Tag Archives: Mixology Monday

Mixology Monday: Spice — Cranberry Spice Sidecar

Cranberry Spice Sidecar

This month, Mixology Monday is hosted by Craig of Tiki Drink & Indigo Firmaments. The theme this time around is Spice.

I use spices and herbs often in cocktails, so this theme gave me a chance to explore variations in my favorite recipes. My first thought was a cranberry variation on the Blackberry Gin Daisy from this summer — a winter version of a late summer drink.

I love a gin hot toddy with lemon and a stick of cinnamon, and that was my other inspiration. Cinnamon works with cranberries; cinnamon works with gin; lemon works with all of them. Let’s bring them together for a party.

For cranberry syrup, I put 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and 2 cups fresh cranberries in a pot, along with about a half stick of cinnamon and 6 or so whole cloves. (Next time I might add even more spices, and maybe some dried orange peel too.) Simmered 4 minutes, let cool until just about room temp. (Here they are simmering and cooling.) Strained with finest available strainer.

First drink: a cranberry variation on the gin daisy. It turned out to be much too tart. Cranberries are not, in fact, berries. Eat one and you’ll discover how not berry they are. So the syrup was sweet but not so sweet as grenadine, nor as sweet as the blackberry syrup I made this summer. Additional sweetness was in order.

Obvious choice: Cointreau. it’s delicious in everything, and its orange flavor works beautifully with both cranberries and warm spices.

Cranberry Spice Daisy

2 oz gin (Plymouth)
1 oz cranberry spice syrup
.5 oz lemon juice
.25 oz Cointreau

Shake with ice. Strain into cocktail glass, top with spritzer. Garnish with three fresh cranberries.

This was good, but the balance of sweet and tart seemed delicate. Hard to manage, too tricky for my taste.

Knowing how nicely brandy plays with Cointreau and orange, I tried a different tack.

Cranberry Sidecar

2 oz cognac or brandy (Courvoisier in this case)
1 oz cranberry spice syrup
.5 oz lemon juice
.25 oz Cointreau

Shake with ice. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with three fresh cranberries.

This was a much better drink.The cognac blended easily with the various flavors, and everything ended up warm and welcoming (yet nicely chilled by the ice). The spices are subtle, but there’s enough of them to change what might otherwise be a fruity beverage into something more special.

I still think a little spritz of seltzer isn’t out of place, to lighten the drink.

Important note: If you’re the type who likes to munch on your garnish, take care with these drinks. Even after they’ve soaked in booze for a while, fresh cranberries are tart little things.

Thanks to Craig for hosting MxMo this month and choosing such a terrific theme. Please check out his site for a full wrap up of creative drink ideas.

 

(Photo credit: Cranberry Spice Sidecar, originally uploaded by cynthiacloskey.)

Mixology Monday: Local Flavor


Blackberry Daisy

The theme for this month’s Mixology Monday is Local Flavor. Our host is Kevin of Save the Drinkers, and while I don’t despise globalization as he does, I echo his affection for local flavors and specialties.

Living here in western Pennsylvania, particularly in summertime, I’m lucky to have delightful, fresh ingredients right at hand. Corn is the big crop here now; if you have any occaision to come through this area in the next few weeks, make a point of stopping at any of the gazillion roadside stands and picking up a few dozen ears. You don’t have to cook them. Just eat them raw. You’ll be spoiled for anything other than extremely fresh corn again, but it will be worth it.

Still, for MxMo purposes I didn’t think corn was the right choice. Interesting, but too complicated. Instead, I thought back to my childhood, and I headed to my parents’ back yard.

Their yard looks like this:

yard

When I was growing up here, we picked blackberries every summer, right at the center point in that photo. In my memory, the summer weather was always ridiculously hot and humid, but for berry picking we bundled up in long sleeves and jeans because the bushes are studded throughout with thorns, and there were poison ivy vines mingled throughout as well.

Still, the effort wasn’t that great, because you could reach out and lift up one single branch. Underneath it you’d find great bunches of blackberries, hanging thick as bunches of grapes, and nearly as big.

Please note that blackberries aren’t the same as raspberries, or even black raspberries. They’re a bit more tart, and they hang onto a bit of stem inside instead of being kind of hollow like a raspberry. They go great with peaches (which we also used to grow at home). The plants grow like weeds (as Stevi points out), but they’re also a bit fickle about whether they’ll give you happy huge berries or sad little ones.

My mother had said there wasn’t a huge crop this year, and on my first pass around I thought she was right.

The thing is, blackberries are sneaky. You look at a bush, and you see maybe just a few berries. But carefully grasp a stalk and pull up, and you may find great globs of juicy goodness.

In all, I came away with about two pints of berries, huge and gorgeous and sweet/tart as blackberries could ever be, and as organic as anyone could ask.

As to what to do with them: I thought back to January and the homemade grenadine I cooked up for that month’s MxMo. I figured blackberries would be an interesting alternative.

But I’d also searched around a bit and spotted this recipe for a syrup of blackberries and rosemary.

So. I made two batches of syrup, one with rosemary and one without. They both took far longer than the listed 20 minutes to cook, but each was delicious and drool-worthy.

I mixed up two Brandy Daisies, trying the blackberry syrup and blackberry-herb syrup each in place of the grenadine. These syrups were not nearly as thick and sugary as my grenadine though. I had to fiddle with ratios to get it right (a task made harder by the ridiculously tart lemons I have).

The rosemary-enhanced syrup turned out to be vastly more interesting than the plain berry syrup — lots of complicated flavor, a little bit of surprise. Honestly, I was blown away by it. I want to put it on everything and eat it by the spoonful.

Then I thought the daisy cocktail recipe with blackberry-herb syrup might work well with gin instead of brandy, so I pulled out a bottle of Plymouth. The result is this, my suggestion for the month:

Blackberry Gin Daisy

2 oz gin
1 oz blackberry-rosemary syrup
.25 to .5 oz lemon juice (depending on tartness and taste)
sprig rosemary and additional berries to garnish

Shake gin, syrup, and lemon juice with ice. Serve in cocktail glass with rosemary and berries.

Even if you don’t have the berries to garnish, put a fresh rosemary sprig in the glass. It’s interesting to look at, and it adds an amazing scent to the drink.

Please check out the other ideas and inspiration in this month’s MxMo — watch Save the Drinkers for the summary post. Cheers!

Mixology Monday: New Orleans


Pat O’Brien’s Courtyard
, originally uploaded by Gary J. Wood

July’s Mixology Monday was postponed a couple of times, first to coincide with the Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans — which city is the theme for this month — and then to coincide a little less, so that those who attended the conference could get home and recover.

It would be a complete lie to say that I’m not bitter. Not about the last-minute postponing of MxMo: that’s just an inconvenience. I was ready to write something last week, true, but my blogging of late is not highly scheduled. (As you have perhaps noted.)

But basing everything on the people who attended Tales of the Cocktail … well, there I confess that I feel perhaps just a bit bruised. One of these years, I’ll schedule my life such that I can travel to Big Easy for the big event. In the meantime, I’d like the privileged few to spare a thought for us poor souls back home.

The fact is that I’ve never been to New Orleans. I’ve thought that, should I ever go, I had best go on an off-week, when nothing else of import is going on. My (faint) worry is that I’ll get swept up into the excitement of whatever else everyone is doing, have a wild time, and wake up a week later in the far corner of a dead end alley wearing someone else’s clothes … at best.

Of course I know that eventually I’ll go, and I’ll have a lovely and alley-free time.

The thing is that I have listened to the many tales people have brought back of debauched trips they’ve taken during Mardi Gras, with the French Quarter full of people and booze in roughly equal volumes.

The drink that people tend to talk about in such tales is the Hurricane, originated at Pat O’Brien’s Bar.

So for this MxMo, I thought I’d experience a bit of New Orleans in my own home and remove my silly little fear all at the same time. I’d have a nice, safe little Hurricane.

Looking at the recipe, I wasn’t impressed. I like punch well enough, but I’m not a great fan of rum. I figured this would be an OK little fruit drink. Three ounces of rum made it a very respectable drink, but this struck me as basic bar efficiency: If you’re going to serve great crowds of people, and you have limited waitstaff, make the drinks big enough to keep people happy until they can be served their next round.

Here’s the recipe I found (this is the non-powdered, non-bottled version — I take it that Pat O’Brien’s has merchandised the hell out of this drink):

Hurricane Cocktail

  • 1.5 ounces light rum
  • 1.5 ounces dark rum
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice (NOT Rose’s or RealLime)
  • 1/4 cup passion fruit juice, or 1 tablespoon passion fruit syrup
  • 1 teaspoon superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine
  • Cherries with stems, and orange slice to garnish
  • Ice cubes

In a cocktail shaker, mix the rum, passion fruit juice or syrup, the other juices and the sugar until sugar is dissolved. Add the grenadine, and stir to combine, then add ice and shake. Half-fill a hurricane glass with ice, then strain drink into glass; add ice to fill. Garnish with orange slice and cherries.

 

I found passion fruit juice at a big Giant Eagle, and I used Bacardi for the light rum and Mount Gay Eclipse Rum for the dark. I had used up my homemade grenadine, so I made do with the Rose’s red stuff. For a hurricane glass, I substituted an old beer glass — the drink looked quite pretty.

And it was delicious.

The secret was the passion fruit juice. This stuff is awesome!

I suspect people substitute in other juices (pineapple, primarily) or just up the booze when they can’t get passion fruit juice, but I doubt you’d have anything like the right flavor. Seek out the Hispanic section of your suburban super-grocer, find a can of passion fruit juice or punch, and make this up. If you can find real passion fruit and juice it, so much the better.

Anyway, so now I’ve discovered that I adore a good Hurricane. This should make me even warier of any trip to New Orleans, but in truth I think I will handle it just fine. I’m ready to tackle the Big Easy, if only I can relax enough to take a trip.

In the meantime, please check out the other MXMO: NO posts. They’ll be posted sometime in the next day or so at the new Mixology Monday website.

(You will definitely want to take a look at Dr. Bamboo’s summary of Tales of the Cocktail. There are wonderful illustrations as always, and some interesting observations. I’d love it all if I weren’t so envious.)

Mixology Monday: Bourbon

Bitter Bourbon
 
2 oz bourbon (drier varieties preferred)
.5 oz Campari
.5 oz green Chartreuse
dash orange bitters
 
Combine in a shaker with ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Serve with orange rind garnish.

It’s Mixology Monday again, and our hosts this month are the Scofflaw’s Den, lovable ruffians and scoundrels that they are. The theme they’ve chosen is: bourbon.

I’m a great fan of bourbon, but I found myself overwhelmed by this month’s theme. So many options! Also, I’ve written a fair bit about bourbon in the past, as has every other cocktail blogger. What new thing could I highlight?

Fortunately, external forces came to my rescue, in the form of weather. It’s now Summer (with a capital S) here in Pennsylvania, temperatures in the 90s and up and humidity arcing skyward. I saw my first firefly tonight; they’ve probably been out for a while, but I’ve been sequestering myself in air-conditioned environments, the better to survive.

(Dear Readers who live in truly hot and humid areas: Yes, I know. This is nothing. I’m a wimp. Think how I’d whine in a really steamy climate!)

Anyway, when the weather grows sticky like this, I’m drawn to one particular bottle: Campari. It’s brisk and bitter and syrupy-sweet all in unison. It comes from Milan, Italy, where things are hot and humid on a regular basis, and it’s based on bitter orange. Technically, it’s a bitter, but one you can mix in larger proportions. It clears the palate and contrasts with the sweltering air, cutting through everything. I adore it in hot weather.

(Side note: Here’s the Campari website. Please be warned that they have concocted a rather stretched fiction about a "world of passion" that needs to be restored, somehow incorporating their ads that involve Salma Hayek but also a bunch of other stuff, and that the whole thing is built in Flash. Enter at your own risk.)

So, this month’s MxMo gave me the opportunity to explore ways to combine two of my favorite liquors, Bourbon and Campari. The trick is what to put with them. Many bourbons come across as sweet, but not sweet enough to balance the tart/bitter one-two punch of Campari. I needed something that brought sugar to the party along with a bonus to unify and blend — herbiness, if possible.

The first thing I tried, which worked delightfully, was Benedictine. Most unfortunately, I used up my last bit of Benedictine in that preliminary experiment, and when I went to the local retail arm of the PLCB to get another bottle I was informed that the commonwealth of Pennsylvania no longer carries that item. I won’t waste the rest of this post with my curses on that particular arm of government.

It seems that a few other states face related Benedictine shortages, so I searched for an alternative. Maraschino liqueur was too sweet by far, Amari too thick. What to do?

I tried green Chartreuse, and my problems were solved. Chartreuse brings in the sweetness to balance Campari’s bitter elements, but not so much as to overwhelm. And it carries a few bits of herby flavor to boot.

For my bourbon, I used Wild Turkey (80 proof), which I find combines well with many things without losing its character, and which is quite reasonably priced. 

I suspect that the resulting cocktail will please me and few others. It’s a warm variant on a Negroni; the Negroni has been memorably described as "the reverse of a mullet — party in the front (sweet), and business in the back (mild bitter aftertaste)." The addition of bourbon warms the combination, while adding green Chartreuse makes it more complicated than related vermouth variations. If you do try it and like it, I’d love to know. If you’ve already invented it and have been drinking it for years, I’d definitely love to know — you can probably save me some experimentation in the future.

But in the meantime, everyone needs to swing over to Scofflaw’s Den, to see what they’ve been shaking up. It’s sure to be a delight.

Cheers!

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MxMo: Variations on the Brandy Alexander

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This month’s Mixology Monday theme is "Variations," hosted by Jimmy at Jimmy’s Cocktail Hour.

Sometimes it seems like every drink I make is a variation on the original. Probably it is. Good cocktail-making is like good cooking: You take a recipe, tune it to your tastes and to the tastes of those who will consume it, adjust for the ingredients on hand, and apply a little chance.

The Brandy Alexander is itself a variation on the Alexander, which is gin, creme de cacao, and cream in equal amounts, shaken with ice. The brandy variation took over its older brother long ago. I’ll guess this is because your average gin drinker doesn’t want his gin softened by a big splash of cream, while in contrast the brandy version turns out to be perhaps the original "girly" drink — soft and sweet but packing a hefty wallop for those who aren’t careful.

Feist (see video above) isn’t the only one to note its danger. It’s a Brandy Alexander that Jack Lemmon’s character orders for a virginal Lee Remick on their first date in Days of Wine and Roses. The sweet young lady loves her first-ever cocktail, and then 45 minutes later her child has nearly perished in a fire and she’s less than an hour from destroying her marriage, all because she can’t drag herself away from the bottle. So much danger in a simple cocktail glass, sprinkled with grated nutmeg.

Movies notwithstanding, the Brandy Alexander is a mild and friendly drink. It is, in fact, a dessert, with creme de cacao turning a perfectly respectable cocktail into a pseudo-chocolate slushie.

I wanted to find a variation that kept the kick of the brandy or cognac, plus the softness of the cream, but offered a bit more with the sweetness part — more flavor, a little subtlety.

I turned to Tuaca, a sweet Italian liqueur flavored with vanilla and fruity spices. This handled the sweetness admireably and brought in nice flavor, but couldn’t quite balance with the cream. So I added a drop or two of Cointreau and came up with a pleasant cocktail.

I have just a few minutes until midnight to post and can’t find a good name for this thing, so I’m going with the obvious:

Brilliant Alexander

1 oz brandy or cognac
1 oz Tuaca
2 or three drops of Cointreau to taste
1 oz light cream

Combine in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into cocktail glass and serve.

Enjoy! And please check out the creations that Jimmy collects for this Mixology Monday of variations. Cheers!

Mixology Monday: Brandy

Cognac: Spot

Cognac: Spot, originally uploaded by Shaylor.

The first Mixology Monday of 2008 is being hosted by the clever Marleigh of Sloshed! and she has chosen a warm and friendly theme that’s sure to bring a little something for everyone: Brandy.

I’ve written about brandy in the past (most notably here). So many lovely drinks can be made with it. For this post, I wanted to try a cocktail I’d never tasted before. I searched my (meager) collection of cocktail books and came up with a few intriguing recipes for the Brandy Daisy — but no background on the drink or explanation for the name.

Thank heavens for the Internet, because Wikipedia filled in a few blanks. The drink appears to be a predecessor of the Sidecar, which as longtime readers know is one of my very favorite cocktails (and my Drink of the Year for 2003). Margaritas can be traced back to it too:

The Brandy Daisy is a cocktail which first gained popularity in the late 19th century. One of the earliest known recipes was published in 1876 in the second edition of Jerry ThomasThe Bartenders Guide or How To Mix Drinks: The Bon-Vivants Companion.

Over the years, multiple variants of the recipe developed, including other daisies involving other base spirits, such as whiskey or gin. Citrus — typically lemon juice, but occasionally orange or lime juice — is common throughout most daisy recipes. Liqueurs or cordials also figure prominently, ranging from Curaçao to maraschino or yellow Chartreuse, distinguishing the daisy from other sour cocktails. Sweeteners range from gomme syrup to grenadine syrup, raspberry syrup, or bar sugar.

It was the grenadine that caught my eye. Here was a recipe that would fit the bill for MxMo January and give me a reason to try my hand at homemade grenadine, which peterb of Tea Leaves had written about recently. Homemade grenadine is worlds better than the ubiquitous Rose’s stuff, which is just colored high-fructose corn syrup.

The grenadine was easy: 1 cup POM brand pomegranate juice, 1 cup sugar, boil until the temperature reaches 220 degrees F. Next time I’ll aim for a lower temperature, as the syrup I made is a bit thick; 210 degrees might be a better endpoint.

I added a little vodka to my syrup to thin it — supposedly this addition will also preserve the syrup, but I’m keeping it in the fridge all the same. Anyway, I expect to use it all up before anything can start spoiling it.

The fact that I’m using homemade grenadine of uncertain syrupiness calls into question the proportions I’m about to give you. The other monkeywrench is the quality of the lemons I’m using — or rather, the lack of quality. It’s hard to find good citrus in the wilds of western Pennsylvania in January. The recipes I’ve seen have been all over the board anyway though. Start with this ratio, tweak to your taste:

Brandy Daisy

2 oz quality brandy or cognac
3/4 oz homemade grenadine
juice of 1/2 lemon
seltzer

Mix the first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Spritz with seltzer and serve.

This makes for a pleasant alternative to the Cosmopolitan. I plan to try it on my Cosmo- and Lemon Drop-drinking friends, to see if I can lure them away from vodka to other spirits.

Plus, at least a few of the antioxidants in the pomegranate juice must survive the syrup-making process. Even now they are repairing any damage the booze might have done to my organs. Or that’s what I prefer to believe.

I still don’t know why this drink is called a Daisy. The color resembles that of some Gerber daisies I’ve seen, but that can’t be it. Some versions are garnished with a pineapple and a cherry, but that still doesn’t work enough for me. I welcome any information on the source of the name.

Mixology Monday 23

For more brandy recipes and MxMo fun, check in with Sloshed! and see what all the other participants are drinking. Thanks to Marleigh for hosting this month!

UPDATE: Here is Marleigh’s summary of all the posts for MxMo 23. Twenty-nine at the current count! Watch out for a worldwide dip in brandy availability now that these recipes have hit.

 

Month Impossible: Day Twelve

I like to joke that "work gets in the way of the rest of my life." Today I can joke that "the rest of my life gets in the way of the rest of my life."

The second Monday of each month is Mixology Monday, an Internet meme (theme/concept) I’ve participated in for a few months. For me, writing an MxMo post means finding a cocktail recipe that fits the theme, trying it, being dissatisfied, finding another, trying it, kind of liking it but not really, and then finding and trying a couple more, finally settling on something, writing about it, taking a photo, rereading what I’ve written and finding a dozen typos…. You see how it goes.

This kind of blogging takes lots of time, but it’s among the most fun I have on the internet. I adore researching something, thinking about the best ways to present my idea, struggling with the theme and organization and style, all of it. This is what I’d do every day if I could. It takes an inordinate amount of time, and I don’t know if anyone reads these things. They bring me joy though, and I hope at least one person, somewhere, enjoys what I’ve written.

NaNoWriMo: Nothing today. The rest of the month’s daily quotas increase proportionally.

DrawMo: Today would be the day I switch to color pencils. Look for something bright and cheery tomorrow.

Mixology Monday: Gin

Gin tasting

It’s Mixology Monday, hosted by the wise-beyond-his-years Jay Hepburn of Oh Gosh! Our topic this month is gin. A fantastic topic it is too. Too many people lack experience with gin, thinking it’s good only for Martinis and G&Ts. It’s terrific in both, of course, but it’s versatile, and now we get to discover many ways in which it can be enjoyed.

Because November is Month Impossible for me, I wanted to write a quick and easy post. I failed, big time. But that’s lucky for you, because it means I will now spend many entertaining paragraphs (I hope they will be entertaining…) explaining what went wrong and offering alternatives and additions. Here we go.

The Cocktail

Faintly from the back of my mind, I recalled that there was a gin recipe that I’d not tried in one of my cocktail books. Atomic Cocktails is chock full of style, but its recipes are hit-or-miss. Still, I had been interested in this one, if only for the blatant Fitzgerald name-drop. Here’s the full recipe including prologue:

Webster’s F-Street Layaway Plan

This was the martini of choice for F. Scott Fitzgerald, patron saint of the mixed beverage. Could this wild hybrid of good gin and complex Chartreuse be the reason Scott and Zelda were always dancing in those fountains? In any event, the Layaway — a specialty of notorious Bay Area bar master Jamie Reynolds — is best served the way Fitzgerald liked it: day and night.

1/4 ounce green Chartreuse
1 1/2 cups cracked ice or 6 ice cubes
2 ounces dry gin
1 lemon twist for garnish

1. Chill a martini glass.

2. Pour the Chartreuse into the chilled glass; swirl it around to coat the interior, and discard any excess.

3. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the gin. Shake vigorously to chill, or use a long-handled bar spoon and stir gently about 20 times. The key is to work quickly so the ice doesn’t melt and dilute the gin.

4. Strain the gin into the chilled glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

Serves 1

Pretty much everything about this drink sounded bogus to me. The recipe is nothing like a cocktail recipe from the early 20th century; it’s gin in a coated glass, which I’m sure wasn’t popular when Fitzgerald was alive. I’m unable to turn up anything about Bay Area bar master Jamie Reynolds. Plus, "stir gently 20 times"? Please.

Still, this drink would give me a use for the Chartreuse that’s been taking up space in my cupboard — as far as I could tell it was undrinkable. Maybe I’d finally found it’s place in the bar world.

I mixed the drink as described, using the gin I had on hand, Hendrick’s. (I know: not ideal for mixing. But I like it straight so I keep it in stock.) And I was thoroughly displeased with the result. The Chartreuse (green? yellow? I can’t tell — it’s chartreuse! Most likely what I have is yellow) and the Hendrick’s fought for attention and refused to blend. The lemon tried to make everyone play nice, but it was outdone.

So ok, this drink was no good. I was going to simply report my experience and be done with this MxMo post. And then I skipped around the internet and found Jamie Boudreau’s MxMo post, in which (among other topics) he explains that Chartreuse and gin are the best of friends.

The Bijou he described sounded delightful … everything that my Layaway Plan drink was meant to be. I didn’t have quite the ingredients listed, so I subbed in what I could:

Not-a-Bijou (with apologies to Jamie Boudreau)

1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz yellow Chartreuse
3/4 oz sweet Vya (which I bought because PeterB said I should)
2 dashes orange bitters

Stir, strain into cocktail glass. Lemon twist garnish.

This is a lovely drink, in stark contrast to what I’d made earlier. Incidentally, I had the outstanding fortune to visit Vessel a couple of times recently and thus to have drinks mixed by Mr. Boudreau himself, and I would describe this drink as being characteristically his style: complex and multi-layered and balanced. (Also: very strong.)

And but so, now I’ve given you one lame recipe for MxMo, and one recipe that was blatantly copied from another MxMo participant. What value am I adding to this world?

To make up for everything, I present the following investigative report: the results of a gin tasting I held a little while ago. Please enjoy!

The "My Brilliant Mistakes" Gin Tasting

Some months back, I received this email:

Dear Cindy,

Your blog is very interesting and would appreciate our new G’Vine Gin. G’VINE breaks away from the traditional juniper based "London dry" and is truly a unique product. Thanks to its versatility, G’Vine offers many new drinking options. Please visit this funny video/blog, which presents G’VINE as true innovation and an alternative to vodka. Feel free to share your great experiences with gin and/or vodka and share this blog with your friends. We are happy to link their blog to yours in "Gin, Juice & Other Blogs" category. We would appreciate it if you would link back to us as well. Enjoy.

www.deathofvodka.com

Cheers,
G’VINE Gin

So I checked out the website. The video was light and kind of amusing. But before I could recommend it to you, my beloved readers, I felt I should try the alcohol in question. And that I could not do, because I couldn’t find G’Vine Gin in any local Pennsylvania liquor stores. I deleted the email and figured that was that.

Another week passed and I received the same email again. I wrote back:

Hi there,

Thank you for the email. I’m interested in knowing more about your product. I haven’t been able to find it in stores — is it available in Pennsylvania? I’d prefer to try it before recommending it to my readers.

Cheers,
Cindy

They wrote back with a nice note, promising to send me a sample. And sure enough, some time later I received a package with two cute airplane-sized bottles of G’Vine, plus an impressive pile of marketing literature and a CD of images.

Being a marketer, and a blogger, and a person who enjoys gin, I liked their approach. Get the word out, use online technologies to reach your target market, get the product in the hands and glasses of people who can spread the good news. And send Cindy free gin. An excellent strategy.

The thing was, I felt quite unsure of the underlying concept of G’Vine. I mean, G’Vine is gin that doesn’t taste like juniper — which, to me, is pretty much the point of gin … the tasting like juniper bit. There are other flavors there too, different botanicals and whatnot depending on which gin you’re drinking. But the gin-ness of gin, if you will, is the juniper. Take away the juniper, and what’s left?

I thought I should try this juniper-lite gin along with other gins, to figure out what juniper brings to the party and what else is possible. And rather than drink great quantities of gin by my lonesome, I decided to invite over some gin-drinking pals to help.

The New York Times did a similar tasting earlier this year, mixing a variety of gins into Martinis and dissecting the results. I didn’t want to repeat their work. For my tasting, I would serve the gin stirred with ice and strained. Mostly, this would mean I’d have more tasters: My gin-drinking friends mix their Martinis with the "pour the gin and look across the room at the bottle of vermouth" method, and I feared they’d be thrown off if I tried to introduce any other ingredients into the drinks.

But that was just as well, because this gin-only tasting would allow us to focus more on the gin flavors without vermouth or olives or any such.

My tasters were my brother-in-law Mike, and my friends Jud and Paul. And me. All of us have been known to enjoy a variety of spirits, although I can’t recall Jud or Paul every drinking vodka.

For this tasting our responses were subjective of course — your mileage will vary — but looking through our notes you can see trends: I like the flowery and sweeter gins, Jud and Paul despise them, Mike has a wide range of taste. All the same, the common points are interesting.

Gin   Tasters’ notes

G’Vine   Mike: one star
Smells a little like witch hazel. Tastes like it is diluted already. Slightly sweet grape taste, not very good by itself. A lot like Vodka — maybe it would be good mixed. Not very ginny. "Tastes a lot like Bankers Club Vodka."
    Paul
Don’t buy it. Probably better with soda or tonic.
    Jud
Medicinal taste. Tastes "premixed." The French should stick to brandy. Would disappear in a mixer.
    Cindy: —
Herby. Citrus? Lavender? Like it’s already mixed with something. Would be lost with a mixer.

Tangueray   Mike: four and a half stars (second favorite)
Smells like gin — you can smell the juniper. Yummy by itself. Quite smooth, not too dry. Not a very complicated flavor, pretty mild.
    Paul
Straight. Nice gin flavor — mild. Not dry / pine tree-ish. Good with tonic. [Ed note: Paul brought this bottle to the tasting.]
    Jud
Tingles the tongue. Very easy to drink straight up. "Tastes like gin." Nice "burn" down the throat.
    Cindy
Can be drunk straight. Not super dry. Simple. Wouldn’t want a lot of it.

Burnett’s   Mike: three stars
Smells like gin but very slightly — not much juniper. Vegetable taste — pretty mild — middle of the road smoothness. Vodka back taste.
    Paul
Vegetable / cucumber-y. Mild, not dry. Not worth trying again on purpose, but OK in a pinch.
    Jud
Bite-y. Fairly wet, sweet. Upfront "veggie" taste. Alcohol back taste.
    Cindy: +
Juniper, cucumber or fresh green pepper. Front-loaded, not a lot of body. Similar to Hendrick’s. Slightly sweet.

Hendrick’s   Editor’s note: Here is where spelling and handwriting begin to falter in everyone’s notes.
    Mike: four stars
Smells like gin — juniper. Pretty smooth. Front and back taste the same. Back taste has a little cucumber. Something floral. Good by itself.
    Paul
Very mild smell. Nice kick. Cool? as a cuke. Don’t think it would mix with vermouth. Rocks? Shaken w/ice? Flowery: rose petal. Try with tonic.
    Jud
Pine then cucumber taste. Fairly smooth, flowery. Would hold up in a G&T.
    Cindy: + +
Pine, cuke. Smoother. Once you think "rose petal" you can identify the flowery taste.

Broker’s   Mike: five stars (my favorite)
Smells like gin — a lot like Tangueray. Pretty dry to start and gets sweet in your mouth. Sweet back taste. Lemony.
    Paul
Mild gin smell. Like a drier Tangueray. Would probably be OK with tonic or as a martini gin. Sweet but not too sweet. All-purpose.
    Jud
Wet, yet dry finish. Smooth, sweet, slightly citrus. Stands up by itself. Martini or G&T.
    Cindy: + + +
Juniper and sweet. Stronger proof. Versatile — mixable.

Seagram’s Extra Dry   Mike: two stars (my least favorite)
Very little smell — just alcohol. Tastes like vodka. Very dry — not too good.
    Paul
Strong sweet smell, low taste. Big burn. Not very good. Big ‘no’ for martinis. Maybe OK in a pinch for G&T. Not an herbal taste – more medicinal.
    Jud
Fairly flavorless. No bite or tingle. "Gin joint" taste.
    Cindy: -
Little flavor — like vodka. Burning for 80 proof. Paul’s gin in college.

Plymouth   Mike: three stars
Very mild smell. Very strong taste. Floral. Somewhat ginny, very dry. Strong back taste. Martini?
    Paul
Mild gin smell. Smooth start — very strong finish. Nice and dry — martini? Flowery linger. I wouldn’t seek it out again but would be OK w/tonic.
    Jud
Wet, full body, strong finsh. Floral taste. Mild smell, heavy aftertaste. Good mixer, but not on its own.
    Cindy: + +
Low smell, high flavor. Brings gin to the party, but floral. (What do I mean?? Probably that it tastes juniperish and floral, both.)

Junipero   Mike: one star
Juniper! Juniper! Juniper! Very floral. The taste stay in your mouth for a long time. If you like the "pine tree" taste, this is it.
    Paul
Very strong juniper — too much for me. Strong start, strong finish, strong a couple minutes later. A big ‘no’ for me.
    Jud
All about the flowers. Much bouquet — literally. Too much for stand-alone. Long-lasting flavor. Good for chewing gum, not gin.
    MBM: + +
Juniper up front. Flowery. Full finsh. Rose petal or lavender?

Bombay Sapphire   Mike: four and a half stars (third favorite)
Mild smell, quite complex. Clean taste. Same front and back taste. Very dry. Probably great for a martini. Very consistent taste.
    Paul
Very clean start and finish. Nice "gin" taste — not overpowered by any one flavor, nice blend. Best on its own — little vermouth, no tonic. Still my favorite.
    Jud
Clean flavor. Tingles the tongue — up the nose. Consistent taste before and after. Mild smell. Good straight up or with very little vermouth.
    Cindy: + +
Clean with flavor. Has fragrance. Subtleties. Blendy — balanced flavor.

     

So what have we learned?

  • I wanted to like G’Vine, hoped that I would find something appealing in it, but I couldn’t find a way to drink it. After the main tasting I tried mixing it in a Martini with just a little vermouth, and then in a Gin and Tonic with a slice of lime. The Martini did not work at all for me, and the G’Vine was lost in the G&T.
  • Broker’s is a damn fine gin. Also, the bottle comes with an adorable little bowler hat. That makes it seem chintzy even though the stuff is expensive. But the gin is lovely.
  • After tasting all the other gins, with the wide range of flavors and strengths, I expected to find the Bombay Sapphire thin or bland. It was not. It still had plenty of flavor and subtlety. I didn’t think it was quite as versatile and tasty as Broker’s, but I was impressed with it.
  • Nine gins is a lot of gins to try. Even if one is having just a sip of each, those sips add up.
  • Taste plays a big role in enjoyment. Whether you’ll agree with any of our tasters is, well, a matter of taste.

OK! It’s time to see what others have devised for the Gin Mixology Monday. Please visit Oh Gosh! and see what can be seen. Cheers, and thanks to Jay for hosting!

Mixology Monday: Pairings — Hot Toddy and Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

It’s Mixology Monday, hosted by Natalie of The Liquid Muse. The theme this month is Pairings, meaning the pairing of cocktails with food.

I find it easy to match foods with wine and with beer, but harder to do so with cocktails. My big favorite pairing is a nice Martini with sushi or sashimi, particularly if one skips the traditional olive or lemon garnish for the drink and drops in a little pickled ginger instead.

But today I’m fighting a head cold. I did some air traveling the last week or so, and breathing the same air as hundreds of other weary humans almost always causes me to pick up a bug or two. I’m shocked to realize it, but gin plus raw fish sounds all wrong to me in this state. I need something soothing and sweet and altogether comforting.

Fortunately, this suggests a particular cocktail: the Hot Toddy. Toddies are my saviors when I’m under the weather, as the warmth soothes my throat and loosens nasty phlegm, the lemon revives my senses, and the whiskey numbs the pain. They are also perfect for cold, damp weather, like a rainy fall or winter afternoon.

Hot Toddy

2oz. bourbon or whiskey
squeeze of lemon juice
teaspoon of sugar
dash or two of orange bitters
boiling water

Put the sugar, lemon, bitters, and bourbon in a 12 ounce mug or Irish coffee mug. Add boiling water to fill. Stir to combine, breathe in the healing vapors, and enjoy.

With my toddy, I’d love a fresh-from-the-oven oatmeal cookie. I often use the recipe below, which makes a flourless and super-chewy cookie that tastes slightly of cinnamon. The flavors go nicely with a warm, lemony toddy too.

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

4T butter, softened
3/4 c firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 ts vanilla extract
2 1/2 c old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1 ts baking powder
1 ts cinnamon
1/4 ts salt

Beat butter, borwn sugar, and granulated sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on low, until combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla until thick and light.

In another medium bowl, mix oats, baking powder, and salt. Stir into butter mixture, blending thoroughly. IMPORTANT: Refrigerate batter for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Drop batter by measuring tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets.

Bake for 8 minutes or until edges are browned. cool on baking sheets for about 5 mintues. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 36 to 40 cookies.

Recipe adapted from Comfort Food by Holly Garrison (Dell Trade Paperback: New York, 1988).

Find more delicious food and cocktail pairings at Natalie’s Mixology Monday post.

Mixology Monday: Boilermaker

Mixology Monday 19: FizzIt’s Mixology Monday, hosted by the intriguingly introverted Gabriel of Cocktail Nerd.

The theme is Fizz, so I thought this would be a good time to try out a Sloe Gin Fizz. Or maybe a Tom Collins, a classic drink I was surprised to realize I’d never had. So last week I started sampling my options.

Unfortunately, nothing seemed quite right. I am beginning to see that I’m not a huge fan of tall drinks — except for a classic Highball with lovely ginger ale and good bourbon, or maybe a Moscow Mule with homemade ginger beer. I do like things with soda — say, Campari and soda, which is ideal for a sweltering summer evening. But I’ve discussed my favorite tall drinks already, and for this I wanted to try something that was new, at least for me.

Then I remembered that beer is fizzy. I’ve written previously about my experiments with Iron City beer and Pimm’s No. 1. That was good, so I felt I was on the right track.

What I’d not written before — what I’d not even tried — was a Boilermaker.

Boilermaker

shot of liquor
beer

Two options for serving:

Option 1: Pour beer into pint glass. Pour liquor into shot glass. Serve both glasses side by side.

Option 2: Pour beer into pint glass. (Leave room at top of glass.) Pour liquor into shot glass. Gently lower shot glass into beer until it’s nearly submerged. Release shot glass so it drops to bottom of pint glass. Watch foam start to rise, and tell someone to start drinking.

Given our fizzy goals for Mixology Monday, I selected option 2.

A whole range of combinations present themselves for this. Father Spoon of Should I Drink That suggested Rebel Yell and Cold Hop, which they’d officially approved during the afterparty of one of their podcasts. John Carman thought a Flaming Dr. Pepper would be a worthy subject. Both options were interesting, but not quite right for this situation.

I decided I would look for a fairly hoppy beer with warm caramel notes. The bourbon in my cabinet right now is Woodford Reserve, my favorite, and I suspected that strong hops would compliment the Woodford’s sweetness. I didn’t want anything too hoppy, though, or it would clash with the bourbon. A little caramel would help blend with the bourbon and make everything friendly.

So at the new-ish Butler Hot Dog Shoppe (not the old, classic one that closed a few years ago; the newer one in the converted gas station on Monroe Street, with the long lines at lunch time and the option to make a mixed six-pack from the cooler), I found a likely candidate beer: Hot Shot ESB from the Great Divide Brewing Company of Boulder. I was delighted to find an ESB (extra special bitter) of any label in my small town; and in my experience, Colorado has the best small batch breweries in this country.

I am not always right, but in this case I was spot on. The beer was perhaps a little over-fizzy, due mostly to having been bought and schlepped home right before I opened it. A sip I took before adding the bourbon confirmed that it was a yummy, tangy ESB, worthy enough on its own, and just the kind of thing I wanted for this application.

And once I dropped the shotglass in:

Boilermaker -- hey, someone better drink that!

A big fizzy mess.

But a massively tasty mess. The sweet bourbon made a lovely counterpart to the hoppy beer, and the fizziness caused everything to mix and blend in happy ways. No stirring or shaking required.

Given that it’s really two drinks in one, you may choose to limit your consumption of these. But I guarantee you’ll enjoy them.

UPDATE: Gabriel of Cocktail Nerd has posted a charming summary of the many, many Mixology Monday XIX posts. Cheers!