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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Five delicious cocktail recipes to try this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day commemorates the day of giving thanks that the Pilgrim Fathers established after their first harvest at the Plymouth Colony on old Cape Cod. It’s a day when we gather with our families and give thanks for all the good things we have while watching football, preparing and eating a feast, and perhaps having a cocktail or two. Here’s a selection of cocktails that should please you this Thanksgiving. One is related to the Pilgrims geographically and another by direct association while a third will just warm you up whenever you think of the Plymouth Colony shivering in their cabins.

The Cape Codder, named after the peninsula where the Plymouth Colony was located, is a simple drink with only two ingredients: Orange Vodka and Cranberry Juice. Think of it as a form of liquid cranberry sauce.

Plymouth® is a brand name, but also a distinct type of gin, and probably the last gin the Pilgrim Fathers drank before (and perhaps while) sailing to America. It makes a great Pink Gin. The poor Pilgrims probably didn’t have any cocktail bitters and had to drink their gin neat, but we can do better.

Rum is the quintessential liquor of the new world, so what better way to beat the winter weather than with a Hot Rum Toddy? The poor Pilgrims probably didn’t have any rum at the first Thanksgiving, but why should you suffer?

While the Pilgrims were far from New York (and even further in time considering their seventeenth century travel technology) a Manhattan just tastes good this time of year. So if nothing has appealed to you so far, give it a try. It’s a cocktail even your mother can love.

At Grandma’s house every Thanksgiving the kids could be found either running around “like wild Indians” (commemorating Thanksgiving?) or drinking glass after glass of non-alcoholic egg nog. Meanwhile Grandpa would be serving up Old Fashioned’s for Dad, Mom, and the aunts and uncles. Here’s hoping that this cocktail reminds you of the Thanksgivings d’antan as it does me. Happy Thanksgiving!

View a slide show of these great cocktails.

Remember the Pilgrim Fathers with a Cape Codder

When the Pilgrim Fathers landed from the Mayflower on Cape Cod in 1620, the thought of having a cocktail named after the site of the Plymouth Colony almost certainly never entered their minds. Never mind that they didn’t even know what a cocktail was in those quasi-prehistoric days. You should not, however, let a little recalcitrance on the part of a gun-totin’ man in a funny hat stop you from enjoying a different type of cranberry sauce before Thanksgiving dinner this year. The Cape Codder is a simple drink with only two ingredients: Orange Vodka and Cranberry Juice. It’s almost as simple as the Pilgrims’ favorite drink (Plymouth Gin, neat), but with one fewer ingredient. So this Thanksgiving, sit down in your easy-chair and kick back with a Cape Codder while you’re waiting for the game to start. Before the game starts, however, be sure to take a few moments to give thanks that you weren’t born in the seventeenth century.

Cape Codder

1 1/2 oz Absolut® Mandrin (or other orange Vodka )

3 oz Cranberry juice

Pour Vodka and Cranberry Juice into a mixing glass half full of ice. Stir well until ice cold and strain into a highball glass full of ice cubes. (Okay, if you’re lazy just build it in the highball glass.) Garnish with a lime wedge. If you prefer your drinks “up”, strain instead into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lime wheel.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Beat the winter weather with a Hot Rum Toddy

While we were watching Réal Salt Lake win the MLS Cup on TV last night, the weather in Salt Lake City was turning nasty, dropping about two inches of snow in the valley for people to wake up to. What better time to have a Hot Rum Toddy? Not when you wake up, of course, but in the evening… The most important ingredient of an HRT is some good, dark rum. I recommend Gosling’s Black Seal® or Myer’s Planters Punch®. Gosling’s is an excellent rum, and it’s a bargain at under $20/750 ml. (You can also use it in a Dark and Stormy when the weather is nicer.) The recipe below is easy to throw together in just a couple of minutes, and is guaranteed to cure what ails you (or at least warm you up on a cold winter’s night). Remember, though, that an HRT is another cocktail that is definitely better stirred than shaken.

This recipe is pretty basic, designed for those of you who like to keep things simple, but there more sophisticated recipes on the web. I found a nice one at for those of you who like to consume mass quantities of Hot Rum Toddy. Try it if you want something a little more elaborate. My first HRT was finished while this post was being written, now it’s time to make another. Stay Healthy!

Hot Rum Toddy

1.5 oz Gosling’s Black Seal® rum

1 dash Ground nutmeg (freshly ground, if available)

1 Cinnamon stick (or 1 dash Ground Cinnamon)

3-5 Whole cloves (or 1 dash of ground Cloves)

½ Lemon wheel

1 pat of Butter (unsalted preferred, but use what you have)

5-6 oz Boiling water

Stick the cloves into the lemon wheel, either from the side or by piercing holes through the rind with a cocktail pick. Put the butter in a warm cup or mug. Fill 2/3 full with boiling water. Stir until butter is melted. Pour in the shot of rum (and a little more if there’s room). Sprinkle with nutmeg (and cinnamon if you don’t have a cinnamon stick, and ground cloves if you don’t have whole ones). Add the “cloven” lemon wheel to the cup; you can use the lemon wheel as garnish, but be sure to give it a squeeze and drop it in before drinking. Serve with a teaspoon for stirring (or just stir with the cinnamon stick). Drink slowly, the longer it steeps, the better it tastes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Suzette – a hot cocktail from Vancouver

One of the fun parts of being a cocktail blogger is that friends send you cocktail recipes to try. The mention on Twitter and FaceBook of the ingredients in a recipe then under development led one of my futurist colleagues (and friends), Wendy Schultz, to offer to trade the recipe for her favorite cocktail, the Suzette, for the recipe that was later posted as the Twelve Squared. This sounded like a great deal, and when Wendy received the link to the Twelve Squared recipe, she replied via FaceBook with the recipe for the Suzette that she had picked up at NU restaurant in Vancouver, where it was developed for the introduction of Navan ® Cognac by Grand Marnier®. If the Suzette is an indicator, winter sports fans from Salt Lake City who enjoyed the 2002 Winter Olympics here, and are planning to visit Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics, should plan on a dinner and cocktails at NU.

This tart, orange flavored cocktail is a close (but much younger) relative of the Sidecar, a classic cocktail from the World War I era made from Cognac, Grand Marnier, and lemon juice. The major differences in the Suzette are the use of Navan Madagascar vanilla infused Cognac and the switch to lime juice; the Madagascar vanilla adds an extra dimension to the cognac. Fortuitously, the State Liquor Store system in Utah has Navan on sale this month, so if you decide to give the Suzette a try, this is a good time. (Note: As of this writing, only the Cottonwood and Sandy stores have Navan in stock, so call ahead.) If any of the adventurous among you decide to try making your own vanilla-infused brandy (E&J VSOP might be a good candidate), post a comment to let us all know how it comes out.


1 ½ oz Navan Vanilla (Madagascar vanilla-infused cognac)

½ oz Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge

1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

1 Dash of orange bitters

Pour the ingredients into a shaker half full of ice and shake vigorously until ice cold. Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with freshly shaved orange or lime rind. Imagine you’re on the veranda of your orchid plantation on Madagascar as you take your first sip.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bottled by Bond? Recipe for the Vesper cocktail

One of the most visually stunning blogs going is The Errant Aesthete, the essential blog of choice “for cocktail swilling savants.” Although it’s not, strictly speaking, a cocktail blog, there are many posts of interest to cocktail lovers. Browsing through the archives turned up a post with the irresistible title “The BOND Classic Martini” that explored James Bond’s relationship with perhaps the classic cocktail: the Martini. One of the Martinis lovingly described is the Vesper, named after Bond’s girl in Casino Royale, Vesper Lynd. The Vesper was designed for Ian Fleming back in the early fifties by Gilberto Preti in London. In the book, Bond orders his Martini “Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.” Thus contributing to the great Martini Shaking vs. Stirring controversy without even uttering the phrase “shaken, not stirred”.

Shaking and stirring both have two functions: chilling the drink and contributing some water (in the form of melted ice) to it. (That’s why you shouldn’t use freezer vodka for cocktails, or at least not too much of it). The water subtly (that’s why you always want to use clean ice) “opens up” and changes the flavor of the liquor in whatever cocktail you’re making. The real difference between the two techniques is the cloudiness of the final product. A stirred Martini will be crystal clear, while a shaken one is cloudy when poured, but will gradually clear up (if it lasts that long). The cloudiness is caused by the tiny air bubbles introduced into the drink during shaking. Appearance is why today’s craft mixologists say you should stir clear cocktails (like Martinis) and shake the rest (those already cloudy from fruit juices, like the lime juice in Margaritas). The flavor change during shaking and stirring is a function of two things: how much the temperature of the drink is lowered and how much of the ice melts. These two are clearly closely related. You must stir longer to get the same effects that you can get from less time spent shaking, but you can still get the same end result (chilling & dilution) from stirring. The only end-product advantage in shaking is ice crystals, which definitely add to the impact of the drink. The end-product advantage in stirring is clarity; the cocktail will look better when it is served, immediately after pouring.

Bond’s (Preti’s) recipe is an interesting one when you consider “why is the vodka in there at all?” Vodka is not a particularly strong flavored liquor, and during the length of Bond’s literary adventures Martinis made with Vodka (yes, they’re not really Martinis) slightly outnumber Martinis made with Gin (yes, “made with Gin” is redundant). The Vodka can only be there to tone down the taste of the Gin to bring out the flavor of the Lillet. Kina Lillet, has a distinctive orange-based flavor that differs from the Vermouth used in a Martini, and changes the character of the drink a bit. You can still create a pretty good approximation of the original Vesper, even though Kina Lillet hasn’t been made for over 20 years. It turns out that Kina is another name for quinine. So adding two dashes of Angostura Bitters to the mix will move the flavor a little closer to what James Bond actually was drinking. If you don’t have any Lillet, and aren’t motivated to buy some, you could experiment with dry French Vermouth and orange bitters. If you do, write a comment on this post and let us know how it turned out. Using a half-ounce as a measure is recommended. Anything larger results in a pretty stiff drink that will have warmed up by the time you finish. Better to have a smaller cocktail, and then have another ice-cold one later if you want more. Two variations on the Vesper follow. I recommend trying both to see which you enjoy more.

(A close to) Original Vesper (after Gilberto Preti)

1 ½ oz Gordon’s® Gin

½ oz Teton Glacier ® Potato Vodka

¼ oz Lillet Blanc

2 dashes Angostura Bitters (to simulate the “Kina”)

Pour ingredients into a shaker half full of ice. Shake very well until ice cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass (Bond specified a “deep champagne goblet”). Twist a lemon twist over the glass to express the oils, rub it around the rim, and then drop it in or drape it gracefully over the edge of the glass. An olive is optional. Enjoy your slightly cloudy, but ice crystal imbued, cocktail.

Vesper Martini

1 ½ oz Bombay Sapphire Gin (or premium gin of choice)

½ oz Teton Glacier ® Potato Vodka

¼ oz Lillet Blanc

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass half full of ice. Stir very well until ice cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a lemon twist over the glass to express the oils, rub it around the rim, and then drop it in or drape it gracefully over the edge of the glass. An olive is optional. Enjoy your crystal clear cocktail.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Twelve Squared: a cocktail with 144 botanicals

144 Botanicals in a single cocktail? How can you fit that many herbs, fruits, and vegetables into a glass? Where does that number come from? Last Friday, a new bottle of Green Chartreuse® was serendipitously placed next to a bottle of Lillet® Blanc, leading to the question: what recipes contain both Chartreuse and Lillet? A search with Google said there were not too many. There was, however, an intriguing one for a Chartreuse Martini on Colleen’s Cocktail Blog that sounded good. On first taste, it seemed like the Chartreuse and Lillet overpowered the Bombay Sapphire® Gin from my bar, which led to a decision to play around with the proportions and garnish to see what would develop. Doubling the gin and substituting an orange twist for olives produced the surprisingly delicious Twelve Squared cocktail that is documented below. But, you are asking, where did that gross of botanicals come from?

Some Chartreuse label reading that same night resulted in the discovery that Chartreuse contains 130 botanicals (the list is “secret”). Bombay Sapphire’s distinctive bottle features line drawings of ten botanicals, five on each side, all labeled (no secrets there). The numbers were adding up, so what about the Lillet? Lillet (on their web site, there’s no info on the bottle) admits to three kinds of oranges in addition to quinine and several kinds of wine and then throws in an “etc.”, so let’s credit Lillet with at least eight botanicals, and probably more. Subtract out a few probable duplicates, and let’s call the total 144 botanicals. That’s quite a cocktail.

Twelve Squared Cocktail

½ oz Green Chartreuse

½ oz Lillet Blanc

2 oz Bombay Sapphire® Gin

Combine ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. Stir briskly for 45-60 seconds, until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Using a knife, zester, or peeler, cut an orange twist over the glass so any oils spray into the glass. Rub the twist around the lip of the glass and drop it in. As you savor this cocktail, be sure to contemplate both the bouquet and the taste, savor those botanicals.