Just across the street from LeNell's in Red Hook, Brooklyn, you'll find The Good Fork, a nice little (emphasis on "little" there) restaurant that's worth a visit.
I had this French 75 as an aperitif, and it was delightful. The Good Fork uses Prosecco instead of Champagne (and ditches the simple syrup normally found in a French 75 made with Champagne), and it lends the drink a lovely fruity, floral quality.
First Paul Clarke posted the contents of his liquor cabinet on his site, and then my co-author Chuck Taggart did the same, and ...well, wow. I am clearly outmatched here.
So what's in mine? Not nearly as much cool stuff, but it's a decent start. Here's what I've got, counting some miniature bottles:
(I also usually have Knob Creek and Maker's Mark on hand, but not at the moment.)
Rum and Cachaça:
After completely flaking in February, and being too-busy in March, here I come again with a Mixology Monday submission for April. Anna from Morsels & Musings is hosting this month, and she's chosen the theme of Fruit Liqueurs. This is fertile ground, as there are tons of interesting liqueurs on the market, and they're among my favorite ingredients to mix with -- the best have strong flavors, balanced with enough sweetness to tame the spirits' bite and stand up to things like citrus and bitters.
But what fruit liqueur to use? I have a few -- a couple different varieties of crème de pêche (as seen in my previous MxMo submission, the Pêche de Resistance), some crème de figue (fig), some crème de fraise des bois (wild strawberries -- this liqueur is amazing), some crème de cassis (black currant), some cerise (cherry), framboise (raspberry)-- wait a second. Framboise!
The tartness and sheer intensity of raspberries makes them one of my very favorite fruits (and alas, their fragility puts them on the expensive side as well -- I can never get enough raspberries when they're in season.) So, after a trawl through The Joy of Mixology, I was thinking about two cocktails in particular as jumping-off points.
The Corpse Reviver No. 2 is one of my very favorite cocktails, and like Dr. Cocktail (though no way do I claim to know even a tiny bit as much as he does), it set me on the path of cocktail geekdom. This drink features equal parts gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, and Lillet Blanc, and it's tied together with a few drops of absinthe or pastis. It's a truly amazing drink, and well worth your time.
The other cocktail I was considering was the Pegu Club, the house cocktail of the British Colonial Officers' Club in Pegu, Burma. (Not incidentally, of course, it's also the namesake of one of the best cocktailian bars around.) This is also a gin-based libation, appropriate for those tropical climes that don't have air conditioning, such as Rangoon (or Manhattan in July.) Accompanying the gin is orange curaçao, lime juice, and doses of both Angostura and orange bitters.
So: using those two drinks as inspirations, and after tinkering around for a little bit, here's what I came up with:
- 3/4 oz. gin
- 3/4 oz. framboise liqueur
- 3/4 oz. Lillet Blanc
- 1/4 oz. lime juice
- 2 healthy dashes peach bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Note: I made this with an ordinary framboise liqueur (Les Delices de Saint Paul), but I think it'd be even better with Chambord. Chambord's got an even more intense raspberry taste than the liqueur I used, and a thicker, almost syrupy mouthfeel. I think it'd stand up to the lime juice better. For the gin, I used Plymouth, my usual standby.
For me, one of the hardest parts of coming up with a cocktail is settling on an appropriate name. A friend suggested "the Carla Bruni", which appealed...but I decided to save that name for something involving both French and Italian ingredients. But moving in that same direction, I thought about other French beauties of the age, and of course Catherine Deneuve sprang to mind. Icy at first, but with a smoldering sensuality. I liked it.
UPDATE: The MxMo roundup is now up at Morsels & Musings. Many thanks to Anna for organizing and hosting it all.
The Times examines places that know how to make a real Martini, with emphasis on cocktailian joints around town.
This seems as good a time as any, actually, to resurrect something I wrote a couple years ago as a comment on Czeltic Girl's site:
Vidiot's Grumpy, Snobbish, And Cantankerous Yet Iron-Clad Rules of Drinking:
1. It is absolutely not permitted to order a mixed drink when one doesn't have the foggiest idea what it contains.
2. It is not permitted to order a drink solely because of its outré or "shocking" name, because it's illegal in parts of the world, or because it has been set on fire.
3. Beer belongs in a glass.
4. Ice belongs in many fine places, but not in Scotch.
5. Same deal with soda.
6. Pay no further attention to anyone who uses the phrase "bruise the gin."
7. If you can legally buy alcohol, you're too old for drinking games.
8. It is not permitted to drink an alcoholic beverage through a straw.
9. A bar that only has plastic disposable shot glasses is one to be avoided.
10. A Martini contains gin and vermouth and sometimes bitters. It does not contain vodka, apples, or chocolate syrup. Those other drinks may be acceptable on occasion, but they are not Martinis.
11. A Martini contains gin and vermouth. Do not waste valuable drinking time by spritzing the gin with vermouth, waving the vermouth bottle around, reciting incantations directed at the vermouth, or other such foofaw. If all you want is a glass of cold gin, simply order accordingly.
(Orange bitters are a fine addition.)
Actually, that leads me to:
12. The use of aromatic bitters in cocktails is heartily encouraged, and in some cases, absolutely required.
UPDATE: Brittney, a former bartender, adds #13:
13. Frozen drinks only happen on the beach. Not in bars anywhere else.
A couple days ago, I took a rye tasting class led by "LeNell" Smothers (of her eponymous shop, which is easily my favorite liquor store in the world.) We gathered at LeNell's apartment, where we found a dining-room table laid with Riedel tasting glasses, silver expectorant receptacles (somehow it seems indecorous to say "spit cup"...but truth be told, that's what we called 'em), bottles of Italian still spring water, and munchies: crumbled biscuits (and good ones, too), beef jerky, dried apricots and papayas, almonds, dark chocolate, hickory-smoked bacon, and some damn fine cornbread.
We tasted six whiskeys, and LeNell told us all about how they're made, how they're aged, how they're blended and marketed, and not least the all-important federal regulations that set forth exacting definitions of what distillers can put on their labels. (F'r instance: bourbon, rye, and wheat whiskeys must contain at least 51% of those respective grains. These whiskeys must be aged in the United States in new charred oak barrels. "Straight" whiskeys must be aged at least two years, and whiskeys that are less than four years old must have an age statement on the label. You get the picture.) LeNell also gave us some notes on how to properly taste and judge whisk(e)y, and encouraged us to pay attention to lots of things, including the look of the whiskey, the smell, and of course the taste. Swirl it around in your mouth, she advised, and make sure it hits all your taste receptors. Think about the finish and the mouthfeel. Don't be afraid to add a little water, up to half the volume of whiskey -- it rearranges the esters, and brings out subtleties. And don't be afraid, either, to spit instead of swallow -- after all, if you're drunk by the time the last samples come around, you won't be able to properly judge them. (As LeNell put it, "We're not out with our dicks today, trying to see who has the biggest balls. We're here to taste whiskey.")
So, then: on to the whiskeys!
But LeNell saved the best for last -- a barrel sample of her twenty-four year old Red Hook Rye #4, which is her house brand of cask-strength rye. This is the fourth barrel that she's purchased and bottled under the Red Hook Rye name, and it may (sob!) be the last super-aged rye that she'll produce for a while. See, there's a serious rye whiskey shortage going on right now -- one of the very few downsides of the current cocktail renaissance is increased demand for scarce resources -- and they simply didn't make enough whiskey back in '84 to meet the demand in '08.
This stuff is also rare because it's cask-strength, with no added water to bring it down to a certain proof -- this was 68% alcohol. It's also not chill-filtered, like most whiskeys are. Of the chill-filtering, LeNell writes:
Filtration by chilling can prevent the whiskey from developing a haze when it is cold, but we feel like that haze gives us flavor, and we don't want to take it away. That haze is the evidence of tiny little flavor particles that like to tickle our fancy. And we all know the crew at LeNell's like a little fancy ticklin'.
The Red Hook Rye had a lovely dark reddish-amber color, with wine-y, caramel, and butterscotch aromas. The taste? Wow. Peppery (and sweeter when I added water), with spice and vanilla floating around in there. LeNell says she likes this with Capellano Chinato, a vermouth-like fortified wine made from Barolo. Me? I'd take it with anything or nothing at all, just so I could wrap my tongue around this one again.
All in all, the rye class was tremendous fun, and I learned quite a bit. The opportunities to taste rare spirits and to be introduced to ones I hadn't tried before (especially without having to buy a whole bottle of something) were great, and hanging out with the lovely and knowledgeable Ms. Smothers was a true delight. Get thee to Brooklyn!