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Monday, August 30, 2010

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – September 2010

Utah reader R. Schiffman (Brownbag) recently posted a comment saying that Harmon’s groceries has recently been selling Peychaud’s® Bitters in place of Angostura® Bitters ($5.99 in the beverage aisle).  It seems like they made the switch during the great Angostura shortage.  I had to order my bottle of Peychaud’s online from Kegworks and pay shipping, so this is a great convenience.  Peychaud’s is a key ingredient in the Sazerac (along with Rye whiskey and Absinthe), and those Utah cocktailians who have never had a Sazerac owe it to themselves to give one a try. 

Speaking of Rye whiskey, more change is afoot in the Utah State Liquor Store system this month.  Jim Beam® 4-year Old Rye (CS# 027056) has moved from special order back into general distribution in the UDABC system, but the supply seems to be stuck in the warehouse and is not in the stores yet.  I was told that the Foothill store has some in stock already, but the Fort Union store does not.  The sometimes maligned Wild Turkey® 101 Proof Rye (CS# 027116) has been discontinued and is available on clearance this month for only $12.42, which is probably a good deal even if it’s not your favorite.  Be sure to call ahead to check for availability on both of these.

In past years, September has been National Bourbon Month, and this year does not appear to be an exception.  There are some very nice special price adjustments on several good Bourbons this month.  Three of my favorites: Woodford Reserve® (CS# 022216) is available for $30 ($4 off), Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey (CS# 017086) is available for $22 ($5 off), and Makers Mark (CS# 019476) is available for $22 ($4 off).  That Woodford is really good, and neither of the others is at all shabby.  If I didn’t mention one of your favorite Bourbons that’s marked down this month (and there is a good variety), please tell us about it by posting a comment to this post.  All in all, Bourbon Month looks like a good month to visit your local state store.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

ATTY Cocktail: Named after Attorneys or Teletypewriters?

Sometime in late June, the Utah Mixologist saw a mention of the ATTY cocktail (either on Twitter or in a news article) as a cocktail that contained Crème de Violette, a fresh bottle of which had recently been added to the bar.  Utahns should be aware that Crème de Violette is available in the Utah State Liquor system, unlike the still unavailable (well, you can special order a case) Maraschino Liqueur.  The name Atty was and is intriguing: is the cocktail named after the legal profession or an old-style teletypewriter?  And why is it usually, but not always, given in all caps like “ATTY?”  Some time spent with Google only revealed that no one seems to know the origin of the drink or its name, only that it can be found in the classic Savoy Cocktail Book (1930).  The Savoy has been a good source for cocktail inspiration, and readers may remember prior mention of Erik Ellestad’s blog and his project to recreate every cocktail recipe in the Savoy.  Well, Google also turned up Erik’s post on the ATTY, and it was very educational.  (Note: Erik has access to some high quality ingredients that are, sadly, unavailable in Utah, so I have not reproduced his ingredient list here.)

Not only had Erik experimented with the ATTY, but his experiments had resulted in a variation on the recipe that is a marked improvement by simply changing the Gin/Vermouth ratio from 3:1 to 2:1 (the proportions below are from Ellestad’s recipe).  An added bonus is that it’s quite easy for you to duplicate the experiment and taste the difference between the recipes.  Make the recipe below, but only use ½ ounce of Vermouth.  Strain into your cocktail glass and then pour an additional ¼ ounce of Vermouth into the mixing glass and let it set with the ice while you taste and savor the contents of your cocktail glass (the Savoy recipe).  Pretty good?  Now strain the extra ¼ ounce from the mixing glass into your cocktail glass and stir lightly with a stirrer straw to combine well.  (Note: if you’re alone, you can always pour from the cocktail glass into the mixing glass and re-strain the whole drink, but doing this while anyone else is present will not impress your guests.)  Now taste the difference: are the Absinthe and Crème de Violette making love or war? First one dominating and then the other?  Finally, bow toward San Francisco, toward where master mixologist Erik Ellestad lives.

ATTY Cocktail

1 ½ oz Dry Gin (Ellestad prefers mild and dry)
¾ oz Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth (see notes)
3 Dashes (½ tsp) Absinthe
3 Dashes (½ tsp) Crème de Violette

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass half full of cracked ice.  Stir until well chilled, and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.  Twist a piece of lemon peel over the glass, rub it lightly around the rim, and either drop it in the glass or drape it artfully over the rim.  Sip slowly and taste how the different flavor elements interact.  Heavenly.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Piña Colada: a frozen recipe for a tropical cocktail

An interesting sounding item in the twitter-stream led the Utah Mixologist to an interesting post by Simon Ford on titled “In Defense of Blender Cocktails”.  Blended drinks have been out of style for many years, Ford reports, but may now be undergoing a resurgence as “a few new brave bars” are beginning to serve blended drinks again.  While the observant will point out that any good Mexican restaurant serves frozen Margaritas, there is a lot of truth in Simon’s post when it comes to plain, vanilla cocktail bars.  Blended drinks have never been out of style for this mixologist, but they can be hard to find once you’re out of Margarita territory.  It would be great if anyone in Salt Lake City, or anywhere else as far as that goes, who has a favorite cocktail bar or restaurant that serves blended cocktails besides Margaritas could share that info with other readers in a response to this post.

Shawn Vergara of Blackbird in San Francisco wrote that a blended cocktail is “like a vacation in a glass,” and that thought really resonates.  Whenever I’m in Hawaii I like to kick back on the lanai and enjoy a Piña Colada (follow the link for my rocks recipe).  Job one upon arrival (and about the only job that should be done in Hawaii) is to get to the grocery store and/or the ABC Store to get some Rum and the necessaries for Piña Coladas and Mai Tais.  Piña Colada is a delicious cocktail, especially if you enjoy sweeter cocktails, Rum-based cocktails, or tiki cocktails (or all three).  Even in a vacation condo you should avoid commercial Piña Colada mixers.  They’re high in sugar and often have a chalky texture, and they don’t really taste as good as natural juices.  I usually use Coco Reál® Cream of Coconut for my cocoanut drinks, but it’s so thick it’s hard to measure, so I usually “guestimate” the amount and just squirt some directly from the squeeze bottle into the blender. 

Piña Colada

1 ½ oz light (or gold) Rum
½ oz Lime juice, freshly squeezed (1/2 Lime)
½ - 1 oz Coco Reál® Cream of Coconut (one healthy squirt)
1 ½ oz Pineapple or Orange juice
¼ oz Falernum
½ oz Orgeat
1 thick slice of fresh, ripe Pineapple

Combine the ingredients with ice in a blender (about 6 to 8 ice cubes, enough to make it thick).  Blend until smooth.  For garnish, use a cocktail pick to pin a maraschino cherry to a pineapple wedge or orange wheel, and serve with a straw.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Utah liquor store privatization? Probably not

Utah cocktailians probably read with interest Robert Gehrke’s excellent article in Saturday’s Salt Lake Tribune “Could grip on liquor loosen?”  It’s an interesting idea, but the Utah Mixologist must answer “probably not.”  The article does a good job of laying out the issues around privatization of the Utah liquor system, along with one surprising fact: the state’s Privatization Policy Board believes the state could “save” $21.6 million annually by privatizing the system.  One suspects that state pols think that this $21.6M would be on top of the $86M in revenue that the state made on wine and liquor in 2009.  $107M?  Cool.  The article reports that Washington state’s auditor thinks it could save $350M over five years through privatization of their liquor system.  It seems to the mixologist that when you sell a business, which is what the state liquor store system is, you do save the overhead of running that business, but you also lose the profits.

But would (or could) this really be the case?  Utah currently receives all of the proceeds from the sale of liquor because it runs the entire system.  In states where liquor is a business, the state taxes wine and liquor (a “sin tax”) and the businesses selling liquor pay this tax as part of their overhead before realizing a profit.  The state only gets the tax.  Today Utah gets the equivalent of the tax and the profits from the stores combined because the state runs the entire system.  They could get a bump from selling the stores (a business normally sells for about five times revenues), but that would soon be gone, and then what?

Locals like to complain about liquor prices in Utah, but when I travel I see that Utah prices do not appear to be out of line with what I see in other states.  Privatization would mean that a big chunk of that $86M in revenue that the state realizes from the liquor store system would go to the businesses that take over the stores, and the state would only get some portion of it as a tax.  In the Tribune article, Dennis Kellen, executive director of the DABC, mentions that Maine and Montana have privatized, and are now trying to make up the revenue.  If the state tried to set the taxes high enough to cover its current total revenue from wine and liquor, businesses would not buy the stores because they would know that they couldn’t charge prices high enough to make a profit without sales dropping through the floor.  If the taxes are reasonable, the state will lose the profit portion of the current revenue, and that will be hard to make up.

The real sticking point, however, will be advertising.  Do you remember when restaurants couldn’t print on their menus that they sold drinks?  Businesses will not take over the liquor stores if they are not allowed to advertise what they’re selling.  And if the state wants to set the tax high (this is Utah after all), businesses will have to sell a lot more liquor to make enough money to cover their overhead and make a profit.  Can you imagine seeing a full-page liquor store ad full of week-end specials on the back page of Section A of The Salt Lake Tribune, and then driving to a liquor store sporting a big neon sign reading “Sazerac Jack’s Liquor Emporium” to pick up bargain booze?  I didn’t think so.

Photo ©

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tequila Sunrise: A classic cocktail from… Arizona?

The other evening the Utah Mixologist asked Mrs. Mixologist if she would like a cocktail.  (Mrs. Mixologist has the advantage of living with the Utah Mixologist, which means that she usually gets served some pretty good cocktails, except maybe some of the experimental ones.)   She thought a minute and then asked for a Tequila Sunrise (a drink she had never before requested). “Tequila Sunrise?” said the Mixologist, “Have you been hanging out in a 70s bar?”  Well of course she hadn’t, or at least not for the past 30 years, but a seed was sown. 

This piece of Americana was actually invented near Utah (well, relatively) at the Arizona Biltmore, due south of Salt Lake City in Phoenix.  There are two recipes for this IBA Cocktail, a traditional one dating from around 1940 made with Crème de Cassis and one designed for production bars (or at least bars lacking in Crème de Cassis).  Both, of course, would have to be tested.

Both recipes are built in a highball glass, but the Quickie Tequila Sunrise is a slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am type of drink.  Ice, Tequila (any old kind), OJ, and a splash of Grenadine.  The Original Tequila Sunrise is a thinking (wo)man’s drink: ice, Crème de Cassis, Tequila 100% de Agave, lime juice, and club soda.  It reminds one of an El Diablo, but without the Ginger Beer.  The Mixologist, an American Original, prefers the Original.  If you decide to try both in the same evening, please make sure you’re not driving.

Original Tequila Sunrise

1 ½ oz Tequila 100% de Agave
¾ oz Crème de Cassis
Squeeze of lime juice (about ¼ oz, or juice of ¼ lime)
Soda water

Fill a highball glass with ice.  Add the Crème de Cassis, then the Tequila.  Fill the glass with Soda water and top it with the squeeze of lime juice.  Garnish with a lime wheel, serve with a stirrer straw, and sip it slowly.  The Cassis should slowly diffuse upward, giving the cocktail the appearance of a sunrise over a Mexican Beach.

Quickie Tequila Sunrise

1 ½ oz Tequila
2-3 oz Orange Juice
Splash of Grenadine

Fill a highball glass with ice.  Add the Tequila and fill the glass with OJ, but not too full.  Tilt the glass to one side and shoot the splash of Grenadine down the side.  Garnish with an orange wheel or a lime wheel and serve with a straw.  The Grenadine should slowly diffuse upward, giving the cocktail the appearance of a sunrise.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Utah DABC debuts new, tricked out website

The Utah Mixologist got a little surprise this morning as he made his monthly virtual trek to the Utah DABC site to download the current price list spreadsheet.  A new website with:
  • a professionally photographed, animated slideshow
  • animated icons lined up across the page
  • a large “Find a Store” icon shaped like Utah
  • a convenient menu bar above the slide show

The bad news about all of this is that it means that all of the links in the posts that the Mixologist did last February to help you find whatever information you were looking for are now broken.  Never fear, my next project will be to fix the links and get the posts back up.

In the meantime, please be aware that the Product Listing is not accessed by clicking the wine bottle + glass icon, but from the “Product” link in the menu bar above the slide show.  Once there you can find out what’s on sale this month by clicking on “SPA Product List” in the left-hand menu bar.

For those of you who enjoy Rye in your Manhattan or Sazerac, this month the Utah Mixologist recommends the Wild Turkey Rye that is marked down to around 20 bucks (CS# 027116) and is in general distribution.

Photo ©