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.

Cocktail Friday: The Bairn

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Today’s post comes courtesy of the Esquire Drink Book, a mid-century masterpiece of cocktail lore. It’s not just comprehensive but also wittily written and illustrated, and full of odd little throwaway recipes here and there.

I’ve been reading through it for a few weeks and am starting to collect cocktails to try. One that I investigated early on and that’s stayed with me is the Bairn, which as its name suggests is a Scotch-based cocktail. This blends the smokiness of Scotch with a solid dose of orange from both the Cointreau and the bitters. It’s a great introduction to the book and is an unfussy Friday afternoon sort of cocktail, which if your Fridays are anything like mine is just the right sort of thing to try.

I’m experimenting with a new-to-me app called Highball to document and share cocktail recipes; it’s nice because importing the image below into your version of the app will automatically add the recipe to your recipe book. Try it out and let me know what you think.

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Barbecue field trip: 12 Bones, Asheville

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Hogzilla sandwich, 12 Bones, Asheville

I couldn’t go through a week long visit to the South without checking into a few barbecue stops. Top of my list: 12 Bones in Asheville.

My cousin took me and Lisa here a while ago, after they first opened, and I’d made a few visits since. Even if they didn’t famously have a picture of President Obama on the wall from one of his several stops while campaigning, it still would have been on my short list because (a) they do pulled pork really well (b) likewise, sausages (c) they understand that side dishes are not an afterthought.

They also have a sense of humor, which is why Hogzilla is on the menu. This is a hoagie roll that barely holds a bratwurst sliced in half, topped with pulled pork, pepperjack cheese, and sugar-cured bacon. I had skipped it the first few times, but was ravenous this time (we got there after 1pm). So I figured “why not” and ordered it, with collard greens and jalapeño cheese grits on the side.

It arrived at the table (outside, in the cool breeze coming up from the French Broad—another reason to visit). It looked a lot bigger than I thought it would. I began to have second thoughts. Still, it smelled good, so I decided to start with the sides.

First bite: the cheese grits are the real thing, with just enough heat. I try the collards next, which are delicious but not quite as remarkable as the ones at the Admiral last night (though admittedly that’s a horse of a different feather altogether). I look at Hogzilla again out of the corner of my eye: still there. Still big.

I pick it up; it holds together really well. This is not to be taken for granted at a barbecue joint. Half the sandwiches I’ve had in our pretty-good Massachusetts BBQ places fall apart because whoever put the sides on the plate put too much juice on, soaking the bread. The motto here could be “12 Bones: We Know How to Use a Slotted Spoon.”

I take a bite. The first bite is spectacular, with the spice flavors from the bratwurst complemented by the smokiness of the pulled pork and the sweetness of the bacon. The pepper jack is invisible, though I suspect it contributes to the sandwich’s cohesion.

Before I realize it I’ve eaten two thirds of the sandwich. Then I have to slow down. I look over at my dad, who’s ordered the same thing. He’s eaten only a third of his. “That’s a lot of meat,” he says. “Yeah,” I say.

I make myself finish it. I feel full. Hours later, I still feel full. I suspect I may never need to eat again.

I will return to 12 Bones. But next time I think I’ll just get the pulled pork.

Cocktail recipe: Woodsy Owl

The Woodsy Owl

It’s a concert week, so I thought in lieu of a proper blog post I’d share this cocktail recipe I invented a year or so ago. Enjoy!

This is the Woodsy Owl. It’s a little like an Allen Cocktail, but the combination of sweet vermouth and Cardamaro gives a slightly sweet herbal flavor to what would otherwise be a less bitter variation on the Negroni.

Woodsy Owl

  • 1 oz gin (recommend Plymouth)
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz Cardamaro

Combine and stir over ice. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with lemon peel (optional).

“A modern art—this mixing of drinks”

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Inside front wooden cover and title page of Here’s How: Mixed Drinks, published in Asheville in 1941.

Speaking of primary artifacts of history…

As I learn more about the fine art of mixology, I’ve been slowly acquiring interesting cocktail books. As the books get better, so do their bibliographies, and so I’ve started to poke my nose into the rabbit hole of vintage cocktail books.

A friend gave me a copy of the Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual—highly recommended even if you never make a drink in it for the thoroughness of the historic research and the slightly breathless biography of the NYC bar’s owner and bartender. In an aside, an early chapter mentions a punch recipe that was cited in a book called Here’s How, published by Three Mountaineers in Asheville, NC in 1941.

A cocktail book published in Asheville? In 1941?

Of course, Asheville had been a resort destination during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but I had no inkling that it had a cocktail culture. But, one eBay acquisition later, I can attest that editor W.C. Whitfield knew his stuff. The hillbilly illustration and wood-and-leather binding aside, the contents are impeccable, with a brandy crusta recipe I will be trying this weekend, and three different variations on a mint julep.

I can’t figure out who Whitfield is, nor his connection to Asheville, but the publisher Three Mountaineers was a furniture and home furnishings maker founded in 1932 (hence the wooden covers, presumably). Maybe my Asheville relatives can find out more…

Sending 2015 out with a bang

  
Happy New Year!

We went a little nuts yesterday and made Melissa Clark’s “modern timpano” for our New Years Eve dinner. Did it go well? Well, aside from taking more like five hours, and the pasta covering being pretty inedible, I’d say yes. The inside was delicious, though not much like the Stanley Tucci inspired dish it’s named after (and check Tucci’s feedback on that in the recipe comments!). 

You can see what it looks like fresh out of the pan above, and served up below. 

  
And the New Year begins, lazy, as we polish off leftovers for lunch – not a hardship when it’s leftover duck and shrimp gumbo – and think do I really want to cook that Hoppin John analog today? Well, yes, since I went to the trouble of mail ordering the Sea Island red peas from Anson Mills and they’re soaking in the fridge. 

But for now it’s just a pleasure to sit and enjoy the quiet. 

Late August

Tomatosauce

Ah, late August. The temperatures are still high (well, high by Boston standards, anyway–growing up, 83° was more like a warm fall afternoon) but you can tell summer is getting to be a little long in the tooth.

For starters, the tomatoes are starting to come in. We only have a handful of tomatoes on the plants this time around; I have no idea why, except that we didn’t spend as much time with the plants this year. So we’re supplementing with the big boxes of seconds that are starting to show up at Wilson Farm and using those for our annual tomato sauce exercise. The process looks something like this photo set from last year, except this year we didn’t have a big crop of cherry tomatoes so I diced the big ones by hand instead of using the food processor. We make about a dozen to 20 quarts every year, and they last all through the winter and into the high summer if managed right, even given our relatively high pasta and pizza consumption. Case in point–we opened the last 2010 jar just last week.

So I’m making sauce. Instead of mowing the lawn (it can wait a day) and instead of napping while my son naps, which I might regret later. But right now it’s feeling like the right thing to do. Because sometimes you have to take a look at the future and say, I want to be ready.