with three ingredients already in mind–gin, champagne, and plum–I had to find my spice.

In Googling around to find inspiration, I came across an article about Plymouth gin that discussed, among other things, the botanicals in Plymouth–angelica root, cardamom pods, coriander seeds, lemon peel, orange peel, orris root, and juniper berries. Hm, cardamom. Turns out that cardamom and plums are a popular pairing, so I chose to go that way.

I made up a variation on this Cardamom Lime Syrup, sans lime this time. I also made a plum puree. The puree, gin, and syrup formed the basis for the drink, which I topped with champagne.


Plum Royale (a.k.a. the Eve Plum)

makes two drinks

  • 4 oz. Plymouth gin
  • 2 oz. plum puree
  • 1 oz. cardamom syrup
  • Mint sprig, for garnish

Technique: Shake over ice and divide between two champagne flutes. Top with champagne and garnish with a sprig of mint. (The mint is more for presentation than for flavor, so feel free to leave it out.)

MxMo XII: Whiskey

MxMo WhiskeyJimmy Patrick’s hosting this month’s Mixology Monday, and he’s chosen the theme whisk(e)y. As I noted earlier, I came across a tasty recipe while researching uses for Cherry Heering (I’ve slightly adapted CockailDB’s proportions):

High Hat

  • 2 oz. rye
  • ½ oz. Cherry Heering
  • ½ oz. lemon juice

Technique: Shake, strain, etc.

The interplay of the rye (Rittenhouse BIB, in this case) and the Heering is fun. The cherry notes play well with the peppery qualities of the rye. This drink belongs in our rotation, for sure.

I’ve been enjoying another group of drinks, as well, also based on rye, and these are a couple of Manhattan/Brooklyn adaptations that have arisen fairly recently: the Red Hook and the Greenpoint. The Manhattan, of course, is whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters; whereas the Brooklyn is traditionally whiskey, dry vermouth, maraschino, and a dash of Amer Picon.

As a word of explanation, Red Hook and Greenpoint are both waterfront neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Red Hook was a hardscrabble shipping neighborhood–the inspiration for the film On the Waterfront. Greenpoint is a Polish-immigrant neighborhood–the northernmost Brooklyn waterfront neighborhood before you cross Newtown Creek into Queens.

I’m not sure of the Greenpoint’s origins (and, in fact, I’m not sure the name derives from the Brooklyn neighborhood), but as Paul Clarke notes, the Red Hook originated at New York’s Milk and Honey. I’ve assumed that the Greenpoint is simply a Red Hook variation with a green liqueur, named after a “green” Brooklyn nabe, but that might be erroneous folk etymology on my part.

The Red Hook starts with a Manhattan base (rye and sweet vermouth–or, preferably, rye and Punt e Mes) and adds a small amount of maraschino–about one quarter or one half an ounce. The Greenpoint takes the same recipe and substitutes Chartreuse (green, natch) for the maraschino.

These are both delightful drinks, and I thought it might be fun to riff on them a bit. But my reach exceeded my grasp, I’m afraid. I figured I’d mix up some rye with sweet vermouth and Cherry Heering. Ugh. I even borrowed the lemon juice from the High Hat, and still… no. It was like the War of the fucking Roses in that glass.

I suspect there are ways, without getting cutesy, of crafting a Williamsburg or a Park Slope, but I’m afraid I didn’t find that answer tonight.

MxMo11: Winter Warmers

MxMo WarmersThis month’s edition of Mixology Monday comes to us from that fine new magazine, Imbibe, whose editors have chosen the theme winter warmers, in keeping with the issue on the stands right now.

My contribution isn’t particularly original, but it’s a drink I’ve wanted to try at home for a while now: Irish coffee. Jen and I wanted something yummy to go with the ham-and-cheese baked eggs she made for brunch, and Irish coffee seemed like a good pairing.

Imbibe did a piece on this drink in the previous issue–the holiday issue–and although I referred to that feature while prepping the drink, I also consulted other sources to try to get the technique down.

Obviously, it’s not difficult. Irish coffee depends only a little on your technique–mainly layering the cream on top in the right way–and more on the quality of the ingredients. If you have good coffee, whiskey, sugar, and cream, you’ll make a yummy Irish coffee even if you flub the technique. It might not be best in show, but it’ll still taste great.
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