Cocktails roundup

A few cocktail related things that have persisted in my open tabs for a while:

A Drink With My Brother: A great blog about exploring cocktails complete with cocktail origin stories, tasting notes, personal history and more.

Aviation Gin: The Aviation Cocktail. Since the proper recipe for this isn’t found in my various apps, I’ve been keeping this tab open for a while. (I make it with Plymouth or Old Tom gin, though—shhhh.)

12 Bottle Bar: Saratoga Cocktail. Enjoy one and prepare to go horse racing. Just don’t place any bets.

Why I gave up soda

XKCD nails it, as always. But there’s more.

My addiction was to Diet Coke, of which I was drinking two cans a day during the week. While the medical evidence on aspartame is pretty unanimous, I felt like I always wanted to eat more back then. And the constant caffeine infusions weren’t great for my heart health, either. 

I quit Diet Coke cold turkey over three years ago, along with all other sodas. I rarely miss it. 

Cocktail Friday: Midwinters 1951 recipes

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I’m still working my way through the February 1951 Virginia Spectator, which has some interesting treasures beyond the Pogo-related content we wrote about yesterday. In particular, here’s a set of cocktail recommendations for Midwinters drinking, proving that straight bourbon and beer didn’t always prevail (though certainly “Mad Men” style sexism did).

In fact, as one might expect from the mid-century period, there’s no bourbon in any of these cocktails, or any dark liquor at all (aside from a little rum). None of these cocktails is fancy, but they’re mostly true to their models—with the possible exception of the fruit salad on the Zombie. Enjoy!

Martini

  • 1 part French Vermouth
  • 4 parts Dry Gin

Stir with cracked ice, strain and serve with stuffed olive.

Zombie:

  • 3/4 oz lime juice
  • 3/4 oz pineapple juice
  • 1 tsp. syrup
  • 1 oz white rum
  • 1 oz gold rum
  • 1 oz Jamaica rum
  • 1/2 oz demerara rum
  • 1/2 oz apricot liqueur

Shake violently, strain into 14 oz zombie glass, 1/4 filled with ice. Float splash of demerara on top. Spike 1 green cherry, 1 small pineapple stick, 1 red cherry on a toothpick, insert into drink, decorate with mint sprig, dust with powdered sugar.

Absinthe Drip

Pour a jigger of Absinthe into a drip glass, then place a cube of sugar over the drop hole in the upper section, pack with cracked ice, and pour cold water to fill the dripper. When all the water has dripped through you’re ready to deteriorate.

Daiquiri

  • Juice 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 oz rum

Shake well with cracked ice and strain.

Champagne Cocktail

  • 1 cube sugar
  • champagne
  • 1 dash angostura bitters

Place sugar in glass and saturate with bitters. Pour chilled champagne over and serve without stirring.

Eating for luck

I find the New Years Day food tradition fascinating. People who would never dream of touching a collard green in the South smile and eat it on New Years Day—for luck. And it’s the same thing all over the world, just with different ingredients.

In years past, particularly when we lived in the North End of Boston, we adopted the cotechino as our good-luck food—or a variant called the zamponi. Increasingly I’ve been switching it up, though, as a real Italian butcher has become harder to find in the suburbs.

For the last few years we’ve cooked Sea Island red peas, on the recommendation of Greg. Last year I made a pretty delicious soffrito of root vegetables and cooked the peas in it. This year I went back to the same recipe and, reading it more closely, realized that the intent was to use the vegetables to flavor the broth, then discard them. Whoops. I followed the recipe this year, with the small exception of adding a slice of double smoked bacon in small dice (since I didn’t have any ham stock handy), and served them over plain rice since I had used all the Carolina Gold last year. (Mental note: remind me in June to reorder from Anson Mills.)

But was that all we had? Reader, it was not. One of the other classic New Years Day good-luck foods in Asian countries is dumplings, particularly the kind that look like purses full of money. And one of our son’s favorite food groups is dumplings of any variety. So we made tsak sha momos, and other than forgetting the salt they were great! And because we had to go to HMart to get some of the ingredients, we ended up with a smorgasbord of accompaniments, including udon noodles, some bao baos, and bulgogi. With our dishes of red peas alongside. Not a bad way to ring in the New Year.

Crosby Forrest Seafood Restaurant

We live in an odd time in which the transient leaves lasting traces. Photos linger for years online that would have moldered in shoe boxes thirty years ago. And even the smallest of businesses leaves traces—in reviews, websites, photos. But businesses and restaurants that closed before the dawn of the Web linger in obscurity, with no digital record of their existence.

I was reminded of this last night when I told my son the story of my first seafood dinner. “Grandma and Grandpa liked to go to a seafood restaurant in Poquoson, at the edge of the wetlands,” I told him, and then had to explain about what that meant. “It sat at the edge of a dock and was run by a man named Crosby Forrest. And it had a huge swordfish on the wall, and the biggest oyster shell I’ve ever seen.” I held my arms out as wide as I could to show him how big it was. “Anyway, I was probably about two or three, and they brought me to Crosby Forrest’s restaurant.”

“What kind of food did they have?” he asked.

“Oh, they had clam chowder.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a soup with clams in it.”

“Ewww.”

“No, you’d like it. There are different kinds; here in Massachusetts they make it with milk—”

“Ewww!”

“—and in New York they make it with tomatoes, but in Poquoson they make it with broth. They call it ‘Bull Island clam chowder.’ And then they ordered some fish for me. It was flounder, and I ate the whole thing.”

“Did it have eyes?”

“Well, flounder have both eyes on the top of their head. But they took all the meat off the bone for me. They had to, because they didn’t want me to swallow a bone by mistake.”

“Was it good?”

“Yes, and I ate the whole thing.”

“Wow.”

“And then I got cranky, and Crosby told Grandma and Grandpa that I could sleep on the sofa in his office. And I remember waking up and seeing him and then Grandma and Grandpa came and took me home.”

“I wanna go to Crosby Forrest!”

“I wish we could. Crosby died many years ago, and his wife died about eight years ago. But I think the family runs a seafood store now. Maybe we’ll go there one day.”

“Yeah! I want flounder.”

I wish I had pictures of the restaurant. But apparently it met its demise before the earliest date of the digital archives of the Daily Press. And Google Image Search only turns up pictures of Bill Forrest Seafood, which is a distribution business. Still, the exterior of that business looks awfully familiar; I wonder if he took over the location of the original restaurant. I guess I’ll have to go back home and figure it out.

Cocktail Friday: the Chauncey 

Welcome to Cocktail Friday! Today’s cocktail is a relic called The Chauncey.

First, a note: how do I pick the cocktails to feature on Cocktail Friday? Sometimes it’s a cocktail I’ve known for a while and just haven’t got round to featuring. Sometimes it’s something I’ve tried in my travels.

And sometimes I’ve added something to my bar and I’ve gone looking for a cocktail to feature it. That’s this week’s cocktail, The Chauncey. It’s a great example (if not a classic per se) of pre-Prohibition cocktails’ tendency to break the rules and combine liquors that we would never dream of combining today, like rye and gin. For good measure, it adds red vermouth, brandy, and orange bitters, which round out the flavor profile and add up to something unusually complex and good.

Aside: Bernard DeVoto, author of the cocktail classic The Hour, would have hated The Chauncey. In addition to adding something to gin besides dry vermouth, he hated mixed drinks made with rye or bourbon (“the Manhattan is an offence against piety”), non-Angostura bitters (“all others are condiments for a tea-shoppe cookbook”) and—even worse—orange bitters (“Orange bitters make a good astringent for the face. Never put them into anything that is to be drunk”). Very odd for a man who fondly remembered drinking at the Knickerbocker, no bastion of drink purity, in its heyday! So drink this with pride, and a certain defiance.

As always, if you want to try the recipe, here’s the Highball recipe card. Enjoy!

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Cocktail Friday: The Farmer’s Daughter

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This week’s Cocktail Friday post is a day late, but better late than never. I want to talk about three things today: this cocktail, applejack, and recipe sources.

The Farmer’s Daughter also goes by the name of the Honeymoon, and a fine cocktail for an autumn evening it is, with the apple playing nicely against the Curaçao (not blue Curaçao) and the sweetness alloyed by the lemon. It’s what the doctor ordered and a lovely way to use applejack.

Speaking of which: what is applejack anyway? Time was, you wouldn’t have had to ask that question. Because it was easy to make from cider, it was a hugely popular colonial beverage and was made throughout the colonies, though Laird & Company, the oldest licensed distillery in the United States, was the main source for years. Their applejack was so well known, George Washington is said to have asked Robert Laird for the recipe. (Ironically, while it was originally distilled in New Jersey, they now source the apples and make the product right in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.)

This brings us to the last point: sources. Most days you’ll see me post recipes from a variety of sources, but I often find my way to a cocktail recipe through one of a few iPhone apps. This one was indexed in Martin’s New and Improved Index of Cocktails and Mixed Drinks, a fantastic app that not only has thousands of recipes but also tells you which of them you can make with the stuff in your bar. The recipe also pointed to one of my favorite non-digital sources of cocktail lore, Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, pictured above. I won’t say it’s the most essential cocktail book you’ll ever own, but for sheer pleasure of reading and thoroughness of research it’s well worth it.

As always, if you want to try the recipe, here’s the Highball recipe card. Enjoy!

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Cocktail Friday: Frank of America

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For today’s Cocktail Friday, we’re taking a look at one of my favorite drink categories: cocktails that riff on whiskey plus herbal flavors. There are at least two major families, the Manhattan (rye or bourbon and vermouth plus bitters) and the Boulevardier (rye or bourbon and vermouth plus Campari).

The combination of the fiery and sweet in bourbon or rye set up nicely against the bitterness and herbal characteristics of bitters or amari (the general category in which Campari fits). The nice thing is that there are literally dozens of kinds of bitters and possibly hundreds of kinds of amari out there, and most of them are pretty different from each other because they each use proprietary blends of herbs and spices. So there are lots of ways you can make unique (if subtly different) drinks that follow this general recipe.

Such is today’s cocktail, the Frank of America. Published in the New York Times by Robert Simonson, the cocktail originated in The Bennett in New York City and is named after the bar director’s boyfriend, named Frank, who works at Bank of America. It calls for rye, Byrrh (a slightly more bitter vermouth analog), Amaro Abano (a strongly herbal, slightly peppery amaro), Angostura bitters, and maple syrup, with an orange twist. I didn’t have Amaro Abano so I substituted Averna, which is slightly less herbal and more spicy; I used bonded Rittenhouse Rye for the whiskey component. The result was a little sweet but amazingly complex and herbal. Apparently the original uses a spiced maple syrup; that might address the sweetness. But it’s definitely worth a drink if you have this stuff in your cupboard.

Or experiment with other amari, vermouth or vermouth-like drinks, and whiskeys. There’s a lot of directions that a little experiment can take you.

As always, here’s the Highball recipe card, if you plan to try it out. Enjoy!

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Cocktail Friday: The Interpol

Today’s cocktail was inspired by a coworker who had it in Vegas. He was able to give me the ingredient list but not proportions; I had to work it out by trial and error.

The Interpol builds on several rich traditions: gin cocktails featuring amari (e.g. the Negroni, with Campari) and traditional cocktails that substitute an amaro for some or all the vermouth, for instance. This one builds an alternative to a martini by replacing the dry vermouth with Cardamaro, a cardoon (artichoke) based amaro that adds a woody, herbal flavor. (You might remember it from my Woodsy Owl).

I had to play with the proportions and am not convinced that I got it quite right, but I really liked this version. There’s an alternative formulation at Kindred Cocktails that I also want to try, but I think the simple syrup has to be 86’d—the gin is already sweet enough.

As always, here’s the Highball recipe card, if you plan to try it out. Enjoy!

The Interpol, created with Highball.

Cocktail Friday: Tonic and Bitters

When I posted a note about today’s drink on a private cocktails discussion, the reaction was swift: “sounds delicious, but not as delicious as alcohol.”

Yes, this is a non-alcoholic drink. But we’re staring down the barrel of a week of 90+ degree days and having something cool but satisfyingly complex sounds pretty good to me right now. And the proportions for combining something as simple as tonic and bitters turned out to be surprisingly tricky to get right. (The addition of lime is a non-obvious, but delightful, balance. Also for this drink, if you think you’re putting too much bitters in, you probably haven’t added enough.)

As always, here’s the Highball recipe card, if you plan to try it out. Enjoy!

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Cocktail Friday: Wallis Blue

This Friday’s cocktail is another one from the Esquire Drink Book. This one, the Wallis Blue, was supposedly fashioned by the Duke of Windsor himself in honor of his bride-to-be, the American socialite Wallis Simpson, by mixing a version of a sidecar and adding blue vegetable dye to match the color of her eyes.

As a Facebook friend of mine would say, #ewgrossbarf.

But the cocktail is delicious. The Duke (if it was he) was astute in swapping out brandy for gin. I skipped the sugared rim of the original (see link above) but you can absolutely do it if desired. I also substituted creme de violette, which you should have for Aviations anyway, for the blue food coloring.

Here’s the Highball recipe card, if you plan to try it out. Enjoy!

wallis blue

 

 

House dressing, please

For people who eat sandwiches and who’ve spent time in Williamsburg or Charlottesville, two words are apt to cause rhapsodies of gastric nostalgia: “house dressing.” The Cheese Shop in Williamsburg and Take It Away in Charlottesville, both started by Tom and Mary Ellen Power (who were also responsible for the Cheese Shop in Hidenwood that I remember growing up), both feature deceptively simple sandwiches (home baked bread, meat, cheese, limited vegetables including sprouts, cucumbers, and recently, sundried tomatoes), and both feature the also-deceptively-named house dressing.

I’ve tried to create a version of this over the years (as have others), and came up with something I liked rather a lot based on a recipe posted on Food.com (which itself credits Epicurious, so who knows?):

  • 1 cup mayonnaise (use the good stuff)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar (2 packets of Sugar-in-the-Raw)
  • fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

Place mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, sugar and pepper in a blender or food processor. Start at a low speed and graduate up to a higher speed. You may need to turn off the blender once or twice and press out air the bubbles with a spatula to get it all blended well. Transfer the mix to a bowl. Stir in the 1 teaspoon of mustard seed. Put in a covered container and store in refrigerator overnight, to let flavors marry. After 24 hours, the spread is ready to use. Use as spread or dip for sandwiches. Enjoy!

The taste is quite good, especially on turkey sandwiches at Thanksgiving, but it’s not quite right.  I didn’t realize the disconnect until  I was able to visit Take It Away again a few times for reunions and grab another taste.

Fortunately, the point is rendered moot by the new availability of House Dressing in the jar, over the Internet. I’ll wait until cooler weather to order it and check it out, but maybe our long nightmare is over!

Cocktail Friday: Kentucky Corpse Reviver

Kentucky Corpse Reviver, with frog
Kentucky Corpse Reviver, with frog

For the second entry in Cocktail Friday, I turn to bourbon, but with a twist. One of those “any excuse to party” websites declared Wednesday National Bourbon Day, and I decided to celebrate with a drink I had never had before, which is a twist on a completely different drink: the Kentucky Corpse Reviver.

There are a number of drinks with the name “corpse reviver,” which are mostly unrelated to each other and to this drink. The theme, as Wikipedia dryly notes, is “hair of the dog” hangover cures, but I can’t imagine anyone drinking these in the morning. Wikipedia gives the great Harry Craddock credit for the two better known recipes, based on cognac and gin, but also points to a mention of a cocktail called a Corpse-Reviver in Punch in 1861, meaning that the concept is ancient even if the drink is modern.

In concept, the Kentucky Corpse Reviver is a straightforward adaptation of the justly famous Corpse Reviver #2, substituting bourbon for gin and omitting the absinthe. In practice, the addition of both bourbon and the mint garnish make this an entirely different, and remarkable, drink. But proceed with caution: as with the original, “four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.”

Here’s the Highball recipe card, if you plan to try it out. Enjoy!

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The spicy is life

There are very few sentences of five words or less that will make me drop what I’m doing and read something closely. “Sichuan Cuisine, Imperiled by Success” happens to be one of those sentences. The New York Times does a review of how the demand of extreme eaters for more and more spicy foods is imperiling authentic Sichuan cuisine.

This hits closely because Sichuan is a culinary discovery that has honestly revolutionized my palate. I used to be satisfied with mediocre American-Chinese dishes; I shudder to think how much fried rice I’ve consumed in my lifetime. Sichuan fills two voids for me. First, the strong flavors and unusual ingredients of many traditional dishes hit areas of my palate that no other foods can touch. Second, I feel as though it’s one “traditional” Chinese cuisine where I’ve learned enough to claim a small amount of expertise.

I owe any expertise I’ve accumulated to three local restaurants: Sichuan Gourmet, whose Framingham branch hosted my first Sichuan dinner but whose Billerica and new Burlington stores have seen much more of my custom; Szechuan’s Dumpling, who during its golden age could bring spicy deliciousness right to my front door; and the Baldwin Bar at Sichuan Garden, which combines superb Sichuan food with a world class cocktail bar. And that’s all without exploring Chinatown’s spicy offerings. But it’s probably the first one to which I owe the biggest debt. At Veracode, it’s so well loved that we don’t even call the restaurant by name anymore; it’s just Spicy, as in “let’s go to Spicy.”

I think it’s interesting that there’s a concern for authenticity emerging this early in Sichuan’s culinary history. As the article points out, most Sichuan dishes go back “only a century or two.” Of course, the history of French haute cuisine can be traced to the same period, thanks to Escoffier‘s codification and elevation of traditional French cooking. But I hope that I get a chance to explore more of the traditional cuisine before it gets “extremed” to death.