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Saturday, April 30, 2011

You may find the Monkey Gland cocktail curiously invigorating

Regular Salt Lake City readers are doubtless aware that the Utah Mixologist regularly dips into the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) for classic cocktail recipes.  One classic cocktail that the mixologist had noticed, but never tried, recently showed up on late night television.  Newscaster and amateur mixologist Rachel Maddow of MSNBC was on the Jimmy Fallon Show and shook him up a Monkey Gland cocktail that Rachel told Jimmy would increase his virility (you can find the cocktail video here (it’s the bottom of three videos)).  The main ingredients of the Monkey Gland are Gin and Orange Juice, which parallels the Opal (also from the Savoy), but here the two are a little more on their own, and the result is pretty good.

The Savoy’s measurements have been translated to more easy-to-use measures in the recipe below.  The conversion from “1/3” and “2/3” measures are explained in How does your classic cocktail measure up? and dashes are discussed in Dash it all!  How to mix consistently great cocktails.  Try your first Monkey Gland with only ½ teaspoons of Absinthe and work your way up from there. Remember, you don’t want the Absinthe to overwhelm the Gin.  The color of the final product is a little more attractive than it looked on TV.  Tanqueray®, a more “ginny” Gin, was selected to stand up to the Absinthe.  (If you don’t have any Absinthe, substitute Pernod® or another anise-based liqueur.)

Monkey Gland

1 ½ oz Tanqueray® Gin
¾ oz freshly squeezed Orange Juice
3 dashes (½ to ¾ teaspoon) Absinthe
3 dashes (¾ teaspoon) Grenadine

Add the ingredients to a shaker 2/3 full of ice.  Shake until nice and icy cold.  Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an Orange twist or a wedge of Orange.  Feel your virility increase (sorry, ladies) as you enjoy your first sip.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Get your spring cocktails in Mint condition

Spring has arrived in Salt Lake City. It is wet, it is cold, it is cloudy, but it is spring, nonetheless.  With spring comes Easter, the Kentucky Derby (about two weeks away), and the beginning of the mint cocktail season (yes, okay, it’s always mint cocktail season…).  The first mint cocktail of spring is usually a Mint Julep for the Kentucky Derby, and why not?  It’s fun to get together with friends on Derby Day, and since the race only lasts two minutes (it may be exciting, but it is short) you might as well enjoy a Julep or two, before, during, and/or after the race. 

So where do you find fresh mint?  The type of mint most commonly used in cocktails is spearmint, and most of us buy it at the grocery store (if it’s in a plastic package rather than a bunch, be sure to check it out carefully and don’t buy if any of it looks bad).  Putting store-bought mint in water when you get it home may help perk it up.  There is, however, an alternative: buy a mint plant (or two).  If you buy a live plant and keep it on a sunny window sill, it will keep growing and producing leaves and stems for quite a while, but production will necessarily be limited.  That means if you’re having a party, you might want to buy some at the store anyway.  There is another solution, though: plant it in your yard.  You will end up with plenty of mint from May through the end of October.

Now mint is a very invasive plant, so if you do plant it in your yard, choose your spot carefully so it doesn’t try to take over.  Mint spreads underground by rhizome, so new plants just seem to pop up near the old ones.  (Check out Wikipedia for more on Mint.)  My mint is between two basement window-wells on the south side of the house.  A drip irrigation sprinkler waters the area, but it is surrounded by an unwatered area, so in theory the mint will not spread too far.  Already this spring a fine crop of mint is coming in that should be ready for Derby Day.  Better check to make sure there’s enough Bourbon in the bar.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gin cocktails for your Royal Wedding bash, or the rest of the year…

Some of my favorite cocktail recipes include Gin, so when developing a list of cocktails to help Salt Lake City readers celebrate the Royal Wedding in style, Gin came to mind.  What liquor could be more British than Gin?  None of the great whiskies of the British Isles are from England. Scotch is from Scotland, and Irish Whiskey is from (you guessed it) Ireland, but being the home of most of the world’s best Gins is not necessarily a bad thing.  So whether you plan to celebrate the Royal Wedding at Bar X, the Wild Grape Bistro, some other Salt Lake City watering hole, or just at home, you should be ready with some British-themed (and Gin-based) cocktails to get into the spirit (pun intended) of things.  So here are a handful of Gin cocktails that you may enjoy all year long, along with a couple of non-Gin favorites thrown in for those of you who (shudder) don’t like Gin.  So take a quick read of the following cocktail notes, view the slide show (complete with recipe cards), and select a cocktail or two to feature at your Royal Wedding bash.

Let’s start with a cocktail that’s almost straight Gin, albeit on the rocks.  Plymouth® is the brand name of a distinctive Gin, but the use of the descriptor “Plymouth Gin” is restricted to Gins made in Plymouth, England.  Although you can use London Dry Gin in a Pink Gin, Plymouth Gin, which is a little sweeter, makes a great one, so give it a try.  All you need is Gin, bitters, and ice.  For a switch, try this one with Tanqueray® Rangpur Gin… surprisingly tasty.

The Gin and Tonic is another classic Gin cocktail that you have probably enjoyed, and it’s not just for summer, either.  Quality Gin is the key to a good Gin and Tonic.  Try Bombay Sapphire®, sip it slowly and savor the flavor.

Like many other classic cocktails, the origins of the Gin Rickey seem to be lost in time. In the Joy of Mixology, Gary Regan reports that it was invented by Colonel “Joe” Rickey who was a British lobbyist in Washington, DC.  Whatever the story, this sublime Gin and lime cocktail may be enjoyed at almost any occasion.
As summer approaches, especially in the UK, you will start hearing more about the Pimm’s Cup.  This classic British cocktail is made with Pimm’s® No. 1 and lemonade or fruit juices, and is usually served with slices of fresh fruit and/or cucumbers.

It’s time to segue into a pair of Champagne cocktails, let’s start with a French 75 – a reliable champagne (and Gin) cocktail that is reputed to have a nice kick.  As usual, use a good sparkling wine (some are listed here) for Champagne cocktails and save your real Champagne to be drunk alone…  Another classic Champagne cocktail (this time without Gin) is the Cranberry Champagne Cocktail.  All it takes is a little Grand Marnier (or triple sec), some cranberry juice, and a little of your precious stock of sparkling wine.

Finally, for you Vodka lovers we have the much maligned Cosmopolitan.  A good Cosmo is pink, not red, which makes it a better choice for a wedding.  Whatever cocktail you choose, enjoy it responsibly.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cocktails 101: Shaking vs. Stirring… decisions, decisions

Cocktail imbibing guests in Salt Lake City sometimes ask the Utah Mixologist how to determine whether to shake or to stir a cocktail.  Shaking and stirring both have two functions: chilling the drink and contributing some water (in the form of melted ice) to it. The water “opens up” and changes the flavor of the liquor in whatever cocktail you’re making (that’s why you always want to use fresh, clean ice). The main 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 the Martini) and shake the rest (those already cloudy from fruit juices (or egg whites) like the lime juice in Margaritas or the lemon juice in a Corpse Reviver No. 2).

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 end-product advantage in shaking is the presence of tongue-teasing ice crystals, which definitely add to the impact of the drink.  The end-product advantage in stirring is clarity; the cocktail will look better immediately after pouring.

Stirring has one advantage for the beginning amateur mixologist: you don’t need to buy anything.  If you’re just getting started and don’t have any bar gear, you can stir your cocktails in a large (12 oz) tumbler with an iced-tea spoon.  When you’re ready to buy a shaker, there are two main types: the Boston and the Cobbler.  The Cobbler is a three piece shaker, usually made of stainless steel, and has a built-in strainer.  The Boston Shaker is two pieces: a mixing glass (that you can also use to prepare stirred cocktails) and a large, tapered cup (called the tin), much like the bottom of a Cobbler.  There will be more on shakers in a future post. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – April 2011

In spite of closures of profitable state stores forced by the Utah state legislature, business is still being transacted at the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores, although the number of special price allowance (SPA) items seems lower than in March.  Single Malt Scotch afficionados might want to stock up on Bowmore® 12 Year Single Malt with a hefty 20% discount from $50 to $40; the Utah Mixologist may have to try this one.  This month there is a pretty decent Brandy from E&J marked down: the VSOP is only $11, and will do good duty in a Sidecar (or any other cocktail) and hurt your wallet far less than your favorite Cognac.  (Check out the Brandy ratings  here.) 

If you’re a Tequila lover, Herradura Añejo® is marked down 10% from $51 to $46 and, for the second month in a row, El Jimador Reposado® is reduced, but this time it’s the 1.75L bottle.  Several other Tequilas are on SPA at smaller discounts.  Clever Martini lovers read this blog last month and stocked up; in April there is only one Gin marked down, the 1.75L bottle of New Amsterdam® (a good economy Gin).  There are no real sipping Rums on sale this month, although a pair of Appleton Estates® medium priced Rums are marked down.  Whiskey lovers will shed some tears this month because of the miniscule or missing discounts on US and Canadian Whiskies.

As to any other sale or clearance items, if you see anything good at your local state store, post a response to this article.  See the following list “Suggested by the author” for information on how to use the Utah DABC website.  You can check out what else is on sale (e.g. the wines etc.) by clicking through to the “SPA Product List” to open a price book in PDF format that shows all of the markdowns for the current month.