Sunday, March 28, 2010

American Aquavit, Scandinavian Beer

For whatever reason, finding aquavit in San Francisco always takes some doing. Maybe it’s a caraway thing (you like it or you really don’t). And a survey of dealers online suggests that only a few brands get imported. But a few American distillers are producing aquavits of their own.

My previous post features the great North Shore Private Reserve from the North Shore Distillery in Illinois. This big, bright, slightly fruity aquavit has pronounced cumin and coriander notes, and would be a good place to start for those for haven’t acquired a taste for caraway.

Very different from North Shore is House Spirits Distillery’s Krogstad, a fiery pairing of caraway and star anise I first tasted in Portland, Oregon, where it’s made. There’s an elegant aged version produced in a limited run, Gammal Krogstad, that would be perfect for sipping with traditional Scandinavian food.

Some great mixed drinks can be made from aquavit, though I find that the challenge with some brands is to compliment the bite of the botanicals without watering it away. So to preserve the intensity of the herbs, I’m going to keep ice out of the glass this time, and mix with a mug of hot beer instead. My inspiration comes from Gary Regan’s recipe for a gin and stout classic, the Dog’s Nose.

Special thanks to Dave Hauslein, the beer buyer at Healthy Spirits, for his help with dark beer. Dave steered me in the direction of some stout and porter from Scandinavia that were perfect.

The Loki Dog’s Nose
  • 12 oz dark beer
  • 2 oz aquavit (Krogstad)
  • 2-3 tsp brown sugar
  • ground nutmeg for garnish
Heat the beer. Gary Regan says to put it in the microwave on high for a minute, but I’m nervous around microwaves after liquefying a takeout container at work last month. Heat the beer on the stove. Pour into a warmed beer mug, and dissolve the sugar gently. Add the spirits. Dust with nutmeg.

I made two rounds of this. For the first round, I used Sundby Stout from Denmark. The resulting mug was substantial but not too heavy, dry but not bitter. It was a little like drinking a glass of dark bread.

For the second one, I used a porter, Sinebrychoff from Finland. Rich and creamy. The stout worked very well, but the porter was more luxurious. And I increased the sugar for the porter from 2 teaspoons to 3 to bring up the richness a little.

This is really soporific, by the way. If I wanted to nod off gently on a lazy afternoon, this drink would be the best thing. Or the next best thing. I find a dog helps, but you can’t drink that.

Monday, March 22, 2010

MxMo XLVII: Punch

Warm thanks to Mike at Hobson’s Choice for a theme for Mixology Monday that’s a personal favorite. The thought of punch makes me smile. It makes my eyes light up. It makes my mouth water. If you saw me like this with a knife in my hand, you’d probably run in terror unless I was holding a lemon in the other. Punch!

I have a sense of déjà vu cuz my January MxMo post was a punch too. But that one was a tiki, and this is more of an 18th- or 19th-century punch, at least in general outline. Here I use aquavit for the base, and a flavorful one, North Shore Distillery Private Reserve. It’s a great spirit—slightly funky and a lot of fun. The distinct cumin note works surprisingly well in punch.

Aquavit-Blood Orange Punch
  • 2 parts Aquavit (North Shore)
  • 2 parts black tea (English Breakfast, steeped 3 minutes)
  • 1 part blood orange juice
  • 1/4 part lemon juice
  • 3/4 part simple syrup (1:1) or to taste

This recipe is given in parts: make an individual glass or expand for a jug. I guess you could do a bowl, though that’s a ton of blood oranges.

For an individual glass of punch, combine everything in a shaker with ice. Stir briskly and strain into a chilled glass with a stem.

For punch in quantity, refrigerate everything in advance and combine in a jug. Keep chilled until serving. Serve in suitable glasses or punch cups with a little ice.

Rowen, Fogged In Lounge

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Product Review: Fee Bros Aztec Chocolate Bitters

It drives me crazy when there’s an ingredient I want to play with but it’s not readily available. Yesterday I had an overwhelming sense of this as I scoured the city for chocolate bitters. Unsweetened chocolate is one of the great underutilized flavors in drinks. And according to some teasing online reviews of mail-order products, there’s at least one great chocolate bitters out there. I got the idea, though, that the Aztec Chocolate bitters by Fee Brothers, nice company though they are, might not be so great. But since it was the only product I could find on the shelves, I decided to see what I could make of it.

When I opened the bottle, the aroma seemed more cinnamon than anything else. It smelled odd for bitters, and then I noticed why: no alcohol. (Sigh.) In a glass, it seemed somewhat more chocolate and more vegetal. Still not much depth or complexity. Tasting a bit didn’t add anything to these impressions. Oh well.

I decided to try it in a Wild Turkey Manhattan: strong, spicy, hard to louse up.

Manhattan-Bound M Train

  • 2 oz Wild Turkey 101-proof bourbon
  • 3/4 oz Punt e Mes
  • 5 or so dashes Fee Bros Aztec Chocolate Bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • Cocktail cherry
Rowen, Fogged In Lounge

My first sip didn’t seem all that different from what is in fact my basic Manhattan recipe, but soon the housemate and I agreed that there was an elusive chocolate note on the finish. I wasn’t too sure that this was the novelty Manhattan the world was waiting for, but it was fun. There seemed to be something 1940s about it, like an old drugstore.

I tried reducing the Punt e Mes so that the chocolate might come through a little more, but what worked well in the background the first time got too much like Fox’s U-Bet—nicely reminiscent of childhood but weird in a cocktail.

Special thanks to Drew at PlumpJack in Noe Valley.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Horse’s Neck

It’s there you’ll see the jockeys and they’re mounted out so stately
The pink, the blue, the orange and green, the emblem of our nation
When the bell was rung for starting all the horses seemed impatient
I thought they never stood on ground, their speed was so amazing
With me whack-fol the do-fol the diddlely-idle-ay

—The Galway Races, Traditional

I’m sure there’ll be plenty of other sites to visit today for green drinks and Irish Coffees. Here’s a classic highball I’ve known and loved almost since I started drinking: the Horse’s Neck. You can make it with any whiskey, though it’s particularly fine with Irish whiskey.

Irish Horse’s Neck

Line a tall glass with:
  • A long spiral of lemon peel (the whole thing, if you can)
Fill with ice cubes.

  • 2 oz Irish whiskey
  • Ginger ale or ginger beer to fill.

Many thanks to Timmy Lou Skelly of Swirl on Castro for his time, and for the suggestion of Clontarf Irish Whiskey for this post.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Moonstone

A spice-infused cocktail with curry and coconut notes. Some of the measures for an individual serving are pretty small, so you might find it easier to do a batch for a crowd. But then it’s something you’d want to do for guests anyway. You’ll need time to infuse the gin, so you might start that before your friends show up.

The Moonstone
  • 1 1/2 oz curried gin (see below)
  • 1/2 oz Malibu coconut rum
  • 1/4 oz lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon syrup
To make curried gin, use:
  • 2 pinches garam masala
  • 1 pinch yellow curry powder
  • 1 pinch ground coriander
For each
  • 1 1/2 or 2 oz London dry gin (I use Tanqueray)
Measure the spices into a small mixing bowl. Combine spices with gin in a mixing glass, and infuse 5 minutes. Strain the gin through a fine strainer. (A paper coffee filter will do it, though it takes several minutes.)

To assemble the cocktail:

Combine rum, lime and syrup in a shaker with infused gin. Add ice, stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a small wedge of lime or a lime twist.

Rowen, Fogged In Lounge

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Scotch Sazerac

My friend Matt at UC Davis sent me an interesting idea he had tried last week: a Sazerac made with Scotch instead of the usual rye or brandy. So when he came for drinks on Friday, we made one together. It was definitely a success, but the peat smoke from the base spirit made it a very different cocktail.

Scotch Sazerac
  • 2 oz Scotch (Highland Park)
  • 1 tsp simple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp absinthe (St. George)
  • 4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
  • 1 drop Angostura Bitters
  • Lemon peel
I used Chuck Taggart's method of preparing a Sazerac as a template. In short:

Ice an old-fashioned glass. In another glass, combine spirits, simple syrup, bitters and ice. Stir. Go back to the first glass. Rinse with absinthe. Strain the contents of the second glass into the iced, absinthe-coated glass. Twist the lemon peel to express the oil over the drink. Rub the peel along the lip of the glass. Drop it in or not.

This is clearly a Sazerac relative, though the really odd member of the family. Tasty, but stiffer—a Sazerac for a chillier climate, perhaps. (San Francisco in the evening feels at times like it could be in the Orkney Islands, so it’s no surprise that Matt and I liked this.)

For every other conceivable Sazerac, drop in on Erik at Underhill-Lounge. My fellow San Franciscan seems to have posted them all for the month of February and a few bonuses in March.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pisco-Sherry Sour

Making a Pisco Sour last night was great, but I’ve already started to fiddle around with it. I substituted honey syrup for the simple, and changed the proportions slightly. Just for fun, I also added a little amontillado.

For two drinks:

3 oz pisco
1 1/2 oz lime juice
1 oz honey syrup
1 oz amontillado sherry
1 egg white
A few drops Angostura bitters for garnish

Shake hard with ice to foam the egg, and strain into chilled glasses. Decorate foam with a few drops of Angostura.

Rowen, Fogged In Lounge

The egg white had a little stuff in it that I wanted to remove, so I performed the dry shake operation again, and ran the drink through a mesh strainer.

This version is light and delicate as well, but the sweet-sour-strong balance is more to my taste. The sherry and honey harmonize nicely with the base. Now I’m curious to try using one of the aromatic varieties of pisco.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pisco Sour

The last time I had had a Pisco Sour was years ago at a neighbor’s while living in the Haight-Ashbury. Peruvian brandy and egg white sounded like a colorful hangover, but I accepted one anyway. I remember liking it but very little else about it. While I’ve learned to appreciate drinks that contain egg white, I tend to procrastinate when it comes to making them because I just don’t eat many eggs at home. When I buy them, they sit there until my housemate finally gets the urge to make an omelette. The last few eggs in the house got so old we had to toss them.

But at the start of the weekend, I was bound and determined to make at least one classic egg white drink, having looked at the recipes for so long, and settled on the Pisco Sour.

If I had limited experience with egg drinks, I had even less with Pisco. My local shop had two by De La Motta. The guy behind me in line said he used the Uvina for Pisco Sours, so I went with that. Thanks, guy.

Then I had to decide on a recipe. Lemon or lime? I sort of remembered my neighbor using lime, and she had learned about Pisco Sours in South America. As for the ratio of tart to sweet, I had to start somewhere, so I went with Gary Regan’s proportion in The Joy of Mixology of an ounce of juice to half an ounce of simple syrup. And since I was making my housemate a drink as well, one egg white for two drinks seemed fine.

The flavor was very light and elegant. The ingredients suggested it would seem more sour and boozy, but housemate and I agreed that it was a very subtle beverage.

For two drinks:

4 oz pisco
2 oz lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
1 egg white
several drops Angostura bitters for garnish

In a Boston shaker, combine pisco, lime juice, syrup and egg white, and shake with ice. (I decided to “dry shake” the drink first, that is, agitate it some without the ice to help manage blending the egg, then add the ice and shake it until cold.) Strain into an old-fashioned or sour glasses. Garnish with several dots of bitters in the center of the foam.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Coral Sea

The idea of a cherry tequila sour had been teasing me for a while, but it didn’t seem to want to come together so I put it aside. Last night, I was struggling with a different drink, or so I thought, and out came the cherry brandy.

1 1/2 oz reposado tequila (Hornitos)
1 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz Tuaca
1/2 oz orange juice
1/2 oz Cherry Heering

Shake with ice cubes and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Special thanks to my housemate for suggesting the name.

Rowen, Fogged In Lounge

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Gin Buck

Dr. Cocktail—where would we be without you? Well, I guess the answer is, boozed up, but less pleasantly so. The Gin Buck is a drink I learned from the Doctor. He mentions it almost in passing in the Moscow Mule article in Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails. A Gin Buck is a Moscow Mule with gin instead of vodka. I gotta say vodka has its points in cocktails, but gin is another story. I haven’t quite got around to making a Moscow Mule, but do a fair number of Gin Bucks. Light, bright, grownup, friendly. Here are the Doctor’s Mule instructions adapted for a Buck.

Juice of 1/2 a lime
2 oz gin
Ginger beer or ginger ale

Squeeze the lime juice into a double old-fashioned or collins. (Recipe says Moscow Mule mug. Probably there are no Gin Buck mugs, but I still hope. Maybe I’ll invent one.) Drop the spent lime shell into the glass. Add ice cubes and the gin, then fill with ginger beer.

Source: Ted Haigh, a.k.a Dr. Cocktail, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails
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