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Friday, July 30, 2010

Sparkling Negroni: A fun variation on a classic cocktail

Campari® Bitter liqueur is 150 years old this year.  While it’s unlikely that there will be a Campari festival in Salt Lake City, you can host your own celebration at home.  The Utah Mixologist has been doing his part, recently giving you recipes for two Campari favorites: the Americano aperitivo and the Negroni cocktail.  Loyal readers should (by now) have a bottle of Campari in their bar, so whipping up a Sparkling Negroni should be no problem.

In case you haven’t stocked that bottle of Campari yet (CS# 064636), it is in general distribution in Utah.  If, however, your local Utah State Liquor Store is a small one, you should make sure they have it in stock before burning your gas: think Green!  If you like Champagne cocktails, you’ll discover that the Sparkling Negroni is a treat.  Barefoot® sparkling wines are great for Champagne cocktails, and are priced to sell.  If you’re looking to upgrade your cocktail experience, you should try the Quady Vya Sweet Vermouth (CS# 910764), but it’s in limited distribution so be sure to call ahead on the Vya, too.

Sparkling Negroni

1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Gin
1-2 oz Champagne or sparkling white wine

Combine Campari, Vermouth, and Gin in a mixing glass half full of cracked ice.  Stir briskly until nice and cold.  Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.  Top with well-chilled Champagne.  Garnish with twist of orange peel. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cocktail Cherries: A gift you can give yourself

It’s summertime, and the cherries are ripe, so act now!  Take yourself to your favorite grocery store, or maybe to the Salt Lake City Farmers’ Market, to buy some fresh, sweet cherries.  Sure, you can eat them, or bake them into tarts and pies, but why not use them to make the gift that keeps on giving all year long: cocktail cherries.  Yes, you can spend a load of dough (money, not pie dough) on some Luxardo Marasche® gourmet cherries, but why not make your own?  It doesn’t take long, and the results just might be lip smacking good.  These are great in Manhattans!  If you want to look at some other recipes, there are several in the World Cocktail Brain.

Wash the cherries thoroughly, then cull them, keeping the ripest ones that are unbruised and still have their stems.  Pitting the cherries is optional, but be sure to warn your friends if you don’t.  If you do, use a cherry pitter, you want your cherries reasonably intact and not cut up.  You can follow the recipe below, but if you have several jars, you might want to try some variations in spices or liqueurs.  If you do, be sure to mark the jars so you know which recipe you like the most.  Note: The finished cherries will occupy less volume than the raw cherries, so if you only want to make a large jar full, one way to measure the cherries is to use about 1 ½ times the capacity of your destination jar(s) in raw cherries.  I used a three cup (24 oz) jar for this recipe.  If you exceed your jar capacity, keep the leftovers in a covered glass bowl in the fridge until you get a jar (or can gobble them down).

Cocktail Cherries

1-1 ½ pounds dark, sweet cherries
¾  cup sugar
½ cup water
1 oz fresh lime juice (or lemon)
1 cinnamon stick
¼ tsp ground nutmeg (fresh is best)
¼ - ½ cup Brandy
¼ - ½ cup Amaretto

Combine the sugar, water, lemon juice, nutmeg and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the cherries, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool, and remove the cinnamon stick.  Transfer to the jar, making sure to leave room for the Brandy and Amaretto.  Take turns adding Brandy and Amaretto in equal quantities until the jar is full.  Put the lid on tightly and roll the jar until well mixed.  Keep refrigerated.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Negroni: a delicious twist on the Americano

The Negroni was named after Count Camillo Negroni of Firenze, who ordered the same cocktail every day.  Legend has it that one day Negroni was looking for something a little stronger than the ubiquitous Americano, his favorite aperitivo, and that bartender Fosco Scarselli at Caffè Casoni replaced the standard soda water in the Americano with Gin…  a man after my own heart.  The new drink became so popular that Negroni’s family began bottling and selling it.

The sweet Vermouth offsets some of the bitterness of the Campari®, and the gin cuts the flavor some more, resulting in a very desirable cocktail.  Campari (CS# 064636) is in general distribution in Utah, but if your local State Liquor Store is small, you might want to make sure they have it in stock before you make a special trip.  If you are interested in trying a sweet Vermouth a little better than the ubiquitous Martini & Rossi® Rosso, you should try the Quady Vya (CS# 910764), but it is in limited distribution so be sure to call ahead.


1 oz Gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass half full of cracked ice.  Stir briskly until nice and cold.  Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with twist of orange peel, burnt if you want to be really authentic. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Is bitter better? Give the Americano a spin

The Americano is more of an aperitivo than a cocktail.  Invented 150 years ago in Milano by Gaspare Campari, developer of the liqueur that bears his name, this refreshing aperitivo was so popular with American tourists back in the day that its name was soon changed to the Americano.  One wonders if Mark Twain enjoyed one (or more) on the voyage that later became Innocents Abroad.  Campari® is a bitter liqueur and has been described as an acquired taste, but if you enjoy dry cocktails you will discover that the taste is not at all that hard to acquire.  The Americano is the father of the Negroni, a cocktail that we’ll cover in a future post. 

Campari (CS# 064636) is in general distribution in Utah, but if your local State Liquor Store is small, you might want to make sure they have it in stock before you make a special trip.  Americanos are usually served on the rocks because of the strong, bitter taste of the Campari.  The sweet Vermouth balances the bitterness resulting in a very agreeable before dinner apéritif.  If you are interested in trying a sweet Vermouth a little better than the ubiquitous Martini & Rossi® Rosso, you should try the Quady Vya (CS# 910764), but it is in limited distribution so be sure to call ahead.


1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
2-4 oz Club Soda (optional)

Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice cubes, add the Campari and Vermouth, and stir lightly. Add (the optional) club soda to taste.  Garnish with a twist of lemon (standard) or an orange slice.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Interesting Find: Canadian Club Classic 12 Year Old, July 2010

When the Utah State Liquor Store system discontinues an item, it usually means steep mark-downs.  Canadian Club Classic 12 Year Old Canadian Blended Whisky (CS Code 10846), which is marked down 38% this month to $16, is no exception.  A product of the company founded by Hiram Walker, this interesting whisky is good for sipping and makes a great cocktail.  As of yesterday, the Fort Union store still had four cases left, but be sure to call ahead, or try your local store.  These tasting notes should give you a good idea of what Classic is like, but prudence dictates that you don’t buy too many bottles if you haven’t tried it before.  The Manhattan that the Utah Mixologist stirred up last night, however, was really tasty. 

There is the usual selection of items on “special price adjustment” this month.  One you might like if you’re into Gin and Martinis is Hendrick’s® Gin.  Scotland’s Hendrick’s is unexpectedly flavored with cucumber and rose petals, as well as the “usual” botanicals used in Gin.  Hendrick’s makes a great Classic Martini.  It’s still expensive($26, CS Code 028625), but many cocktailians say it’s well worth the price.  Bombay Sapphire® Gin is marked down this month, too, if that’s one of your favorites.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Entertaining 101: How to mass produce your signature cocktail

A useful technique for your home cocktail parties in Salt Lake City or across the globe is to select a signature cocktail and then have all its ingredients and garnishes on deck before your guests arrive.  The prudent (and considerate) mixologist should also have a selection of soft-drinks, mixers, wines, and beers ready for anyone who doesn’t want a cocktail or who just doesn’t quite like the sound (or the key ingredient) of your signature cocktail.  As your mixology skills improve and you become more experienced in experimenting with new recipes, you will have few problems coming up with a signature cocktail that will appeal to most (or all) of your guests.  Another phenomenon you will notice as your skills improve is that fewer and fewer of your guests will request a different drink.  In early days the Utah Mixologist only had about a 50% acceptance rate on signature cocktails, but the last time he offered a “new” signature cocktail (the venerable Vieux Carré) at an intimate gathering, the request rate was a cool 100%.  So how does a mixologist meet the challenge of mixing and serving six cocktails (or more) without keeping his/her guests waiting?  By scaling up the recipe and (sometimes) pre-combining most of the ingredients.

Scaling up the recipe is simple if you know your multiplication, and if you’re having a small party, you don’t even have to do it in advance.  For six Manhattans, for example, all you’ll need is 12 ounces Rye (or Bourbon) whiskey, 3 ounces sweet vermouth, and 12 dashes Angostura® bitters combined in a suitable container.  For much larger gatherings, you should combine ingredients in advance and set aside (or even place in the fridge).  Be sure to double check your math before combining truly mass quantities for a large gathering.  You can stir up six or eight cocktails at once in a pitcher, or just measure out 2 ½ ounces of the mix for each Manhattan you want to stir in a smaller mixing glass.  Don’t, by the way, add perishables like fruit juices or egg whites until you are ready to mix.  Six or more cocktails can easily be accommodated in a pitcher like the one full of Vesper Martinis in the photo.   As a side note: do you remember those old movies where Dad would get home from work and stir up a pitcher of Martinis for three or four people?  As a youngster, the Utah Mixologist never realized how much those people must have been putting away!  Not good: always drink responsibly and don’t over do it.  Enjoy your next cocktail party!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cocktail Coolers for your Fourth of July barbecue

The Fourth of July is usually the hottest long week-end of summer, at least when we are lucky enough to have it fall on a week-end…  In Utah this year we’ll be having warm, but not oppressively hot, weather.  It looks like great weather for a barbecue or cook-out.  While you could have beer at your cook-out, the fact that you’re reading the Utah Mixologist is a sure sign that you’re interested in doing something with a little bit extra.  For a really special event, you might want to try the Old Glory, a blended drink that will impress your friends, but is a lot of work.

When selecting cocktails for a barbecue, you probably want to think simple, but not too simple, they are cocktails.  Have the ingredients for two or three summer coolers ready to mix and enjoy.  Your guests should be suitably grateful.  Even if you’re not having a cook-out, these cocktails are great to enjoy while relaxing by the pool or just watching the sun go down.

Here are ten great summer cooler cocktails in time for the Fourth of July.  Pay attention to how much you’re drinking.  Summer coolers may not taste strong, but they have as much alcohol as any other cocktail.  Links to the recipes follow, but first view the slide show .  Find some coolers you like the looks of, and then return here to click through to the full articles.