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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Autumn is apple cocktail time

Bob for Apples combines the flavors of Rum,
cinnamon and apples
October is the time for fresh apples, apple juice, and apple cider.  My memories of childhood parties in October always include apple cider and powdered-sugar donuts.  Adulthood, however, expands our autumn horizons.  There is still apple juice and apple cider (and perhaps even powdered-sugar donuts), but now those liquid refreshments can be combined with adult beverages to create delicious fall cocktails.

Apple juice and cider are very versatile; they easily combine with Whiskey, Rum, and other liquors.  Astute readers are aware that cider and juice are not the same thing; indeed cider and cider don’t always taste the same.  Cider, which sports a more robust flavor than its tamer brother, is often unpasteurized, and “the real deal” is usually available only close to the apple harvest. Always experiment a little with the ingredients you have.  You may need to adjust the recipe by varying the amount of cider or juice to get the flavor of your cocktail just where you like it.

My first choice for a Whiskey and apple cocktail is the Rye-based Rapple. It’s a great mixture of spicy Rye, apple, and maple flavors, and is guaranteed to remind you of autumn in the country.  As you can imagine, Bourbon also goes very well with apple juice.  You might want to try the Status Update that I found on Bourbon Buzz, which tartens things up a bit with the addition of lime juice.

If you prefer Rum in your autumn cocktails, you might like the Bob for Apples.  What’s not to like about Rum, cinnamon, and apples?  It will remind you of homemade apple pie, but with more of a kick.  A nice alternative is Epicurious’ Happy Apple Rum Twist, which also tartens things up a bit with lime juice.

If you’re not in the mood for a cocktail, Hard Cider, which has its own rewards, is more widely available than it used to be. Sweet or dry, it’s pleasures are well worth exploring for those that have the inclination.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Autumn: as the leaves turn brown, so should your cocktails

A Rapple Cocktail will prepare you for autumn.
The first day of autumn, September 22, is fast approaching.  Are you ready with your fall cocktail menu?  Your friends will need something other than a light jacket to warm them on these chilly autumn nights.    Autumn, of course, is the season for fresh apples.  Why not try a Rye-based Rapple Cocktail. It’s a great mixture of spicy Rye, apple, and maple flavors, and will remind you of autumn in the country.  If you prefer Rum in your autumn cocktails, you might like the Bob for Apples.  What’s not to like about Rum, cinnamon, and apples?  It will remind you of Mom’s homemade apple pie, but with a kick.

Don’t forget to consider some Whiskey cocktails.  The venerable Old Fashioned gets its name because it is perhaps the first cocktail (we won’t consider Punches to be cocktails).  It’s a not well-kept secret that you can make an Old Fashioned with almost any liquor you like (within reason), just check out the recipe.  Another classic that is certain to set off an autumn evening is the Manhattan, I prescribe one nightly at bedtime just because you deserve to go to bed happy.

The Old Fashioned and Manhattan are good with many types of Whiskey, including Rye, but how about some great cocktails that were designed specifically for Rye?  The first of these is the pre-eminent Classic Sazerac; this New Orleans native is sure to please anyone who likes to sip some well-chilled Rye in the evening.  Its (much) younger sister is the newly minted Dale DeGroff Sazerac; these are so good it’s hard to stop after just one.

Even though it’s only autumn, and winter is still three months away, it’s not too early to start planning for those really cold nights.  What better way to beat the winter weather than with a Hot Rum Toddy?  Let’s hope you have some good Caribbean Rum on hand.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dale DeGroff presents new Pimento Bitters for cocktail lovers

Sazeracs are served without ice in a well-chilled glass.
Arriving at home after a week in Oxford, England, what better surprise than to find my long anticipated bottle of Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters.  Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff is the man usually credited with kicking-off the modern cocktail revival.  His books, The Craft of the Cocktail and The Essential Cocktail, are classic cocktail books that belong in the library of every cocktailian.  One thing you will learn in Dale’s books is that cocktails need bitters.  Cocktail lovers are aware that there are many more bitters available for your cocktails today than the “old stand-by” Angostura that we grew up with.  One of them, Peychaud’s Bitters, is a requirement for the classic Sazerac. Peychaud’s has been around for a long time, but used to be hard to find in many parts of the country.

Now Dale DeGroff, along with Ted Breaux, has developed and is marketing his own aromatic cocktail bitters.  Perhaps the most important thing to know about these bitters is that they are not based on the familiar pimentos used to stuff olives; those pimentos are a variety of chili pepper.  Rather, the bitters are based on another, tastier pepper, native to Jamaica, known as allspice or pimenta (often labeled as pimento). In addition to the headline ingredient, cloves deliver the next most prominent flavor.  There also seems to be a more subtle anise flavor, giving a hint of licorice, evocative of Peychaud’s Bitters.  Perhaps it was this echo of Peychaud’s that inspired DeGroff to develop his own recipe for the venerable Sazerac cocktail (one of my favorites), and his new variation really hits a home run.  The original Sazerac was made with Cognac, but most modern recipes call for Rye.  Dale splits the difference and uses an ounce of each in his new cocktail.  You can find Dale’s recipe on his website, or use the simplified recipe below.

Dale DeGroff’s Sazerac
  • 2 dashes Dale DeGroff Pimento Bitters
  • 1 ounce Rye Whiskey
  • 1ounce Cognac
  • Splash of absinthe
  • 1 small sugar cube

Chill a rocks glass.  Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a second glass (or a mixing glass) with the bitters and a teaspoon of water.  Muddle until the sugar cube is completely dissolved.  Add the Cognac, the Rye, and some large ice cubes, and stir well to chill. Pour the Absinthe into the chilled glass, and roll the glass to coat it, pouring out the excess.  (I like to use a food-grade atomizer and mist the glass.)  Strain into the chilled glass. Twist a lemon zest over the top of the drink and drop it in or discard it, according to your preference.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – September 2012

This Martini service will keep your cocktail icy cold.
Utah cocktailians can thank their stars that the August doldrums are officially over and the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores have finally loosened the purse strings.  The number of items on SPA (Special Price Adjustment) this month has doubled from a mere 156 in August to 312 in September, so it’s time to get ready for cold weather cocktails by stocking your bar with September bargains.  So as the nights grow cooler and the late summer days grow noticeably shorter, here are some cocktail ideas that, combined with some sale items, can save you money.

There are a number of Bourbons on price adjustment this month; Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey is available for $23 (8% off) and makes a great BLT.  There are also single-barrel Bourbons from Eagle Rare (10% off) and Evan Williams (7% off).  All of these Bourbons are in the $20-30 price range.

In case you’re looking for liqueurs to accompany the key ingredient of your cocktail, or even be the main ingredient, you might want to try one of the following.  E&J VSOP is a pretty decent Brandy for mixing; it’s marked down 21% to $11, can do good duty in a Sidecar (or any other cocktail), and will hurt your wallet far less than mixing with your favorite Cognac.  If Tiki-style cocktails are your thing, why not try a Tanqueray Taj?  Midori Melon Liqueur is marked down 15% to $17 and is used as a flavoring in many other cocktails.  A favorite Triple-Sec substitute (if you’re still using that $10 Triple Sec, why not treat yourself? If you do, you may never go back...) is Gran Gala Orange Liqueur, marked down 13% to $19.  It’s cheaper than Grand Marnier, but almost as good.

There are some nice Plata Tequilas on sale this month.  Three you might like to try in a variety of price ranges are Sauza Hornitos (12% to $22), Milagro Silver (7% to $27) and Herradura Blanco (12% to $38).  Any of these will make a dynamite Margarita.  Why not mix them with Gran Gala Orange Liqueur (see preceding paragraph)?  There is also a nice selection of Reposados marked down this month, check them out at your local store.

If you like Rum, the state has limited markdowns to dark ones this month.  There’s a trio of Bacardis along with the Cruzan Dark.  If you like your Rum Barbados, however, large bottles of Mount Gay Eclipse® Barbados Rum are marked down over 18% to $28.  Finally, Martini lovers will be pleased to know that they don’t have to go thirsty this month.  Hendricks Gin (6% to $32) and Bombay Sapphire Gin (11% to $24) both make excellent Classic Martinis, so this may be the time to stock up on your favorite Gin.