Friday, July 30, 2010

I Like Dark Snapper




[*Disclaimer: I read an article somewhere about how to get people to read your blog posts, and it mentioned that you should always have a catchy title for your post that gets people to see what it's about. Hence what you see above. Of course, I believe everything I read on the Internet, so we'll see ]

My first love has always been beer. I really like cocktails (obviously) and appreciate the distilling and bartending crafts, but beer drinking and beer making got me really geeked out on the whole artisinal side of imbibing. I recently have been picking up limited edition or special brews that I see in the few outlets around the DC area that carry them. About 3 months ago, I picked up a Terrapin "The Dark Side" Belgian Style Imperial Stout, one of their line of Side Project, one off production brews. I learned recently via Twitter that it was pretty much at its peak, so I decided to crack it open (although imperial stouts aren't what you would immediately think of as a hot summer day type beer.) How wrong you would be.

I've had Terrapin's Rye Pale Ale before, and really liked it (I am a sucker for rye in any form, apparently). So I was anticipating good things, although I was concerned that the beer might be past its prime. If it is, then this beer must have been freakin' glorious when it was at the height of its game. It pours with a very thin, toffee colored head, and smelled of light coffee and that special Belgian yeast smell that's really hard to describe. I expected a thick mouth feel, but it was very dry - caramel and chocolate was there, but not the sweetness that you would associate with those tastes. It went down clean, and then a slight bitterness formed on the side of my tongue, adding a nice complexity to the beer. This is a somewhat high ABV beer (8.5%), but you don't get that sense at all while drinking it (I'll probably feel it later, though)

Overall, I really liked this, and am glad I picked it up. Too bad it's not more widely available, or I'd pick up some more. My love for dark snapper will have to be shelved (for now).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Podcast! Again!!!

Amazingly (really, it was pretty amazing) Joe, Eric and I were able to pool our collective time, resources, and distended livers to create a new podcast. In honor of July 4th (also known in the US as "The Day I Blew My Hand Off"), we talk about some cocktails which take advantage of some spirits produced in the good ol' US of A. Here are the recipes for those drinks, with links to the yankee spirits used to create them. Check the podcast for drinking, laughing, learning (and some burping...just a little).

The Red Hook

1oz Punt E Mes
.5oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, and stir for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

BONUS: check the pics I took on a visit to Copper Fox a couple of years ago - Rick Wasmund's Mom gave us the tour :)

The Caricature

.5oz sweet vermouth
.5oz Campari
1oz fresh grapefruit juice
1oz simple syrup

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice a shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.

The BH11

Check my previous blog post to learn about the origins of and recipe for this custom concocted cocktail utilizing Elemental Organic Vodka.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Podcast!!

After much hard work and a (large) number of strong drinks, the inaugural version of The Drinking Time podcast has been posted! For this addition - we drink a couple of beers, and check out three cocktails ideally suited to the Memorial Day weekend. Check it - you know you weren't doing anything with that 17 minutes and 44 seconds anyway.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Second Stop in NYC - Death + Company


After my tasty Chimay and less than tasty chicken sandwich at House of Brews, I went back to my hotel to make sure I had all my addresses and contact info squared away. I get around pretty well in the New York subway, but I realized that a little research before I delved head first into the rush hour clogged tunnels would probably serve me well, especially for the part of the evening where I am heading back to the hotel after a handful of drinks. Got my bearings, made a list of the trains I needed to hit, and off I went. Next stop - Death + Company.

When you get into a conversation with someone about cocktails in NYC (which I sometimes do), Death + Co. always comes up - innovative, cutting edge cocktails that harken back to a time when bartending was a great American art. The name is tough to get a handle on - their web site mentions that, in the hysteria leading up to the adoption of the Vollstead Act and what would be the Prohibition Era (widely seen as the death of the art of bartending), those that drank alcohol were said to lead a life overshadowed by death at all times. So Death and it's company - the drinker. Sylvia Plath also has a short poem entitled Death and Co. - but since I gave up being an English measure in large part because I sucked at literary analysis (and was far too good at consuming large amounts of Milwaukee's Best), I won't even start in on what connection there may be to that.

The bar itself presents a somewhat imposing facade - dark wood and steel fronting, no windows, "Death & Co." written in script in stone in front of the heavy wooden door with a sculptural wrought iron handle. Manned by an appropriately hipster-ish doorman, the bar doesn't take reservations, and is first come first served with no standing. If the place is full, they will take your phone number and call you when a bar seat or table becomes available, but I have heard the waits can be quite long (if you consider never getting a call back "long".)

To make sure I didn't have any such issues, I showed up early in the evening on a Wednesday. My friend Ron accompanied me - a former NYC resident and long time drinking buddy from our UMD days (see above about Milwukee's Best consumption), I always try to hook up with him when I am in town to catch up. It also helps to cut down on that "creepy guy drinking alone" vibe which tends to turn people off for some reason. After being escorted inside by the hipster doorman, we entered the dimly lit bar. Lots of candlelight, dark wood slat ceilings, shimmery yet subdued wallpaper and sconces. Very much the speakeasy / drinking "establishment" look and feel. Even early, the bar was pretty full, so we chose to sit at a table - probably our first mistake of the evening.

The bar lines one side of the space, and the other is lined by small tables in the front and then booths as you move further back, with a "back bar" all the way in the back. Sitting at a table removes you from one of the big draws of the place - watching the bartenders make drinks. They do it with style and professionalism here, and having your well crafted cocktail delivered to you by a (albeit lovely and very engaging) waitress kinda deadens the experience. And the place does get loud, and these tables are close to one another, so I am sure the couple sitting next to us on a date loved hearing our conversation about...whatever the hell it was we were blathering on about. I know we dropped a few f-bombs in there, which I am sure they found romantic.

That being said, the drinks were very, very good. I had heard about the Oaxaca Old-Fashioneds they featured, so I ordered one even though it wasn't on the menu. The waitress gushed that is was a great choice and that they were awesome, and she was right. Made with reposado tequila, mescal, and agave nectar, then finished off with a flamed orange, it was boozy but light, had a great tequila flavor yet was very balanced. Ron ordered a Jack Rose, that classic cocktail made with Laird's Applejack, grenadine, and lemon juice. Next I had a Grand Street, which I only remember as being Cynar-based and quite good (I love that stuff), and Ron had a Southern Exposure, which was easily my favorite drink of the evening. Made with jalapeno infused tequila, mescal, agave nectar, and roasted red pepper puree, it was delightful - the jalapeno gave it some fruity spice, and the red pepper puree (which must have been strained since it was not at all pulpy) gave it a nice smokiness which played off the smokiness of the mescal. While drinking, we snacked on some homemade potato chips, which were great - their bar menu looked really interesting, but as we were planning to go to dinner next, we held off on the more substantial fare.

Overall, I would say the experience was....very good. The service was very attentive, the drinks were great, the space very nice. It just didn't live up to the hype I had built up in my own mind about what the place would be like. I actually think that The Gibson in DC does this formula slightly better - they do take reservations, but limit the time for people at the tables to a max of 2 hours, assuring a good amount of access to the place, and they do the whole no standing / call back thing as well. And it's a better overall space - not as loud, better layout, more conducive to good conversation and good drinks. Next time, I'll sit at the bar and risk looking like the creepy guy to see if the experience is different.

Next stop: Caracas.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Good Home Bar Is Like a Good Woman...



...um, OK, I don't know how to end that without setting myself up for a world of hurt. But a good home bar is a thing of beauty, something which I am much more likely to be envious of than, say, someone's car or income level. Having a "great home bar" can be defined as having a great physical space for your bar (think mancave-like Irish pub in your basement), or having an extensive list of raw materials from which to make drinks. I definitely fall into the latter category - not having been born into the landed gentry, or come up with the concept for a cash cow like edible underwear, I don't have a house in which I can dedicate several hundred square feet to just a place to drink and socialize. That's what I use my living room for (and sometimes the storage closet in my basement when I am in one of my "darker" moods). But, by picking up bottles here and there over a period of a couple of years, I think I have amassed a collection of materials from which can be made almost any drink one would want to try.

Below is a list of what's in my bar (aka the buffet in my dining room) as of April 2010. It ain't an exact architectural replica of the The Ritz Bar in Paris, but I can whip you up a mean French 75 at a moment's notice.

VODKA

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka

Elemental Organic Vodka

Elemental Organic Vanilla Espresso Vodka

Grey Goose Le Citron Vodka

Van Gogh Vanilla Vodka

Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka

GIN

Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin

Hayman's Old Tom Gin

Hendrick's Gin

Plymouth Gin

Plymouth Sloe Gin (I know, not really a gin)

Junipero Gin

Bols Genever

RUM

Bacardi Light Rum

Bacardi 151 Rum

Cruzan Black Strap Rum

Captain Morgan Spiced Rum

Appleton Estate V/X Rum

Rhum Clement VSOP Rum

Gosling's Black Seal Rum

Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum

The Kraken Black Spiced Rum

MEZCAL / TEQUILA

Del Maguey Minero Mezcal

Patron Resposado Tequila

El Jimador Blanco Tequila (jalapeƱo infused)

SCOTCH / WHISKY / WHISKEY

Isle of Jura Superstition Blended Scotch

Caol Ila 12 Year Single Malt Whisky

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Scotch

The Glenlivet Nadurra 16 yr old Scotch

Compass Box Spice Tree Scotch Whisky

Johnny Walker Black Blended Scotch

Wasmund's Red Single Malt Whisky

Wasmund's Silver Single Malt Whisky

Copper Fox Rye Whisky

Jameson Irish Whiskey

Bushmills Irish Whiskey

Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey

Sazerac Rye Whiskey

Rittenhouse 100 Rye Whisky

Hudson Manhattan Rye Whisky

Pappy Van Winkle's 20 yr old bourbon

Bulleit Bourbon

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby 136 Bourbon

The Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky 12

Canadian Club Whisky 6 Years Old

SHERRIES / PORTS

Drysack Sherry

Fladgate First Estate Reserve Porto

Osborne Fine Ruby Porto

COGNAC

Kelt Tour du Mond VSOP Cognac

Hennessy VS Cognac

VERMOUTH

Lillet Blanc

Lillet Rouge

Martini & Rossi Vermouth Rosso

Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth

Dolin Dry Vermouth

LIQUEURS / OTHER SPIRITS

Aalborg Akvavit

Southern Comfort

Laird's Applejack

Berentzen Apfelkorn Apple Liquer

Batavia-Arrack van Oosten

Barsol Pisco

Green Chartreuse

Yellow Chartreuse

Dubonnet

Disaronno Liqueur

Aperol Liqueur

Campari Liqueur

Cynar Artichoke Liqueur

Frenet-Branca Liqueur

Zwack

St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

Heering Cherry Liqueur

Stock Maraschino Liqueur

Kirschwasser Cherry Liqueur

Galliano Liqueur

Drambuie Liqueur

Benedictine Liqueur

Frangelico Liqueur

Cointreau Orange Liqueur

Kahlua Liqueur

Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur

Stone’s Ginger Liqueur

Pama Pommegranate Liqueur

LeTourment Vert Absinthe

Lucid Absinthe

Agua Luca Cachaca

DeKuyper Triple Sec

DeKuyper Creme de Cassis

DeKuyper Blue Curacao

DeKuyper Creme de Cocoa

DeKuyper Creme de Menthe

Bols Blackberry Flavored Brandy

DeKuyper Apricot Flavored Brandy

Rumple Minze Peppermint Schnapps

Bailey's Irish Cream

Creme de Violette

Creme Yvette

Orchard Pear Liqeuer

St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram

Limoncello (homemade)

SOJU / SAKE / PLUM WINE

Korean Soju

Korean Blueberry Soju

Plum Gekkeikan Plum Wine

Hakushika Sake

BITTERS

Angostura Bitters

Angostura Orange Bitters

Fee Brother's Old Fashioned Bitters

Regan's Orange Bitters

Peychaud's Bitters

Bitter Truth Celery Bitters

Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters

Bitter Truth Xocolatl Mole Bitters

SWEETNERS / OTHER ADDITIVES

Rose's Grenadine

Rose's Lime Juice

Alwadi Orange Blossom Water

Alwadi Rose Water

Tres Agaves Agave Nectar

TJ's Organic Blue Agave Sweetner

Gum Arabic

Sunday, April 18, 2010

First Stop in NYC - The House of Brews



This is the second time I have written this post - The Megabus' spotty wifi on the return trip to DC ate my first version. Too bad, too - it was a blogging masterpiece unsurpassed in the history of the intermanets. This one just qualifies as mildly awesome.

After a relaxing Megabus ride from downtown DC to NYC (wifi (flawless on the ride up), bathroom, comfy seats), I stepped off in midtown on a gorgeous sunny day. Strolled about 15 blocks to my hotel - I never complain about having to walk in New York, the experience is one of my favorite things about the city. Checked into my palatial (by NY standards) room, and then headed out for lunch and a beer.

Randomly stopped into The House of Brews on West 46th Street. This area is evidently known a Restaurant Row, but given the so-so establishments in the area, I found it hard to believe that this street was the only one with that designation in the city. Maybe it's just based on quantity. Since it was 3PM on a Wednesday, the place was pretty dead - one guy nursing a water, watching the Yankees lose on one of the three flatscreens. The beer selection was pretty good - more than a few Belgian bottles, including a 12 ounce bottle of Bitter XX (a large version of which I have chilling in my beer fridge), and if you wanted to shell out $450 for a 2005 Sam Adams Utopia, you could do that.

Had a draft Chimay Trippel (tasty), and a chicken sandwich and fries (not so much). But the point wasn't to have a memorable culinary experience, or to have this be the place to sample multiple beers in a sitting - it was to lay an adequate gastric foundation for the planned activities of the evening - cocktails at Death and Co. and Bar Centrale, and dinner at Caracas.

Next up: Death and Co.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gonna Learn Me Some Booze Writin' Skillz

A couple of months ago I decided to take a cocktail blog writing class I saw mentioned on Twitter. $75, but it was in New York, and I figured I could learn something, have some quality cocktails, and then employ my newly acquired writing skills to document the whole thing.

Of course, things sometimes don't go according to plan. Two weeks before the course, I got a notice it was cancelled due to lack of interest (people probably were too hungover to remember to register). But I already had my Megabus ticket ($12 roundtrip!), and my hotel ($65 a night!), so decided to learn through experience and go anyway. Besides, that would give me more time to drin...er, do blog research.

After soliciting friends and Twitter for suggestions, set a tentative itinerary to include a couple highly regarded cocktail bars, a famous beer bar, some good eats, and some shopping. It's an ambitious agenda, but one I think I can stick to by employing some self discipline (translation: chances are extremely high the whole thing will go to hell 5 minutes after I step off the bus).

Regardless, I'll post and tweet about the whole experience as it happens. If needed, I'll let you know where to send the bail money.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Top 10 out of 100 - #9 The Caipirinha




Muddling. Technically, it's combining ingredients in the bottom of a mixing glass (typically with an instrument made for this purpose, called a....wait for it....muddler) before the rest of the liquid ingredients are added to make a cocktail. Following shaking and stirring, it is probably the most typical action needed to create cocktails. And it's one which I think is done incorrectly more often than not.

Like any action related to bartending, it can be argued there is no right or wrong way to do anything. Slow shake, hard shake, Japanese shake, lazy shake - which way a bartender performs any action is dependent upon their experiences and preferences, and of course those vary widely. So I am not saying that there is a "wrong" way to muddle ingredients for a drink. However, the basic goal of muddling is to extract desirable flavors from the ingredients being muddled. And it therefore makes sense that different ways of performing this action accomplish this goal better than others.

Of what I have read and seen, a deliberate, GENTLE muddling fits the bill just fine. You're trying to coax the essential oils, juices, and flavors from the ingredients, not beat the living crap out of them (I saw one obviously 'roided-up bartender muddle limes and mint for a mojito like he was driving a steel pole into the ground - he was SWEATING afterwards). And ingredients like mint, which tend to bruise and discolor if too harshly treated, hold up better when not abused like the Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon.

Which leads us to the Caipirinha (kai-pee-reen-ya), a drink so simple it's almost criminal how good it is. I think the only reason this isn't much more popular than the mojito is that almost no one is confident they know how to pronounce it (or its main ingredient, cachaca (ka-sha-suh)). The muddled lime stays in the glass, there is no shaking required, no bar instruments other than something to perform the muddling with need be brought out - cut lime, add sugar, muddle, add ice and cachaca, quick stir, done. And it's gorgeous to look at - perfect for those warm spring cocktail parties or hanging out on newly opened bar patios.


The Caipirinha

2.5oz cachaca
.5oz simple syrup (or barspoon of sugar)
one lime, quartered

Muddle the lime and sugar in the bottom of an old fashioned glass. Add cracked ice to fill the glass. then add cachaca. Stir well.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Time To Drink: Dogfish Head Fort

Taste testing @dogfishbeer Fort ale w/ @suzmiguel 18% ABV! on Twitpic

What is a beer? Not really an existential question, and not one that people outside of beer geek circles spend a while lot of time contemplating. But with the release of the "strongest beer in the world," the Sink The Bismarck "quadruple IPA" from BrewDog brewery in Scotland, it's been asked a lot lately, both by beer geeks and the mainstream press. Is an alcoholic beverage that clocks in at 41% ABV really still a beer, or is it some other category of beverage - not quite a spirit, certainly not a wine, but "beer" doesn't quite get it either?

I'm not going to delve into that heady discussion (get it? heady? beer?? No?). But that question was running through the back of my mind as Suz and I tasted Fort by Dogfish Head brewery. Touted as the strongest fruit beer in the world, this 18% ABV monster uses over a ton of raspberries during fermentation, and that was obvious from the second we poured some from the large format (25.6oz) bottle into some wine glasses - the raspberries hit you right away. But so does the alcohol, which was very clearly present on the nose. The head - tiny, tight bubbles - dissipated quickly, leaving the lovely, rose-gold, slightly opaque liquid alone in the glass.

Fort is "strong" in French, and this beer is certainly that. Suz noted it more closely resembled a currant liqueur like Chambord than a framboise style Belgian beer. Lightly carbonated, the finish was long, and almost cloyingly sweet. That alcohol on the nose wasn't as obvious in the taste (but it was pretty obvious based on the buzz we had after finishing the bottle). But that sweetness builds on the palate, and becomes overwhelming eventually. It's pretty clear that this type of beer is not suited to a couple of people knocking back 12.5oz of the stuff while playing Scrabble (let's just say two letter words were about all we could conjur at the end of that game).

So when should you drink this? With three friends (a 6oz serving each seems right), from a white wine glass, while eating a great chocolate dessert (Suz suggested a dark chocolate mousse, which would be right on - bitter chocolate and sweet raspberries = yum). And I think that gets at the question about whether these types of beverages should be thought of as "beer" - we have to change the way we think of what beer is, or can be. Pop the cap on one if these and chug it down at a tailgate, and you're going to be in for quite a shock. But serve it like a dessert wine, or, in the case of the Sink The Bismarck, like a fine dram, and you begin to experience the beer the way the brewers intended. Some initial research can help determine your approach to these beverages, and result in some increased knowledge about what being a beer really means.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Drinking Time at The Passenger



Recently a friend of mine had a "significant" birthday ("significant" because of the numbers involved, although you wouldn't know it from looking at her.) Her husband, a beer brewer and imbiber like myself, decided to treat her and a bunch of friends to a cocktail class hosted by Derek Brown - cocktail writer for The Atlantic, bartender and beverage program designer of The Gibson, owner of a beverage consulting business, co-owner of The Passenger bar, and all around cocktail-guy-to-know in DC. I was lucky enough to be invited, but had some time to kill between work and the class kick off time - and that translates to drinking time (see pics from the evening here).

Started at Central, Chef Michel Richard's bistro location. It was the start of Mardi Gras, and I had seen that Central had Abita Mardi Gras Bock as an exclusive in DC, so figured I would start there. The beer was very tasty - malty, slightly sweet, slight bitterness with a very short finish. Nice reddish amber hue to it - a good, but not great, bock. But the bar itself was slow, and the bartender spent most of his time noting he was off in 5 more hours and couldn't wait to get out of there, so I bolted for The Passenger.

The Passenger is in a converted store front directly across the street from the DC Convention Center in the Shaw neighborhood. This is one of the two or three DC neighborhoods undergoing a renaissance after years of blight caused by the riots that occurred in 1968 and the resulting years of neglect. Unlike many bars i've been to, the space is wide open - the entire center portion of the bar is absent tables or chairs (in New York, you would probably see 10 more tables crammed into the same space.). There are five vinyl, four person booths, a couple of eight tops at front in the bay windows, and the bar seats about fifteen. Chatting about the bar later, Derek mentioned that openness was intentional - it definitely makes the large space more intimate. It also mitigates the noise in the space- the space is dark, with dark, almost black hardwood floors, dark grey walls, and a darkly stained bar, and even with the open space, it can get pretty loud when the seats start to fill up.

I was about an hour early, so I grabbed a seat at the bar and asked my bartender Alex to make me something with rye. She whipped up a Manhattan made with Luxardo maraschino liqueur and absinthe. Tasty, and the absinthe added a nice zing to the drink. This was starting off well.


I figured getting tanked BEFORE the class would be bad form, so I asked for a Oscar Blue's (maker of Dale's Pale Ale) Gordon Imperial IPA in a can (not sure how asking for an Imperial IPA was supposed to keep me from getting tanked - I am sure this made sense at the time.) Oscar Blue makes awesome canned beers, and this was no exception. SMOOTH, a little hoppy, but not what you would expect from an IIPA - it went down very easily - probably a little TOO easily given the 8.7% ABV.

Very soon thereafter my friends arrived, as did Derek, and we were escorted into the Columbia Room, the newly opened party / event / class room in the back of the space. In contrast to the bar space in front, this space was brightly lit, with creamy light blue walls and a cozy atmosphere. There was a bar, a nicely designed prep/display area, barstools for about ten people, and that was it - certainly a proper atmosphere for teaching about drinking. Derek claimed the room wasn't quite complete yet, but it certainly looked complete to me.

Derek started off by making a champagne cocktail, making one for each of us while discussing the role of bitters in a cocktail. He moved on to a Crisp Martini - Plymouth gin, Dolin vermouth, and a lemon twist - while expounding upon the differences between London dry gin, Old Tom gin, and genever, as well as the importance of using fresh vermouth. From there he made a fresh batch of Daiquiris, and showed us his mad lemon peeling skillz by making a round of Horse's Necks - bourbon, spicy ginger beer, with an unbroken, whole lemon peel in the glass. He also broke out this HUGE Japanese cleaver which he used to carve an ice diamond (kudos to him - I would have cut my arm off taking the thing out of the drawer.) All of this was interspersed with tasty food -flat bread, artichoke hearts, veggie burgers - just enough to keep the munchies at bay (and keep you from keeling over halfway through class.)

Overall it was a great experience - everyone learned something, had some great cocktails and some great food, and I think came away with a better appreciation of the skill that goes into making a great cocktail.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Top 10 out of 100 - #10 The Pisco Sour

As a favor for stealing one of her best employees away from her on detail, a friend asked that I follow up on my Anvil 100 cocktail effort with a ranking of my top 10 cocktails from that list. As I mentioned before, there were definitely a number of cocktails on that list that I would consider marginally enjoyable, at best (I'm looking at you, Ramos Gin Fizz), but there were far more I thought were pretty darned tasty. So coming up with my favorite ten was not an easy task. Plus, I had to take into account my own preferences (I am a whisky / whiskey fan first, with gin a very close second), making sure that I wasn't skewing the results based on what I was predisposed to like in the first place. There are many cocktails that don't appear on this list which I love (Whiskey Sour, where are you??), but I figured that I would keep it simple and just work with the ones on the List.

So these will be the 10 I enjoyed making and drinking the most from the list, number one being my favorite (duh). Starting with Number 10:

#10 The Pisco Sour

Pisco isn't something I had any personal exposure to before starting The List - I knew it came from the land of llamas, and I like llamas, so no worries there. Since I am a big fan of Whiskey Sours, this was a cocktail I was eager to try. It surely did not disappoint. Pisco is Peruvian or Chilean grape eau de vie, one which is typically not wood aged, and has a unique tang to it - not quite citrusy, but one which hits you a little bit on the tart sensing part of your tongue. Mixed with the sour component, pisco's unique tang really adds to the complexity of the drink (in a way I don't think whiskey does quite as well). And then adding the egg white brings the whole cocktail together - sweet, sour, creamy, tart, with a touch of bitterness added by the bitters.

Definitely one I will go back to. If you wear one of those cute little Peruvian hats while drinking one, all the better - and it may lead to singing a short ditty about transporting llamas to places of higher education, and what could be wrong with that?


Pisco Sour

2oz pisco
1oz lime juice
.5oz simple syrup (I used agave syrup)
an egg white
single drop of Angostura bitters

Shake HARD with ice to build up the froth from the egg. Strain into a chilled rocks glass, add drop of bitters on top.






Friday, February 19, 2010

The Deep Lemon Fizz

Here's another custom cocktail I made while on a snowboarding / drinking weekend with my buddies. I..um..forgot I made this one. Which I'm sure had nothing to do with alcohol consumption prior. Certainly not.

This one highlights the best aspects of the ingredients: the vanilla espresso notes from the vodka are clear, but not overwhelming; the bright, sweet lemon taste brings some citrus levity to the drink; and the bitters add the...bitterness (some of this ain't rocket science, folks.)

The Deep Lemon Fizz

1.5oz Elemental Vanilla Espresso vodka
.75oz homemade limoncello
2oz club soda
2 dashes Fee's Old Fashioned Bitters
Lemon twist

Shake vodka, limoncello, and bitters with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add club soda, then twist lemon over drink, rub rim with twist, and add to drink.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, February 15, 2010

Some New Cocktails

One of the things I enjoy most about having a (relatively) large home bar at my disposal is my ability to experiment with new cocktail recipes. Whether for a contest (like the ones The Intoxicologist runs from time to time) or just for the heck of it, coming up with interesting flavors and spirit combinations is a lot of fun. Here are a couple of cocktail recipes I came up with (one of which actually won one of those contests.)

My Darling
(winner of The Intoxicologist's scotch-based cocktail recipe contest)

1.5oz blended scotch whiskey (I used Johnny Walker Black)
.5oz Plymouth Sloe Gin
.5oz Cointreau
.5oz clementine juice
2 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Rub rim of glass with a clementine peel twist and garnish with the twist.

Cherry-O Baby

4oz apple cider
1oz Cherry Heering
.75oz Stolli Vanil vodka
.5oz Grey Goose Le Citron vodka

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Hades' Girlfriend
(submitted to a cocktail contest being sponsored by Gary Regan)

1.5oz bourbon whisky
.5oz Pama pomegranate liqueur
.5oz Cointreau
3 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters
a dash of lemon juice

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Flame an orange peel over the glass, rub the rim of the glass with the flamed peel, and discard.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hungarian Liqueur Tasting on The Intoxicologist


Each year, I trek up to Deep Creek Lake in far northwestern Maryland to the Wisp ski resort and rent a house with about 12 buddies to snowboard, drink, eat, drink, drink some more, and generally goof off (we call it Biohazard weekend - 12 guys, a house, a lot of beer - you get the picture). This year, I had asked a friend of mine (Joe Balintfy) to bring some Hungarian liqueurs he had brought back with him on a recent trip there - Unicum, Unicum Next, and Zwack. Zwack is available in the US, the other two are not readily available in the States. I just wanted to try them out, since I had really enjoyed trying some other bitter liqueurs I had used during my Anvil cocktail quest (such as Cynar, Aperol, and Fernet Branca).

I mentioned on Twitter that I was going to be trying these out, and The Intoxicologist, a great cocktail and cocktail industry blogger whom I had interacted with a little bit by entering a couple of her cocktail creation contests, asked if I could write up some tasting notes. Evidently she gets a lot of questions about these, but since they are hard to come by, had not had a chance to sample them herself. I quickly agreed - I knew the biggest challenge was going to be finding a 20 minute stretch during that weekend where I could put some coherent thoughts together and actually write legibly.

I did the tasting, scribbled my notes down ("legible" is probably a generous description of what those notes looked like), and sent them in. Amazingly, they were deemed coherent enough to publish, and they were put up on The Intoxicologist's website this afternoon. Pretty awesome - thanks to her, and to Joe and the Biohazard crew for supporting my drinking related efforts all these years.

I came up with a Zwack cocktail while I was up at Deep Creek in honor of the event - called the BH11 (Biohazard 11, as this is the 11th year running the group has done this), I used Zwack and Elemental Organic Vodka, a fantastic spirit made in Portland, OR by Highball Distillery, which is co-owned by one of the regular attendees of Biohazard weekend. Pretty yummy stuff.

The BH11 Cocktail

2oz Zwack
1oz Elemental Organic Vodka
.5oz orange juice
.25oz lemon juice
3 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters

Combine all in a cocktail shaker w/ ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mountain State Brewing Company Tasting

While on vacation at Deep Creek Lake in McHenry, Md (next to the Wisp ski resort), we wanted to grab a good dinner, and had heard about Mountain State Brewing's brewpub which was just down the road. Looking very much like a rustic cabin, this wasn't your typical brewpub - instead of the typical pub fare, this brewpub has two wood burning brick ovens and specializes in flatbread pizzas.

After ordering an Olive Another (olive tapenade, roasted red peppers, and artichoke hearts - yummy), we sampled the four beers they had available on tap - a blonde, an amber, an IPA, and a stout.

General comments:
All the beers had low levels of carbonation and were served at a cool (not cold) temperature - reminded me of beers from an English pub. Seemed to work better w/ the stout and IPA than the other two. Heads were thin in general as well.

Beer Notes

Cold Trail Ale - described as an American blonde beer using oats and wheat in the grain mixture, this was the light beer of the group. Very pale straw in color, there was no hop aroma at all. Clean tasting with extremely minimal hop bitterness, there was a slight caramel sweetness on the finish. Definitely a session beer, or one for those that go to a brewpub but really want to order a Michelob Light anyway.
Almost Heaven Amber Ale - "lightly hopped" w/ Wilamette hops, this deep red amber ale was tasty, although "lightly hopped" was an understatement - no hops on the nose, and only a very slight hoppy bitterness in the finish. The principal flavor was a pleasant nutty caramel, but it didn't linger on the palate long. This was Suz's favorite - easy to drink yet flavorful.
Seneca India Pale Ale - at 5.2% ABV, this IPA uses a mixture if Chinook, Casacade, and Amarillo hops for flavoring. Lighter in color than the amber, there was still very little hoppy smell to the brew. But although the menu said this IPA did not have a lingering bitter aftertaste, I found the opposite to be true - the bitterness was LONG on the finish, but pleasantly so - that's what you expect from an IPA, and this didn't disappoint.
Miner's Daughter Oatmeal Stout - this was my favorite beer of their selection. An extremely smooth, inky black beer, there was some initial bitterness which faded quickly, followed by a strong coffee finish with a slight chocolate note to it. Very pleasant, and a stout which was very easy to drink.

Overall I thought the beers were good, with the stout being the standout. Add to that some great pizzas ( and a s'mores flatbread dessert which was amazing), and this place was worth leaving your cozy ski lodge to visit.

http://www.mountainstatebrewing.com/