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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Celebrate St. Andrew’s Day with this trio of Scotch Whisky cocktails

It’s late November and Salt Lake City cocktailians with any sort of affection for Scotland (or Scotch Whisky) are preparing to celebrate Saint Andrew’s Day.  Saint Andrew has been the patron saint of Scotland since the tenth century, a date that pre-dates Scotch Whisky by four or five hundred years.  Nevertheless, celebrating his day is an excellent excuse for toasting Scotland with a some good Scotch Whisky.  Many will salute the day by sipping a glass of single malt, but those of you who enjoy cocktails have more options.  The Utah Mixologist usually uses a blended Scotch in cocktails.  If you have a favorite blended Scotch, stick with it, but if you don’t have one yet, you might want to give Dewar’s™ White Label (CS# 004866, $25) a try.  Once you have a bottle of blended Scotch in hand, you are ready to select a cocktail.  Here are three classics that you should enjoy that all have three things in common.

The venerable Rob Roy is over 100 years old.  There is a recipe for the Rob Roy in the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), although the proportions of Scotch to Italian Vermouth (1:1) are not the ones in general use today (2:1). The Rob Roy is perhaps the classic Scotch Whisky cocktail.  If you enjoy making Manhattans, you already know the recipe: just substitute Scotch Whisky for the Bourbon or Rye.  If you’ve never had one, you’re in for a treat.

Our second cocktail can also be found in the Savoy.  The Bobby Burns is another cocktail using Scotch and Vermouth and sounds a bit like the Rob Roy, but has a little Benedictine thrown into the mix to reflect Bobby Burns less warlike and more poetic nature.  You should enjoy the interesting blend of herbals in the Vermouth and Benedictine combined with the peaty taste of the Scotch. 

Our third cocktail is the Blood and Sand.  The Blood and Sand, the youngest of the trio, is more of a concoction, containing Scotch, Vermouth, Cherry Heering Liqueur®, and Orange Juice.  Don’t let the color put you off, the flavor will surprise you.  You have probably noticed by now that all three of these cocktails have Scotch and Vermouth in common, and yes, the Blood and Sand may also be found in the Savoy.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Rapple Cocktail reminds you of autumn in the country

Salt Lake City cocktailians may be serving wine or cocktails with their Thanksgiving dinners this Thursday.  Those considering cocktails might like to try a simple cocktail that was just developed by the Utah Mixologist, the Rapple.  The Rapple was developed at the request of a friend who wanted a signature cocktail for Thanksgiving dinner.  New cocktails always require a little thought.  Browsing some cocktail recipes that used Whiskey and maple syrup got me interested in giving that combination a try, so those ingredients sounded like a good starting point.  While you can serve strong cocktails like a Manhattan with dinner, people do tend to drink more while eating a meal, so including some juice or a mixer is a good idea to dilute the alcohol a bit.  Apple juice was a good fit for the season, as was the Maple syrup, and the orange peel garnish delivers a little extra fruitiness that goes well with your Thanksgiving menu.  Rye was chosen because its extra spiciness is strong enough to come through the maple syrup and apple juice.  The syrup delivers sweetness, but there is also the richness of the maple that gives this cocktail a little something extra. 

If you don’t happen to have any Rye Whiskey in your bar, the Utah DABC sells Jim Beam® Rye (CS# 027056, $15), a good, basic Rye to use in Rye-based cocktails that is in general distribution.  This cocktail is delicious served up in a cocktail glass, but if you want to serve it with dinner, you might want to serve it on the rocks to make it last longer and to keep it fresh and cold during the meal.

  • 1 ½ oz Rye Whiskey
  • 2 oz Apple Juice
  • 1 tsp Maple syrup
  • 1 dash Angostura® Bitters

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass 2/3 full of ice.  Stir until well chilled. Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.  (You may also build it in a rocks glass.)  Twist a slice of orange peel above the glass, rub it around the rim, and drop it in, or garnish with a fresh orange twist.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A turkey tail full of cocktails for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is celebrated in many ways in Salt Lake City and across the USA, but one of the most common is at a family gathering featuring a turkey dinner.  In school we all learned that Thanksgiving Day commemorates the day of giving thanks that the Pilgrim Fathers celebrated (and President Lincoln later established as a holiday) after their first harvest at the Plymouth Colony on Cape Cod.  Cocktails at Thanksgiving used to be for before dinner and after dinner affair, with wine (or beer or non-alcoholic beverages) served during the meal.  In recent years, thanks to the craft cocktail revival, there has been a shift toward serving cocktails with Thanksgiving dinner.

Pairing cocktails with Thanksgiving dinner presents the same challenges as pairing wines.  Sweet or dry?  Subtle or flavorful?  (Flavorful might be a better choice for the variety of flavors likely to be found in Thanksgiving dinner.)  Personal tastes (yours and tour guests’).  Here’s a selection of cocktails that should please you this Thanksgiving.  Some are sweet, some are dry, but there should be something to please almost everyone.

Plymouth® is a brand name for a distinct type of Gin that legend says was used in the first Martini cocktail, and it’s the Gin that Dale DeGroff used when he made me a Martini at Portland Cocktail Week.  Made at the Blackfriars Distillery in Plymouth (it used to be a monastery) it was probably the last Gin the Pilgrim Fathers drank before (and perhaps while) sailing to Massachusetts.  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.  

If your taste leans more toward Whisky, especially Scotch Whisky, you might want to try a Bobby Burns.  While Scotch, Italian Vermouth, and Benedictine were most likely in short supply among the Pilgrims, that doesn’t mean you have to do without, and it is almost St. Andrew’s Day.

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 this classic a try; it’s sure to please. 

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.  It’s easy to make and will compliment the traditional turkey dinner.  Think of it as a form of liquid cranberry sauce.

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 Caribbean Rum at the first Thanksgiving, but why should you suffer?  This might be a selection best served after dinner.

One pleasant memory is how at Grandma’s house every Thanksgiving back in the fifties the kids could be found either running around “like wild Indians” (commemorating Thanksgiving?) or drinking glass after glass of non-alcoholic eggnog.  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!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wines to get your bird’s attention at Thanksgiving dinner

While turkey is the center of the “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner, it is by no means a requirement, and many families have different traditions.  Salt Lake City is home to many different ethnicities that each enjoy their own traditions, so many different meals will be served this coming Thursday.  If there is one Thanksgiving tradition that is even more widespread than turkey, it is to have a large variety of a lot of different tasting foods.  This, in combination with the fact that not everyone will enjoy the same wines with the same foods, makes finding the perfect wine pairing difficult.  If you’re hosting a large family dinner and have done so in the past, ask yourself what worked (or didn’t) before.  If you hit upon a wine that everyone raved about last year, then your best bet is to stick with the same selection or something very similar.  If you’re not that lucky, then you have a little work to do.  If you know your guests’ wine preferences, that should be an important input to your decision, so keep it in mind. 

Although tradition dictates that white wine be served with white meat, the complexity of the typical Thanksgiving dinner eases that restriction.  Three reds that work well for Thanksgiving are Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Beaujolais.  If you decide to go red, try a Pinot Noir with medium body that won’t overpower white meat and with medium acidity to cut through some of the fatty foods likely to be part of the dinner.  Zinfandels tend to be fuller bodied, but work well if you have a lot of spicy foods, while Beaujolais tend to be lighter wines that won’t overpower the flavors of the food.

If you decide to go white, you may discover that slightly sweeter whites go well with a Thanksgiving dinner.  A friend’s son looked askance at the bottles of Vouvray that I had brought for their Thanksgiving dinner until he tasted it with the meal, then he was a convert.  One white wine that shouldn’t be ignored is Sparking Wine.  Champagnes are so versatile that they can even go with chocolate.  If you want to go a little sweet, get Extra Dry, and if you want to go dry, get the Brut.  This month there are not many Sparklers on sale (they’re waiting for the big December blow-out), but a pair of Korbels and Domain Chandon Blanc de Noirs are marked down.

There are several other whites that will work well with a turkey dinner.  Riesling has the acidity to stand up to most of the foods it will encounter, and you can find it ranging anywhere from dry to sweet, so decide what degree of sweetness you want and check the label.  Gewürztraminer is fruity and spicy enough go well with turkey and dressing, and also comes in sweet or dry.   Pinot Grigio is another favorite that can deliver good flavor over  fatty holiday gravy.  Sauvignon Blanc and (reliable) Chardonnay are two other possibilities that will serve you well.

Lastly, if you will serve wine with dessert, keep in mind that a dessert wine should be sweeter than the dessert, so if you chose a dry, white (or red) wine for dinner you should definitely trade it out for something sweeter with dessert.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – November 2011

Salt Lake City cocktailians will be disappointed to see that the Special Price Adjustment (SPA) list this month is about as lean as it was last month.  This should just be the pre-December doldrums, though; Santa Claus comes next month, and his SPA list is usually very generous in December.  If you’re looking for cocktail ingredients on clearance this month, there is one item of interest to cocktail lovers in the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores this month, DonQ® Cristal (CS# 043426) is a good quality Puerto Rican Rum that should work well in any cocktails that call for light Rum, like the El Presidente.  Interestingly, Esteban Ordoñez, Brand Ambassador for DonQ, spoke about their sustainability programs during Portland Cocktail Week.  The Cristal was $12 and is marked down almost 50% to $6.47.  This item is almost out of stock, residents of Heber, Vernal, and St. George have the best chance of scoring some.  Be sure to call ahead to check availability if that’s all you’re looking for.  There are also some wines on clearance, so check your store’s end cap displays.  If you see any other good items on clearance at your local state store, post a response to this article. 

My favorite “economy Gin”, New Amsterdam® (CS# 031475), is marked down 20% from $15 to $12 this month. Try it in a Tom Collins.  If you have an open bottle of sparkling wine but you’re in the mood for something a little stronger that a Champagne cocktail, try a French 75 – a reliable champagne (and gin) cocktail that is sure to have just the kick you need. 

The standout Tequila deals this month are a pair of El Jimadors®: the Reposado and the Blanco are both marked down from $20 to $17.  Regular readers will know that a good Silver (or Plata or Blanco) is an essential ingredient in the ever popular Margarita, but this Reposado also makes outstanding cocktails.  For those who love Vodka Martinis, this month it’s the one liter bottles of Ketel One® that are marked down.  There is also the usual large number of flavored Vodkas on SPA.

November is not a total desert in the cocktail arena, however.  If you’re into Bourbons, Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey® (CS# 017086) is available for $22 ($3 off) and makes a great BLT.  If you like something a little pricier, Jack Daniels® Single Barrel (CS# 026906) is available for $40 ($4 off).  Most of the Scotch Whiskies marked down this month are blends, so if you’re looking for something to put into your Rob Roy you can get some Chivas Regal®, Johnnie Walker® Red, or a large (1750 ml.) bottle of Dewars® White Label.

Friday, November 4, 2011

BLT: can the cocktail be better than the sandwich?

The Utah Mixologist picked up some ideas and recipes to bring back to readers in Salt Lake City at the receptions and seminars during PDX Cocktail Week. One of the best seminars was the “Art of the Simple Cocktail” presented by cocktail diva Elayne Duke, head mixologist for Diageo Wine and Spirits.  Elayne’s presentation concentrated on three cocktail basics: the base, the modifier, and the flavoring agent and how they interact. It’s surprising how many classic cocktails follow this simple formula; take, for example, the Margarita, Daiquiri, Sidecar, Mojito, and Manhattan.

One of the cocktails served at the seminar was the BLT.  In this case the BLT stands for Bulleit, Lemon, and Tonic.  Just as the better known BLT (bacon, lettuce, and tomato) is a perfect sandwich: simple, delicious, and with a great mix of flavors; the BLT cocktail is (you guessed it) simple, delicious, and has a great mix of flavors.  Bulleit Bourbon (CS# 017086, $25) is in general distribution in Utah, and this and other recipes are presented on the Bulleit website.

BLT Cocktail

1 1/3 oz. Bulleit Bourbon
Lemon wedge (about 1/8 lemon)

Squeeze the lemon wedge into a rocks glass 2/3 full of ice. Add the Bulleit and top off with Tonic.  Garnish with a generous wedge of lemon or a lemon twist.