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Friday, May 28, 2010

Cocktail Coolers for Memorial Day

AP Photo/Toby Talbot

Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have died in the service of our country. It is also the first long week-end of summer (although it’s hard to tell since May has been cool and wet so far) and a chance to get together with family and friends for the traditional cook-out on a beautiful, partly cloudy day.  One of these days the heat of summer will arrive in Salt Lake City, even if that day may still seem far away… 

When the heat does arrive, it will do so with a vengeance and we will need these summer coolers.  When that happens, your best bet is to have ingredients for a selection of summer cooler cocktail recipes available to mix and enjoy on those hot week-end days as you sit and contemplate the weeding or painting you should be doing.  Better yet, have the fixin’s available for two or three of your favorite coolers at your next summer cook-out.  Your guests will be very grateful.  Even if you’re not having a cook-out, these cocktails are great to enjoy while relaxing in your lawn chair and encouraging your wife as she mows the lawn.

So here are ten favorite summer cooler cocktails in time for the Memorial Day week-end.  Be sure to pay attention to how much you’re drinking, though.  These coolers may not taste strong, but they have as much alcohol as any other cocktail.  Cook-out reminder: drink responsibly and don’t play with fire! And don’t forget to remember…

Links to the recipes follow, but first view this slide show.  Find a cooler you like the looks of, and then return here to click through to the full article (or articles).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

El Presidente will take you back to old Havana

Everyone has heard of Ernest Hemingway’s drinking exploits in Cuba, all of the Daiquiris and the Papa Dobles.  William Grimes writes about them in his entertaining book Straight Up or On the Rocks: A Cultural History of American Drink.  Just a few paragraphs earlier, however, he had mentioned the El Presidente, an intriguing sounding drink, half Rum and half Dry Vermouth, with a little Curacao or Grenadine thrown in.  Daiquiris are good, but El Presidente had something a little different to offer.  The requisite web search turned up a variety of recipes, some of which added various fruit juices and sounded more like Tiki drinks, while others were closer to the original cocktail recipe referenced by Grimes.

A little experimentation resulted in the recipe below. Noilly Prat® Vermouth overpowered the Mount Gay® Eclipse Silver Barbados Rum at the one-to-one ratio, so the half and half blend went away.  Even at this ratio, this is a dry cocktail without the Grenadine, so you should vary the Grenadine to get the degree of sweetness you like.  My wife prefers the teaspoon mentioned below.  You definitely should experiment on this cocktail, especially if you like yours drier.  You might want to start with a half teaspoon of Grenadine and add more if needed, or substitute a little simple syrup if you don’t want the Grenadine taste.  You could also substitute a sweeter Rum.  The El Presidente pictured here was made without Grenadine, which will (obviously) move the color into the pink.

El Presidente

2 oz Light Rum
1 oz Dry (French) Vermouth
1 tsp Grenadine (variable)
1 dash Orange Bitters

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass half full of cracked ice.  Stir well while thinking about what Havana was like when Hemingway was writing in Cuba.  Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with twist of orange peel.  Enjoy while gazing lazily at the ceiling fan slowly stirring up a breeze.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mai Tai No. 2 will take you to Tiki Paradise

You first read about my love of Mai Tais on this site about a year ago, and about my introduction to this ambrosial cocktail sitting in a semi-private tea room at Kiyo’s Japanese Restaurant on Clark Street in Chicago.  As hot weather approaches (well, perhaps not in Salt Lake City – it will be cold and rainy (again) this week-end, – but certainly in much of the rest of the country), it’s time to think of long summer drinks and tropical concoctions.  Mai Tai recipes abound (some good, some bad); there are many, many on the web.  Several of them are credited to two great bartenders: Trader Vic (the acknowledged inventor of the thing) and Don the Beachcomber (inventor of the Tiki Bar), two shining stars who now smile on us from heaven.  This recipe is closer to those of these cocktail legends in that it has very little fruit juice, so if you’re looking for a sweeter, “juicier” Mai Tai with less Rum flavor, click through to my first recipe.  If this one is a little too dry for you, add a little (¼ oz?) simple syrup.

It is de rigueur that a Mai Tai have at least two kinds of Rum in it, usually a heavier one and a lighter one.  If you like your Rums dark, go with a dark and a gold; if not, go with a gold and a light.  If you don’t have any Orgeat, you may substitute Amaretto, and if you have no Falernum (it can be hard to find), you can leave it out and still have a good Mai Tai.  As always, you may try this recipe as written or play with it a little to make it your own.  There is not much fruit juice in this cocktail, so use a smaller Collins glass (10-12 oz) or a double Old Fashioned glass.

Mai Tai No. 2

1 ½ oz Jamaica Rum (or dark)
1 oz light Rum (or gold)
½ oz Cointreau (or Triple Sec)
¾ oz freshly squeezed Lime juice (1 Lime)
½ oz Orgeat syrup
¼ oz Falernum
2 dashes of Orange Bitters
½ oz Gosling’s Black Seal® (dark) Rum

Squeeze the lime, leaving a little juice in one half and setting it aside.  Combine ingredients with cracked ice in a shaker.  Shake well while thinking about the classical hula dancers at the old Intercontinental hotel in Wailea, Maui.  Strain into a Collins glass full of crushed ice.  Garnish with a wedge of pineapple (or orange) and a sprig of mint.  Float just enough dark rum to cover the top of the glass, finish it with a slight squeeze of fresh juice from the reserved lime half, drop it in (optional), and enjoy. 

Ramos Gin Fizz: a smooth blast from the past

The Ramos Gin Fizz is frequently mentioned in cocktail blogs and on Twitter.  Why, you might ask, is this cocktail so very well known?  In the late nineteenth century, when the cocktail was (by all rights) king, gin fizzes were all the rage.  In these pre-blender days, shaking was sometimes done by assembly line, with multiple shakers working on each fizz.  You can read all about the history of the Ramos Gin Fizz in Dave Wondrich’s enthralling book of cocktail lore: Imbibe!  Invented by Henry Charles (“Carl”) Ramos, who solved the problem of getting the raw egg white and cream (or milk) in this recipe to emulsify through extreme shaking, this fizz is a classic.  We know we have an accurate recipe because Carl once gave it to a reporter.

Ramos specified powdered sugar that in those days was probably like the Bakers’ Sugar found in my bar, which is fine grained, but not quite powdered, and dissolves easily in cocktails.  Orange Flower Water is not as problematic as you might think.  A recent shopping trip to Dan’s groceries on Fort Union Boulevard turned up several small, three ounce bottles (made in France) up on the top shelf in the beverage aisle where my trained mixologist’s eye spotted them.  It does, however, have a strong taste, so do measure it.  Concerning the cream vs. milk issue: just be aware that the more fat is in the mixture, the longer you will have to shake.  Warning: There is a very small chance of having bacterial problems with raw egg whites, so make sure they are refrigerated until needed and are handled properly. 

Ramos Gin Fizz

1 oz fresh Lemon juice (½ lemon)
½ oz fresh Lime juice (½ lime)
1 Egg white
1 tbsp fine Sugar (if using Dry Gin)
1½ oz Old Tom Gin (a sweetish Gin is a good substitute (or Plymouth (dry)))
½ oz Cream (or Whole Milk)
3-4 drops Orange Flower Water
1 oz Seltzer Water

Add ingredients, except the Seltzer, to a shaker half full of ice.  Shake briskly for at least 60 seconds (this is harder than you think), until the liquid is smooth.  You might want to use pot holders if your hands get cold, but if you do, keep a firm grip on your shaker.  Strain into a Collins glass half full of crushed ice.  Add more ice to the glass if it’s not quite full enough (and stir), but leave room to add a good shot of Seltzer (squirt it now).  Stir lightly once or twice with a swizzle stick and serve with a straw.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Absinthe Cocktail: a hangover cure from Harry’s Bar

In search of a serious cocktail, and in the mood for something with egg whites (reason: researching the Ramos Gin Fizz), browsing through Jigger, Beaker, and Glass paid off.  There was the Absinthe Cocktail, complete with a charming story.  Now, you might ask, is the Utah mixologist becoming an effete, intellectual snob?  Using words like “charming” to describe a cocktail?  It all depends on the source of the cocktail. JB&G is a new edition of Charles H Baker Jr.’s The Exotic Drinking Book, a.k.a. The Gentleman’s Companion, Vol. 2; a collection of cocktail recipes collected on one or more voyages around the world in the early 1930’s that were completed by a true cocktailian.  Baker’s cocktail recipes are usually accompanied by an anecdote, either amusing or instructive, about where and when he first encountered the cocktail.  In the case of the Absinthe Cocktail, it was at Harry’s Bar (in Paris – where else?) after a night of heavy drinking. When a Russian Count saw how hung over Baker and his companions were; he mixed them up a brace of Absinthe Cocktails as a cure.

In Utah, there are several brands of Absinthe available, depending upon where you live.  Absinthe tends to be pricey, but you can inform your decision by finding information about Absinthe and links to review sites in the World Cocktail Brain.  Although some people are under the impression that real Absinthe is not available in the USA, that is no longer true.  It turns out that properly made Absinthe was never poisonous (that rumor was a false canard planted by the French wine industry), and is now readily available. Absinthe is strong (the minimum is around 100 proof, and many are stronger), so ¼ oz was actually cut from Baker’s recipe, which called for 1 ½ jiggers (2 ¼ oz).  (Warning: if you don’t like Absinthe, you probably won’t like this cocktail.)  For Anisette you may use any you have around the bar, Zambuco® filled the bill here.  Gomme Syrup (it imparts a smoother texture) being absent, Simple Syrup was used.  Baker recommends using finely cracked ice, and then running the cocktail through a “mixer” (blender?), in this case crushed ice from the ice-maker made do.

Absinthe Cocktail

2 oz Kubler® Absinthe
Dash of Anisette
¾ oz Water
½ tsp (or less) Gomme Syrup (or Simple Syrup)
Dash each of Angostura and Orange Bitters
1 tsp Egg White (or about ½ a white)

Combine ingredients in a shaker half full of cracked or crushed ice.  Shake it really well, switching sides at least once, to really emulsify the egg whites (or you may wimp out and use a blender).  The smaller the bubbles, the better.  Strain into a glass (a six oz glass is pictured) and spoon in as much ice as necessary to fill the glass.  Twist a slice of lemon peel above the glass to express some oils, and use the twist as a garnish.  Drink while icy cold to cure what ails you.  Santé!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Captain’s Blood: A cocktail to shiver your timbers

A new bottle of Falernum for my bar led to a search of the Cocktail Database for an untried cocktail containing (you guessed it) Falernum.  (The Cocktail Database is a great resource that lets you search by cocktail or ingredient name.)  The Captain’s Blood sounded downright piratical, but the recipe sounded a little tart.  Searching the web for recipe variations turned up quite a variety and, after considering several, tweeking the Cocktail Database’s recipe a little (less lime juice for one thing) resulted in the recipe below. 

A Captain’s Blood cocktail calls for Jamaica Rum.  Jamaica has a lot of darker and fuller-bodied rums that tend to retain a hint of molasses flavor.  We are fortunate that the Utah State Liquor Store has Appleton Estates® Rums marked down this month, so if you don’t have any Jamaica Rum around the house, this is a good time to stock your bar.  Falernum is a spicy syrup that contains flavors of almond, ginger, cloves, and lime, and perhaps vanilla or allspice, and (maybe) a little Rum.  It is a necessary ingredient in many Rum and Tiki cocktails, but is rare in Utah.  The Rum Dood has a Falernum recipe on-line that sounds pretty good (haven’t tried it), along with another recipe for this cocktail, or you can go the lazy person’s route and buy some.  (If anyone knows where to buy Falernum in Utah, help us all out and post the info in a reply.)  As always, play with the proportions a little to get just the taste you want.  Now get out your eye-patch and have at it.

Captain’s Blood

1 ½ oz Jamaica Rum
½ oz Lime juice, freshly squeezed (juice of about ½ Lime)
1 dash Angostura bitters
¼  oz Simple Syrup (or ½ tsp sugar)
¼  oz Falernum

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker two-thirds full of ice. Shake like all the pirates in the Caribbean are after you (as well they might be).  Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lime wheel.  This Rum cocktail may also be enjoyed on the rocks.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lavender Margarita: a fun twist on a classic cocktail

It’s almost Cinco de Mayo; what will you be drinking?  Margaritas are the most popular Tequila cocktail and the favorite mixed drink in the U.S., but perhaps you’re looking for something a bit different from the Classic Margarita.  The Lavender Margarita may be the answer to your dreams.  Several days ago, @GirlyDrinks on Twitter mentioned making a Margarita with lavender, and there just happened to be some Lavender Syrup in the fridge, so inspiration followed.  The Lavender Margarita has a surprisingly light taste that you will enjoy.  Those of you who live in Utah might want to check out this post on the Classic Margarita for some timely advice on which Tequilas are on sale in Utah this month.  The rest of you might want to check it out just for a good Margarita recipe.  The Lavender Margarita recipe conforms to the classic recipe, the difference being the substitution of Lavender Simple Syrup.

Fortunately, Lavender-infused Simple Syrup is easy to make.  Put equal parts of sugar and water into a sauce pan and stir as you bring it slowly to a simmer, just like you’re making simple syrup.  (A cup of each will make about 12 ounces of syrup.)  Add a couple of lavender stems (or use dried lavender) and let it just barely simmer for a few minutes, tasting carefully.  When the lavender taste is almost as strong as you would like, remove from heat, let it cool, and strain into a bottle.  The lavender taste will be a little stronger than when you turned off the heat.  Keep refrigerated.
As mentioned in the post on the classic Margarita, if you drink a lot of Margaritas, you may want to create your own finely tuned Margarita recipe. The same proportions will work for a Lavender Margarita except you will want to use a little more syrup.  As usual, if you use a higher grade Tequila, you might want to upgrade the Triple Sec to Cointreau® or Grand Marnier®. 

Lavender Margarita

2 oz. Tequila
1 oz. Lime juice (about one lime, freshly squeezed)
½ oz. Triple Sec
½ oz. Lavender Simple Syrup

Rim a glass with salt, if desired.  Blend ingredients with ice (9 cubes from my ice maker – experiment) until smooth, ending up at high speed.  (Or combine with ice in a shaker if you prefer yours up or on the rocks.)  A frozen Margarita should be thick enough to form peaks, but liquid enough to pour into a glass rimmed with salt (see my special glass rimming technique) and garnished with a lime wheel or a sprig of lavender.  Olé!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Margarita: the classic Cinco de Mayo cocktail

Are you ready for Cinco de Mayo?  Margaritas are my favorite Tequila drink and the favorite cocktail of the country, based on sales.  According to industry sources, the Margarita has an average hourly sale rate of 185,000 – that’s over four million a day!  They are delicious and it’s easy to have one too many, so drink wisely. Frozen Margaritas are a good idea to slow your consumption because if you drink a frozen Margarita too fast, you’ll get brain freeze, so you must drink it slowly.  For making frozen (or blended) drinks, as opposed to shaken drinks, you need a good quality blender.  If you have to buy a new blender, don’t get a cheap one.  Check some consumer ratings to make sure you’re getting a high quality brand. 

The Utah State Store has a variety of Tequilas on sale (special price adjustment) this month.  For making Margaritas, you can use gold Tequila (for everyday) or a better Tequila for special occasions (or because you like it).  Sauza® Gold and Jose Cuervo® Especial are decent gold Tequilas.  On the other hand, if you haven’t tried silver (or plata) Tequilas, you really should broaden your horizons.  1800 Silver Select (on sale this month) would be a good one to try.  There are a lot of more expensive Tequilas available, and it’s nice to have a bottle of Reposado or Añejo around the house.  You can taste a difference, even in Margaritas, but any good, smooth Tequila will make a fine Margarita, but you might want to save your better Tequilas for sipping.

The following recipe references “bar sugar”.  Bar sugar is more finely ground than normal sugar, but is not powdered sugar.  If you can’t find bar sugar, buy “Bakers’ Sugar” and use it.  The finer sugar dissolves faster in cocktails.  Keep some in a small container in your bar, and refill it as necessary.  Some prefer not to put sugar in their Margaritas, while others like theirs sweet, so ask before mixing.  Margaritas taste much better when you use freshly squeezed lime juice, but you can use ReaLime® lime juice with (optional) sugar or Rose’s® Sweetened Lime Juice (and skip the sugar) if you must (i.e. are out of fresh limes). 

If you drink a lot of Margaritas, you may want to create your own finely tuned Margarita recipe by altering the proportions to fit your own taste.  The same proportions will work for a Margarita rocks, or one shaken and served straight up.  If you use a high quality Tequila, you might want to upgrade the Triple Sec to Cointreau® or Grand Marnier®.  And finally, a word about salt.  Salt was originally used to kill the burn of cheap Tequila.  The better the tequila you use, the less salt you need, and if the Tequila is good enough, you should be drinking it from a snifter and not mixing it into Margaritas.  On the other hand, you might want to check out my special Cinco de Mayo glass rimming technique.

Classic Margarita

2 oz. Tequila
Juice of one freshly squeezed lime (about 1 oz.) or lime juice
½ oz. Triple Sec
½ tsp. Simple syrup or 1 tsp. Bar Sugar (optional!)

Rim a glass with salt, if desired.  Blend ingredients with ice (9 cubes from my ice maker – experiment) until smooth, ending up at high speed.  (Or combine with ice in a shaker if you prefer yours up or on the rocks.)  A frozen Margarita should be thick enough to form peaks, but liquid enough to pour into a glass rimmed with salt (see my special rimming technique) and garnished with a lime wheel.  Olé!