Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer Pub Crawling: Smuggler’s Cove

Good bars and bartenders are surprise, excitement, inspiration. Early Saturday evening, I dropped in on Reza Esmaili, a gentleman and a scholar at Smuggler’s Cove, to taste something I wouldn’t have thought to have at home. It’s good for the thoughtful drinker to get there early. Not only is it generally true of going out in the Age of the Bimbo that the later it gets, the thicker the douches, but also that there may be a wait to get in where the drinking’s good. And at 5:30, the place was already buzzing.

I squeezed up to the downstairs bar, finger-hooked a menu, and sat by the waterfall where I could decide from the 80 or so drinks on the list. Smuggler’s Cove isn’t just about Traders and Beachcombers but represents the gamut of rum, from the days of the flip iron to the present.

With that in mind, I picked the oddest-sounding one: the Calibogus. A modern rendering of a Colonial-era head-pounder of spruce beer, molasses and rum, it featured an interesting item, Zirbenz Stone Pine liqueur. I wondered if it would have a Retsina-like hint of turpentine, but the actual effect was of a distant cousin to root beer and quite mellow.

For the next drink, I was ready to ask Reza what I needed to try, and he made me the contemporary Pampanito, a long drink with Venezuelan rum, molasses, lemon and allspice dram. This had the elegance, balance and vitality of a classic drink. It was a perfect choice. I put myself completely in Reza’s hands.

While we had a bit of off-list fun, I watched the crowd: tourists, hipsters, bachelorette partiers, middle-aged locals on a lark, overflow from Pride. It was fun listening to the orders. Most of them were cocktails from the list, but a few people ordered beer. Someone wanted a rum cocktail that would appeal to people who like Manhattans. One young woman, a little ditzy, was at a complete loss as to how to ask for what she wanted, though it was clear that her drink, whatever it was, would be quite sweet.

Amused and puzzled, I asked Reza for his thoughts, to which he replied that people often tell him what they don’t want in a drink when they would be better served if they were taught to describe taste. Sweet, for example, isn’t as useful a descriptor as rich and tropical or citrus. I listen to his questions for the customers: More like this or more like that?

Reza, by the way, will be starting a place of his own soon. I hope to stay in touch and see him there. An interesting fellow. Wish him luck.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Singapore Sling

Every time time you see an article about the Singapore Sling, they gotta tell you at length how nobody knows what the original recipe was. It could be a scenario out of Somerset Maugham or something. Say there could be a sane, respectable, happy cocktailian traveling from England to Malaysia in search of the true Singapore Sling, who would then become seduced and confused by each succeeding variation of the recipe until he ended in a town on a modest island, haunting a harbor bar in the afternoon, zombie-like, to the puzzlement and sorrow of the locals, and bedeviled at night by a melancholy madness ending in a violent and inexplicable death in tropical-weight trousers.

Luckily, nobody has to go through all that because Beachbum Berry offers this version which he thinks tastes the best. Me too.

Singapore Sling (1950s)
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz Cherry Heering
  • 1/2 oz Bénédictine
  • 1/2 oz brandy
  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 1/2 oz club soda (or more to taste)
Shake everything—except soda—with ice cubes. Stir in soda. Strain into a tall glass. Add fresh ice to fill. Garnish with an orange wheel and mint sprig.

I add the soda after I strain the drink, and stir it gently. It seems odd to strain something with bubbles.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fanciulli Cocktail

STANLEY: Liquor goes fast in hot weather. Have a shot?
BLANCHE: No—I—rarely touch it.
STANLEY: Some people rarely touch it, but it touches them often.
—Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

By 7 o’clock this morning, it was already unusually warm in San Francisco. A hot day here is something of an occasion, whether you like it or you don’t. Streets and sidewalk cafés fill with semi-clad people. For the thirsty who would prefer an unsweetened iced coffee to a soda in such weather, there is the Fanciulli. It’s a refreshingly bitter frappé of bourbon, sweet vermouth and Fernet-Branca, and a potent aid in reviving the wilted. This drink is named for an Italian-American band leader and composer of marches and operas. You can read more about him and the Fanciulli in the WSJ and from Kevin Patterson. The version of the drink here is from the CocktailDB.

In a glass packed with crushed ice, build:
  • 1 oz bourbon (Wild Turkey 101)
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Punt e Mes)
  • 1/4 oz Fernet-Branca
Serve in a cocktail glass. (Used a 4.5 oz old fashioned.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Doctor Krogstad

Somewhere in the Arctic Circle, in the ballroom atop the Doctor’s private lab, a group of 50 colleagues and friends in lobster bibs have gathered for a scientific demonstration and a small dinner dance.

Swedish Punsch and traditional aquavit have an affinity for each other. As is true of Scandavian flavors in general, these beverages combine to form a taste experience unlike any other: savory, slightly bitter from the caraway, slightly woodsy, tannic and sweet from the punsch.

This sour is modeled on the rum-based Doctor Cocktail recipe published by the gentleman of the same name in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. I’ve used Krogstad aquavit, but it could easily be a Doctor Linie or a Doctor Aalborg.

Doctor Krogstad
  • 2 oz Krogstad aquavit
  • 1 oz Swedish Punsch
  • 1 oz lime juice
Stir in an iced shaker and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

24 Gimlet

The fancy new Beefeater 24 had been in my shop for a little while, so when it was time for a new gin to play with, it called to me. My first bottle of gin was a Beefeater, so I have a warm spot in my heart for the brand. I remember telling the guy behind the counter that I planned to make Martinis, and he made a few other suggestions before he more or less put the Yeoman Warder in my hand, big smile. So I looked at the newer one and hesitated for a second, suspicious of the shiny packaging. But only for a second. A new Beefeater—crazy not to want to at least try it, if only in the name of scientific curiosity.

The botanicals are warm and complex—not as forward on the juniper as the housemate and I are used to, but like the regular Beefeater, it’s big and solid with prominent citrus notes. The grapefruit peel and tea are elegant additions that go with the Jacobean bottle. This is a fun spirit, and worth trying in the traditional gin cocktails. It’s quite smooth, too, so if you like some bite from the alcohol, you may want the gin more forward than usual.

24 Gimlet
  • 2 oz Beefeater 24 gin
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 tsp honey syrup (lemon blossom honey)
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Modernista

This is Dr. Cocktail’s refinement of the Modern. Fittingly, this is a very hip cocktail. The name is totally appropriate. Well, two of the three possible names. It’s also known as the Modern Maid.
BARTENDER: What’ll it be?
CUSTOMER: Barman, I feel like a Modern Maid today.
BARTENDER: Gee, mister, that’s a frilly outfit to be wearing for that order!
Doc’s version adds some Swedish Punsch, an ingredient I had lusted after for months until I had the sense to ask a fellow cocktailian in Sweden, the incomparable Tiare of A Mountain of Crushed Ice, how it’s made. She suggested I use Erik’s recipe from Underhill-Lounge. I happened to have a bottle of Batavia Arrack handy, and the recipe turned out to be easy and fun. And the resulting punsch is great. So I solved a months-long problem in about two days. Thanks, folks.

The Modernista
  • 2 oz Scotch (Johnnie Walker Red Label)
  • 1/2 oz dark Jamaica rum (Coruba)
  • 1 tsp pastis (Pernod)
  • 1/2 oz Swedish Punsch (homemade from the Underhill Punsch recipe)
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
Shake in an iced shaker and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add a lemon twist.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Last Call Mai Tai

It was a typical evening late in the week at the Fogged In Lounge: the housemate and I were both exhausted. I was trying to think what to make for the last drink of the night, saw the limes and the orgeat and thought, Mai Tai! But there was no way I was crushing ice for it—too tired. The result was denser, richer, boozier. What could be bad?

If you haven’t checked out Trader Tiki, lemme tell ya—life is so easy with a couple of bottles of that stuff around.

Last Call Mai Tai

  • 1 oz Martinique Rum
  • 1 oz dark Jamaica Rum
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz curacao
  • 1/4 oz orgeat
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
Shake with ice cubes and pour unstrained into an old fashioned.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Summer Fog

This drink’s bright and tart, and would be good pitchered with barbecue food.

“I never got the hang of the weather in San Francisco,” say my visitors. They seem sort of dismayed.

“Wear layers,” I tell them.

“Um, okay—” they sound uncertain. “Layers....”

“Yeah, you don’t wanna be out at sunset without a little jacket or something.”

“Uh, okay....”

Summer Fog
  • 2 oz light Barbados rum
  • 2 oz mango nectar
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz Mandarine Napoléon
Shake with ice cubes and pour unstrained into a double old fashioned. Garnish with a lime wheel.
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