Have you seen the Omnivore's Hundred? It's an interesting food-blog post setting out the list of 100 things that every "good omnivore" really should try at some point in their lives. (I've tried 79 of them.)
A few weeks ago, the good folks at Hiram Walker sent me a bottle of their seasonal Gingerbread Liqueur, and asked me to come up with a recipe showcasing the spirit. They're asking cocktail bloggers to compete for the best cocktail recipe -- and it's flattering to be among such august company.
The gingerbread liqueur has a strong flavor, and I was happy to see that they use all-natural ingredients. I was surprised that the flavor is of gingerbread, and not simply ginger (a la Canton.) I don't know how they did it, but there was a certain undefinably bready note in there. At 30 proof, it's a little watery for my tastes, with a thin mouthfeel, but the flavor is definitely intense.
I started by thinking about gingerbread, and one of my favorite ways to have gingerbread is with a dollop of lemon curd, so I knew that lemon juice had to figure prominently in the cocktail. From that jumping-off point, a lot of experimentation followed: I tried brandy, bourbon and rye as base spirits, tried and discarded the additions of lime juice, allspice dram, and some other ingredients, and wound up shaking many, many half-size cocktails before I arrived at the below. Maple syrup seemed like an interesting idea, and I'd first seen it in a cocktail when I had a Velvet Harvest (pear eau-de-vie, apple schnapps, falernum, lemon, egg white, and tincture of clove) at Pegu Club. It adds a nice fall flavor to a drink. And when I think of other fall and winter flavors, I think of spicy, warm notes -- oranges with cloves, mulled wine or cider, mincemeat -- and that led me to using Vya vermouth, which is also spicy and complex.
Here's what I came up with:
Can't Catch Me
1 oz. rye whiskey (I used the baby Sazerac)
3/4 oz. Hiram Walker Gingerbread liqueur
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 oz. sweet vermouth (I used Vya, but Punt E Mes or Carpano Antica Formula would work equally well)
1/4 oz. maple syrup
1 healthy dash aromatic bitters (I used Fee's Whisky Barrel Aged, but Angostura would work just fine)
1 healthy dash orange bitters (I used Angostura Orange)
Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a slice of candied ginger.
I need to make some more of these, especially so I can add some pictures to this post. (I've had my hands full lately, and I'll work on this.) And I'd like to try one of these with allspice dram replacing the gingerbread liqueur.
The Mixology Monday theme this month is "Made From Scratch" -- Doug over at Pegu Blog is inviting participants to come up with drinks which include ingredients that they've made themselves.
And I have a confession to make: Due to poor planning and MxMo's tendency to sneak up on me, I'm currently several hundred miles away from my home computer, which of course contains recipes and further details of the ingredients in question for this month's submission. I hope to update this entry and add some specificity (and some pictures.)
A post of Chuck's from a few months back got me thinking about fig-infused bourbon and how good that'd be. So I got some fresh Mission figs and some dried ones, cut them up, and stated infusing a bottle of Bulleit. But I had lots of figs, and suddenly the idea of fig bitters came to mind. After doing a bit of research (hat tip especially to Jamie Boudreau's theory of making separate bittering and flavoring agents, and combining them to taste), and using Chuck's Taggart Bitters No. 3 as a starting point for my shopping list, I headed down to my local weird-spice supply store. I got gentian, mace blades, allspice berries, wormwood bark, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg, toasted them all briefly in a skillet, crushed them with a mortar and pestle, and then steeped them for ten days or so in some 140-proof poteen that a generous friend brought me from Europe. I also infused a bunch more of the fresh and dried figs in some Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond 100-proof rye, also for about ten days.
When I tasted the bitter blend, it was -- no joke -- the bitterest thing I've ever tasted. One drop was enough to make my salivary glands kick into overdrive and snap my head back with the sheer bitterness of it all. The fig-infused rye was mellow and sweet, and the most difficult thing there was successfully filtering out all the tiny fig seeds. I blended several tablespoons of the bitter blend with the fig-infused rye, and I was set. All that was left was to heat some more figs in some water, reduce that water down to concentrate the flavor some more, and add that water to the bitters to lower the alcohol level a bit.
I think the fig bitters came out fairly well, although the flavor isn't quite as robust as I'd hoped it'd be. There's an initial burst of figgy sweetness up front, and then the spicy bitterness hits your palate.
However, a couple good-sized dashes are a nice addition to a cocktail, and I especially like the homemade fig bitters in a Manhattan. Lately I've been making them like this:
1 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. fig-infused bourbon
1 oz. sweet vermouth (I like Vya)
several healthy dashes fig bitters.
Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a homemade Maraschino cherry.
This is an art project, rather than a bona fide product on the market...but it says something about the contemporary drinking landscape that I wasn't exactly sure it was bogus until I did some looking around.