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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cosmo Cooler will help you get your summer cool on

The thermometer has been hitting the high 90’s day after day in Salt Lake City with only token relief in sight.  That means it’s time for summer coolers: those tall drinks that go down so well in your chair on the deck after a long day at work or after a hot session with the lawn mower.  Consider, then, a Cosmopolitan served cooler style.

Among aficionados of the cocktail, the Cosmopolitan is often maligned.  True, Vodka is not the most interesting cocktail ingredient that you will find, and Vodka has been called a blank slate waiting to be written upon (and that is a statement that is hard to disagree with).  True, Cosmos are the drink of seemingly frivolous people like the ladies on Sex in the City, and Cosmos contain no Whiskey or Bitters.  On the other hand, the shelves of the liquor stores are full of the stuff and almost everyone has a bottle in their bar, including me. So why not use it in a summer cooler?

Scaling a cocktail normally served “up” to a cooler is not always just a matter of adding ice and soda.  You must look at the list of ingredients and quantities and decide if some should be changed.  Avoid increasing the liquor (or at least don’t increase it by much).  People drink coolers when it’s hot, and it’s easy to have another, so too much liquor per cooler can lead to problems.  For the Cosmo Cooler, the Utah Mixologist decreased the Vodka, increased the Triple Sec, lime juice and cranberry juice for more flavor, and added some Grenadine for additional flavor and for extra sweetness to offset the increased lime juice.  Feel free to play around with the proportions (or replace part of the cranberry juice with Seltzer) and post a response if you think you have developed a better recipe.

Cosmo Cooler
  • 1 ½ oz Vodka
  • ¾ oz Triple Sec
  • 1 oz Lime juice (juice of 1 lime)
  • 1 oz Grenadine (preferably made with Pomegranate)
  • 4 oz Cranberry juice

Pour ingredients into a shaker 2/3 full of ice.  Shake briskly until the shaker frosts up. Strain into large Collins glass 3/4 full of ice, top with soda or seltzer water if needed and stir lightly.  Garnish with a lime wheel and serve with a straw.  (You may also build this drink in the glass, but your cocktail will stay cooler longer if you shake it with ice…)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

National Martini Day is July 19

The Martini is perhaps the most iconic of cocktails.  The cocktail glass is often called a “Martini glass,” and many (shall we say) less sophisticated establishments refer to any cocktail served in a cocktail glass as a Martini.  On National Martini Day, however, you should accept no substitutes.  “Real” Martinis are made from Gin and Dry Vermouth (usually French), although some excellent Vodka Martinis can be had.  The Martini has evolved over the years: it was originally made with Sweet Vermouth and Plymouth® Gin.

A “Dry Martini” is one made with less Vermouth.  Readers have probably seen or heard jokes about just waving the Vermouth cork over the Gin, or rinsing the glass with Vermouth and then dumping it.  While this may be a solution for old, semi-spoiled Vermouth, you might do better by buying a fresh bottle and trying a Martini mixed to today’s proportions.  Last year when Dale DeGroff made me a Martini at Portland Cocktail Week, he used a 5:1 ratio. 

Now is the time to ensure you have all the ingredients handy for when Cocktail Hour rolls around.  Don’t forget glasses: the cocktail (a.k.a. “Martini”) glass is key to a good Martini.  Chill your glasses in ice or in the freezer (preferred) for five to ten minutes or longer.  Some of my favorite recipes follow and, in case you’re wondering, Martinis should normally be stirred, not shaken.  

Purists will tell you that the Classic Martini must be made with Gin, and who can deny it?  It’s always a dilemma to decide between Hendrick’s®, Bombay Sapphire® or Plymouth® Gin, so we tend to alternate.

Confirmed Martini lovers looking to expand their horizons may want to try a Vesper Martini.  Developed for Ian Fleming’s (at the time) latest James Bond book, Casino Royale, the Vesper is quite a drink, even if it’s shaken and not stirred.

Sad to say, some people just don’t like Gin. If you’re in this group, why not try a Vodka Martini?  Crisp and delicious, you can enjoy the Martini mystique without the Gin taste.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – June 2012

Bobby Burns: a great destination for blended Scotch

June brings the beginning of summer, and with summer comes hot weather.  Hot weather and yard work make for thirsty people, so when cocktail hour rolls around Utah amateur mixologists should have plenty of takers for their cocktails. There are some quality cocktail ingredients on sale this month at the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores, so you can get what you need to shake up some great cocktails.  The number of items on SPA (Special Price Adjustment) this month rose from around 260 for May to a more generous 350 in June.  Here are some ideas on how to use this month’s sale items to improve your cocktail offerings.

One reason to celebrate this month is that there is a Rye Whiskey on sale.  Bulleit 95 Rye Whiskey (CS# 027025 marked down 12% to $22).  Bulleit Rye has been well-reviewed and rated as a good value.  Let’s hope this is the beginning of a new era when there will be a Rye Whiskey marked down every three or four months.  Try it in a Rye cocktail like the Boulevardier.

There are only a few Gins marked down this month, try some Bombay Sapphire ($23) in a Classic Martini.  If you love Gin and Tonics to cool down in the hot weather, you might want to stock up on New Amsterdam Gin (CS# 031475 down 20% to $12), an excellent Gin for the price.

There is a handful of blended Scotch Whiskies marked down this month, including a couple of twelve year olds: Dewars Special Reserve ($30) and Johnnie Walker ($37).  If you’re searching for a Scotch cocktail to try this month, consider trying the classic Bobby Burns.  As for Bourbons, there are about a dozen on sale this month, including single barrel offerings from Blanton, Ridgemont Reserve 1792, and Eagle Rare.  If you like Manhattans, you might want to try one with Eagle Rare (down 10% to $27).

The usual mix of Tequilas is marked down in June, but you might want to try either the Familia Camarena Silver or Reposado, both of which are marked down this month 15% to $17.  If you’ve never tried one, give the Tequila Mojito a try.  There are not a lot of Rums on SPA this month, but you might want to try some Cruzan Dark (25% to $10) in a Tiki cocktail like a Piña Colada made with dark Rum.

As to any other sale or clearance items, if you see a great deal on anything at your local state store that other cocktailians might enjoy, 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 an online price book in PDF format that shows all of the markdowns for the current month.

Surprise your Dad: make him a cocktail for Father’s Day!

Campden Cocktail

Is your Dad tired of the power tools you’ve been buying him for Father’s Day every year?  Perhaps it’s time to try something new.  Think: what can you do for your Dad to make him happy that you are around?   Assuming you’re of legal drinking age, why not make him a special cocktail?  Whether you’re home for a visit, or still living with Dad, the smile that lights up his face when he takes his first sip of the delicious cocktail you just stirred up for him will be your reward as well as his.  Note: if Dad’s not a drinker, you’ll have to find some other way to make him happy (mow his lawn?), but then you can enjoy a cocktail when you get back home. 

If you’re a regular reader, you should know how to make great cocktails.  You can get by without a lot of expensive gear, but be sure to use quality ingredients.  Finally, be sure you have all the ingredients you need for the specific cocktail.  There should be enough variety here that you and your Father can find something to enjoy.  Find one that your Father might enjoy, or that uses his favorite liquor, and get busy.

Sazerac – if you think your Dad is in a cocktail rut, but you know he’s partial to Rye, he will love this cocktail.  If he’s not partial to Rye, maybe it’s time he and Rye were introduced.  Warning: you will need an anise based liqueur (preferably Absinthe) to make a good Sazerac.

Sidecar – have you ever noticed Dad sipping a Cognac or a fine brandy?  If yes, chances are that he would enjoy a Sidecar.  Why not help him give it a try?  Be sure to point out that the Sidecar is probably older than he is… (around 90.)

Vesper Martini – if Dad loves Martinis, and especially if he enjoys James Bond movies, he will probably enjoy the Vesper Martini.  Developed for Ian Fleming by Gilberto Preti for Fleming’s (at the time) latest book, Casino Royale, the Vesper is quite a drink, even if it’s shaken and not stirred…  one of my favorites.
Tuaca Tropical Margarita – if Dad likes Tequila and Margaritas, the Tuaca Tropical Margarita is a cocktail he should enjoy.  Every bit as yummy as a Margarita, it’s just different enough to make him sit up and take notice.

Campden Cocktail – you might think it’s unfair to have two Gin cocktails in this list, but if Dad is a Gin lover (and what Dad isn’t), the Campden may be his next Favorite.  As a cocktailian, you should have all the ingredients at hand, so get moving.

Old Fashioned – there’s something here for almost any Dad!  If nothing interests you so far, the Old Fashioned may be the solution.  While the classic Old Fashioned uses Bourbon, an Old Fashioned can also be mixed with Canadian Club, Brandy, Gin, or Rum, so you can probably make an Old Fashioned with your Dad’s favorite liquor, whatever it is.  Just pick a complementary bitter.