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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Singapore Sling

I’ve never been to Singapore or to the Raffles Hotel where, legend has it, the Singapore Sling was invented by Ngiam Tong Boon around a hundred years ago.  I have, however, slung back some slings in my day.  Unfortunately, my Singapore Slinging days were my younger days and, due to the strength of this drink and the fact that it goes down as easily as a cherry soda, my memories of it are none too clear.  Let it suffice to say that this is one drink you should definitely enjoy in moderation.

Technically speaking, a sling is any drink made with gin and lemon or lime juice.  The Singapore Sling contains gin, lime juice, and several other ingredients.  There is even a special glass for slings.  If you become a real devotee, you might want to order some.  Otherwise, use a highball glass if your preference is for a sling on the rocks or use a cocktail glass if you like yours up.

The original Singapore Sling recipe was allegedly lost and had to be reconstructed later.  Exactly how this could have happened is unclear to me (perhaps the keeper of the recipe had too many slings, or maybe the story serves to enhance the legend), but there have always been enough variations of this delicious drink available throughout the civilized cocktail-drinking world to keep imbibers happy.  The many recipes available for this cocktail play with the ratio of gin to kirsch, or with the amounts of Cointreau and Benedictine.  Do not, however, consider any recipe without Cointreau and Benedictine to be authentic.  Simplified versions of cocktail recipes exist to help bartenders in production environments crank out a lot of drinks in less time for non-discerning drinkers.  (Try to avoid emulating either of these.)  Avoid using these variations unless you are missing some of the ingredients.  As Mr. Rogers says, take your time and do things right.

Singapore Sling

1 oz. Bombay Sapphire® Gin

1 oz. Kirsch (cherry brandy)

4 oz. pineapple juice (see mixing instructions)

1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice (1 lime) (see mixing instructions)

½ oz. Benedictine

½ oz. Cointreau or Grand Marnier (or Triple Sec)

1 dash Agnostura® bitters

1 dash grenadine

Use the ingredients as listed to serve on rocks in a highball glass. Combine ingredients with cracked ice in a shaker.  Shake lustily while thinking about slowly spinning ceiling fans, sarong-clad maidens, and the lost tropical splendors of old Singapore (not necessarily in that order).  Strain into a highball glass full of ice.  To serve straight up in a cocktail glass, halve the pineapple juice and the lime juice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.    Garnish with a wedge of pineapple and a maraschino cherry. 


Saturday, March 28, 2009

More Musings from the Twitterverse

My TweetDeck “cocktail” search continues to deliver lots of entertainment value, whether I’m sipping a cocktail while reading it or not.  In the interest of bringing you messages from the front lines of the cocktail culture, I decided to start saving the more interesting tweets and to blog them whenever I build up a good set.  The cocktail frenzy seems to reach a crescendo on Friday, so today is a good day to post.  Besides, I'm stuck at my dad’s with no cocktail gear in sight…

“đồng chí @jishanvn có pha mấy ly nước chanh mà cứ nổ là cocktail , thật nà hâm mộ bạn í =)) #chemgio” @dlead 3/24/9 (cocktail as universal language… – UM)

“habe heut einen #cocktail für 4,50€ getrunken - und das in #HH! #cafe #may #apostelkirche #eimsbüttel” @frollein_bombus 3/28/9 (further proof – UM)

““I’m a hobbyist, but I'm sort of intense about it,” said @maddow of her cocktail affinity. “I’m like a mean dork about it.” ME TOO!” @amytokes 3/25/9 (A lot of us think that way. – UM)

“going home for a cocktail. screw this.” @lisaatcupcake 3/25/9 (A lot of us think that way. – UM)

“Just remembering that one of the downsides to cocktail parties is the hours standing about in stilettos. On the plus side there is champagne” @MAllyse 3/25/9 (A lot of us think that way… those stilettos kill my feet, too. – UM)

 “I wish I was laid on a beach with a cocktail in one hand and a good book in the other!! but instead im in an office bored and its freezing!!” @DANCINGRED 3/25/9 (I took this as daydreaming about reading and sipping a cocktail while having sex on the beach, but draw your own conclusions.  I do, however agree with the cocktail part. – UM)

 “Nothing wrong with a cocktail at lunch... It's not considered drinking until you've had 4 shots.” @prettyfontaine 3/26/9 (!!– UM)

“@Zuzusu great bar and cocktail list, but why are there always dodgy middle aged men in leather jackets at the bar when you're ordering?” @FionaKyle 3/28/9 (Fiona: the UM may be dodgy and middle-aged, but no leather jacket. – UM)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Vertical Wine Bistro, Pasadena, CA

Just got back from having a martini at the Vertical Wine Bistro on North Raymond Avenue in Pasadena, California.  The bistro is a well appointed wine bar located up two flights of wrought-iron stairs in a narrow, glassed over corridor between two buildings (there’s an elevator for the less ambitious).  Once upstairs, the lighting and dark paneling will make you feel like you’ve found a home away from home; the atmosphere is great.  There’s an extensive wine list (duh) and a short list of specialty cocktails.  It was a great place to get together with a group of friends from the meeting I was in town for.  The liquor list was pretty much top shelf (at least what was on display behind the bar).  I ordered one of their specialties, a Vertical Martini, made with 42 Below Vodka and garnished with a Point Reyes blue-cheese stuffed olive.  A friend wanted a desert cocktail and ordered a Chocolatini made with Stolli Vanil, Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur, and Crème de Cacao.  Both drinks were excellent, and we were pleased to see the bartenders pre-chilling the glasses.  All in all, a great place for a quiet cocktail with friends.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Deep Thoughts on Cocktail Hour

If there’s one deep truth I've learned from keeping a search for "cocktail" continually open on TweetDeck it’s that it's always cocktail hour somewhere around the globe.  Twitter users are not evenly distributed globally (and I’m only searching in English, although “cocktail” is a semi-universal cultural phenomenon and should appear in all languages), but between North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, there is always someone ready for a cocktail, someone else who could use a cocktail, someone on their way to have a cocktail, someone meeting friends for cocktails, someone who just finished having cocktails, and, of course, someone saying that it’s cocktail hour.  Seeing the level of interest in cocktails is really heartening for an amateur mixologist like me, but it’s kind of tough to be hearing about cocktail hour at 8:00 AM and to know that it’s just a tad early for a cocktail if I have any hope of getting anything accomplished during the next eight hours, not to mention having any hope of going to the gym.

Here’s a sampling:

“I came home from the cocktail event and had some ice cream for dinner. It counts as protein, sorta, right?” @dreamsequins. (Wow, never looked at it that way – UM)

“Stuffed with fish struggling to breathe... Need a cocktail.” @j_frankle. (Rather disturbing image? – UM)

“Delicious cocktail I made this weekend. It's called a "Christmas Caipirinha" but I think it's better for spring.” @Thessaly. (Note: Christmas comes mid-summer in Brazil – UM)

“wants a cocktail and a jacuzzi.” @merelyaesthetic. (Why not a cocktail in a jacuzzi? – UM)

 “cocktail time. i'm sure happy hour was invented on a monday!” @ShawnaB (Ditto. – UM)

“ADD why must u torture me! lol I need a focus cocktail. ;) oh look a butterfly...” @BBB40.  (! – UM)

“I'm working on a cocktail called grounds for divorce.” @??  (I see this gem about once a day, so I didn’t want to credit it. – UM)

I could read this stuff all day, and sometimes I do.  Of course, there’s a lot of noise in the feed.  People who just had a shrimp cocktail (or worse: people who just had a bad shrimp cocktail and are experiencing severe consequences).  Personally, shrimp cocktail is one drink I avoid; they are a little chunky for my taste and tend to stick on the way down.  The lemon is good, though, and can be used creatively in another cocktail.

Fortunately for me, thinking about cocktails requires a lot of serious thought, but not too much.  I could spend the entire day deciding what cocktail to have this evening, but that wouldn’t be very productive, either.  I would like to write more on this topic, but I really need a cocktail. Maybe a Jack Rose tonight. Ciao!


Sunday, March 15, 2009

St. Paddy’s Day Cocktails, Part II

What would St. Patrick’s Day (SPD) be without some green cocktails?  It would still be fun, but for some people the wearing of the green isn’t enough; they can’t celebrate SPD without drinking the green, too.  So here is a selection of cocktails for those hardcore drinkers of the green…

First, after all those years of living in Chicago, I thought of green beer.  Just adding green food coloring to beer seemed to lack originality.  Some of the run of the mill green cocktail ingredients like Crème de Menthe and Midori® didn’t appeal to me when I thought about combining them with beer, although Midori has possibilities.  Then I remembered that mixing yellow and blue make green, and I had a bottle of Blue Curacao in the bar.  Blue Curacao tastes of bitter orange, so I needed a beer that would go well with the orange flavor but not be overpowered by the bitter.  Blue Moon (I know –  it’s a Belgian ale) came to mind, since it is already flavored with orange and coriander and usually served with an orange wheel to enhance those flavors.  (Note: Do Not serve this drink with an orange wheel on SPD.)  The Blue Moon also gave me the name: Irish Moon.  Think of the moon rising over County Tipperary, where my Irish ancestors came from.  If you must have green beer on SPD, this is the way to go.  Be cautious, though.  Blue Curacao is bitter, use just enough to get some green color without turning your beer bitter.  Taste and experiment. 

Next I thought I would throw in some champagne cocktails.  I know, I know, champagne isn’t Irish either, but it is appropriate for any celebration, and you should always have a bottle or two in the fridge for emergencies or celebrations, whichever comes up first.  One advantage of champagne cocktails is that if you’re on a budget, you don’t need to be using your best champagne.  Actually, I would encourage you to drink your good champagne au naturel and to buy less expensive brands for use in cocktails.  The first champagne cocktail, the Shamrock Champagne, is just a simple mix of Midori® melon liqueur and champagne.  You and your guests should enjoy the elegant, transparent green appearance of this cocktail when served in a champagne flute.  I found the final champagne cocktail, Irish Lady, at Drinks Mixer™ and have changed the preparation a little to keep the champagne colder, but that’s about it.  When served in a flute, this cocktail will remind you of a slender, red-headed colleen dressed in a pale green gown.  Exquisite.

Beannachtai ná Fhéile Pádraig!


Irish Moon

¼ - ½ oz Blue Curacao

1 bottle Blue Moon® beer

Pour Blue Curacao into a chilled pilsner glass.  Fill slowly with Blue Moon and serve.


Shamrock Champagne

½ oz Midori® melon liqueur

5 oz Champagne

Pour Midori into a chilled champagne flute.  Fill flute with champagne and serve.


Irish Lady

1 oz Midori® melon liqueur

1 oz orange juice

3 oz Champagne

Pour Midori and orange juice into a shaker half full of ice.  Shake well and strain into a chilled champagne flute.  Fill flute with champagne and serve.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

St. Paddy’s Day Cocktails, Part I

It’s that time of year again.  St. Patrick’s Day is upon us, and sure, and it’s time to get ready for an orgy of drinking and partying on St. Paddy’s Day (SPD).  For a mixologist, this is about the most serious moment since Father O’Malley wiped the make-up off that little girl’s face (God bless her) in The Bells of St. Mary’s in Brooklyn all those years ago.  Personally, I’ve done so much drinking in preparation that I will probably abstain when the great day finally arrives.  (Well, don’t bet on it.)
I used to live in Chicago, home of the great Irishman and President of the US, Barack O’bama.  Some might say that SPD is a big deal in Chicago, what with Richard Daley being mayor and all.  Others might say that that’s an understatement.  I agree wholeheartedly with both.  In Chicago on SPD, they not only dye the river green, they dye the beer green, too.  Green drinks seem to have become something of a fad on SPD, and I will provide some green cocktail recipes for the enjoyment of any of your friends that require them in Part II.  Others are more interested in serious drinking, and I will endeavor to keep them happy too.   That reminds me of my favorite Saint Paddy’s Day joke:  Two Irishmen walked out of a bar… Well, don’t laugh, it could happen!  Anyway, when I tweeted that I was working on SPD cocktails, some friends responded with ideas that are acknowledged below.
My friend John Mahaffie suggested my first SPD cocktail: the O’jito.  Of course, he only suggested the name, leaving the hard part to me, but that’s part of the sad lot of an itinerant mixologist.  (Well, if my wife kicks me out, I could end up homeless.)  It’s a heavy cross to bear, but it must be born.  Of course, the O’jito is a Gaelic version of the Mojito, so it has to have mint in it.  I could have gone with a variation on the classic Mojito recipe, substituting Irish Whiskey for Rum and leaving out the lime, but I decided to go for something slightly more exotic.  I ended up with the concoction of mint, Baileys® Irish Cream, and Amaretto that you can find below.  I think you’ll enjoy it.
Another friend, Stephen Aguilar-Millan, recommended a classic, the Black Velvet.  The Black Velvet can be made by just combining the ingredients Guinness® Stout and Champagne, but it’s more dramatic if you layer them like a Pousse Café.  (See Derrick Schommer’s video for directions.)   This can be a little hard to do in a champagne flute, so practice first if you plan on trying to impress your friends.  Pour the layered ingredients carefully over the spoon to kill their velocity so they don’t combine with lower layers.  Remember, if you screw it up, you have to drink the results.   Due to the carbonation in both the stout and the champagne, the Black Velvet ingredients will gradually intermingle on their own, but when you first layer them the stout will appear to be rising in the champagne like mist off the lake at summer camp just before the slasher arrives.
I found the final cocktail in today’s post, the Emerald, on Paul Clarke’s excellent blog The Cocktail Chronicles.  You’ll notice that this sounds a lot like a Manhattan made with Irish Whiskey, and should be served pretty much in the same way.  Paul’s recipe called for orange bitters, but I tried the Emerald with three different types of bitters that I had in my bar: Peychaud’s®, Stirring’s® Blood Orange, and Agnostura®, and liked the results in the order listed.  My wife preferred the Blood Orange, so experiment if you have different types of bitters.

6-8 Mint leaves
1 ½  oz Baileys® Irish Cream
1 ½  oz Amaretto
Place the mint and Amaretto into a mixing glass.  Muddle 15-20 times to release the oil and aroma of the mint.  Fill glass half full of ice, pour in the Bailey’s and stir well, being careful not to shred the mint leaves.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Black Velvet
3-6 oz chilled stout
3-6 oz chilled Champagne
The amount of the ingredients depends on the size of your glass.  Pour stout into a champagne flute or beer glass. Add champagne carefully, pouring it slowly over an inverted spoon so it does not mix with the stout, and serve.

2 ounces Jameson Irish whiskey
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Stir with ice & strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Dark and Stormy

It was a dark and stormy night in Chicago when I had my first Dark and Stormy.  My wife and I were attending my company holiday party at the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower Hotel on Chestnut Street when an unscheduled (at least by me) blizzard intruded.  Due to an inattentive failure on my part to reread the invitation, we arrived at the Sofitel almost an hour before the beginning of our event.  What to do?  There was no way we were going to go walk around outside, and just sitting in the lobby seemed like a bore, but a quick look around the lobby revealed Le Bar, an attractive cocktail lounge.  No discussion was needed.  The French servers were very friendly and hospitable, and we were soon situated at a nice table near the windows where we could watch the blizzard without feeling any of its ill affects.  The server came by to recommend some specialty cocktails and chat us up about our favorite spots in Paris (Place des Vosges), but I had already noticed a drink on the menu featuring my favorite dark rum (Gosling’s Black Seal®): the Dark and Stormy.  And so began a love affair with the Dark and Stormy that will endure until androids rule the earth.

The Dark and Stormy is a simple cocktail with only three ingredients: Gosling’s Black Seal® dark rum, ginger beer, and lime juice, and in Bermuda (home of the D&S) they generally leave out the lime.  I prefer lime in mine, but you should experiment to determine your preference.  Ginger beer is not ginger ale; it has a spicier taste, so don’t try to use ginger ale to make a D&S.  Your neighborhood grocery store may not carry it, but there are many brands (like Bundaberg Australian) available that you can find at stores like Target and World Market.  Also, don’t confuse ginger beer with the concoction of beer and ginger syrup that is sometimes sold in bars.

You might also want to experiment with the amount of ginger beer you use.  Some ginger beers are spicier than others, and you don’t want to overpower the rum, so find the exact proportion that works for you.  Fickle mixologists may substitute other dark rums, but I recommend that you stick with the Gosling’s Black Seal.  Although the D&S is normally built as a highball over rocks, you can also shake it as a cocktail, shaking the rum and lime juice, pouring it into the cocktail glass, and then adding about an ounce or two of cold ginger beer to the glass.  Yet another variation on the cocktail version is to leave the lime juice out of the shaker, but squeeze a lime wedge over the glass and drop it in.

(Thanks to The Liquid Muse for reminding me of the Dark and Stormy in a post about her new "Storm on the Horizon" cocktail.)

Dark and Stormy

2 oz Gosling’s Black Seal® rum

4 oz cold ginger beer

½ oz freshly squeezed lime juice (optional)

Fill a highball glass with ice cubes.  Add the rum and lime juice.  Fill the glass with ginger beer.  Stir lightly and garnish with a lime wedge or wheel.  Drink on the veranda and see if you can hear the seals barking.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Gin Mint Martini

Yes, I’m still working on that load of mint. I was thinking “what else would go well with mint?” when I hit on the Gin Mint Martini. After all, they do make mint flavored gin, don’t they? At least, some recipes I’ve seen call for it; I can’t say that I’ve ever bought any, though. A little experimentation resulted in the following recipe. Actually, I was surprised how good the first sip of this cocktail tasted. One important warning: stir, don’t shake, this martini. If you shake, you will end up with little turtles of semi-pulverized mint leaves swimming in the glass. Listen to the voice of experience and learn. Now there’s nothing wrong with mint leaves. Besides putting them in drinks, you can eat them. I often nibble on the mint leaves I use to garnish my Mojitos. But having little pieces of something green floating in their drink bothers a lot of people, me included. So use larger mint leaves that won’t slip through the strainer easily, and stir instead of shaking. Now, get out your Muddler and have at it!

Gin Mint Martini

6-8 Mint leaves

1 ½ teaspoons Noilly Prat® dry vermouth

2 oz Bombay Sapphire® Gin

Place the mint and vermouth into a mixing glass. Muddle 15-20 times to release the oil and aroma of the mint. Fill glass half full of ice, pour in the gin, and stir well, being careful not to rip up the mint leaves. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mint Julep

Readers of this blog are aware that I’m working my way through the load of mint I bought to make Mojitos for Mardi Gras.  Mint, I thought, what can I make with mint?  Mint Julep!  And I even had all the fixin’s.  The only thing lacking was an official julep cup.   The traditional Mint Julep is served in a silver or pewter cup, because the metal chills down rapidly as the Julep is stirred, acquiring a cool-looking coat of frost.  To tell the truth, however, you don’t really need the cup.  If you don’t mind missing out on much of the frost, you can use an Old Fashioned glass, or even a Collins glass.  Whichever kind of glass you use, pre-chilling in the freezer or with ice is a good idea.

Bourbon purists will eschew the bitters in this recipe, and that’s fine.  I like the way the bitters help bring out the complex flavors of the bourbon, but a Julep is great either way, and the better the bourbon, the less inclined I would be to add the bitters.  (Speaking of Bourbon and bitters, I’ll have to do a post on the Orange Robert sometime.)   So get out your Muddler and practice your Mint Julep so you’ll be ready for Derby Day.


Mint Julep

6-8 Mint Leaves

½ oz Simple syrup or 2 sugar cubes or 2 tsp. sugar

2 oz Bourbon whiskey

dash Stirrings® Blood Orange bitters (optional)

Place the mint and simple syrup or sugar into an Old Fashioned glass (if you’re using sugar, add a teaspoon of water).  Muddle 15-20 times to dissolve the sugar and to release the oil and aroma of the mint.  Pour in the bourbon and stir.  Fill the glass with crushed ice and stir well.  Add the dash of bitters and stir again.  Garnish with a sprig of mint.