Friday, April 30, 2010

Memory Challenges

Of course the problem with being the resident cocktail nerd among your friends is that you can't travel with all your vintage and repro cocktail manuals--and it would be Very Bad to spill a Jupiter into your laptop after you'd used the 'puter to look up that recipe online. So although a good cocktail can make you FORGET the cares of the day, let's face it: there are some things you just have to memorize.

For me that's a couple of basic rules. Rule one: a shot equals about an ounce and a half (two if you're being generous). Ice, mixer and a highball glass, and you have a highball.

Rule two: a basic sour is an ounce and a half of booze, 3/4 of an ounce of a sweet liqueur(s), and 3/4 of an ounce of a tart citrus juice(s) of your choosing. Do it with tequila, cointreau and lime and you've got a (very simple) Margarita. Do it with vodka, cointreau, lime and a splash of cranberry juice and it's a Cosmo. Use lime and rum and you've got a Daiquiri. And an Aviation is a gin sour, using lemon juice, maraschino and creme de violette. Shake 'em up, and strain 'em into a chilled cocktail glass and there you go; the same formula more or less holds for them all. Goose the citrus up a bit and goose the sweet down a tad to your taste. It makes a smallish cocktail, but I'm not of the school that a drink needs to be served in a goldfish bowl. (A good cocktail is a strong drink. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing.)

There are plenty of other drinks that like irregular verbs, make the language of cocktail-age richer and more maddening. Those you will need your books for. But some other drinks are easy to remember because they call for equal parts of all their ingredients: a classic Negroni is equal parts of gin, red vermouth, and Campari--although I've had the drink mixed in somewhat different proportions and enjoyed it.

Here's a drink I found this week that fits into equal parts of all category:

The Cafe Royal Special

Equal parts: Gin, fresh lemon juice, white vermouth, and sloe gin. Shake hard, serve in a cocktail glass, up.

It's an interesting drink, brilliant red as sloe gin drinks usually are, and not stupid-strong. The trick to having it not be too cotton-candy-ish (and sloe gin drinks can be like that) is to use good sloe gin. I have some OK stuff that I got at the local booze shop, but what really works best in this or any sloe gin drink is Plymouth Sloe Gin. It's considerably more expensive than the garden-variety stuff, and absolutely worth it.

See you at at 4 Eastern today!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Gilroy Was Here

Another hectic week!

Darling goddaughter's 18th, celebrated high atop the Potter building, was a smash hit, thanks to Herr Potter elbowing out the kitchen staff and preparing some of his famed Indiana Fried Chicken. I guess it's not news to anyone who actually LIVES with high school seniors that they can eat like a plague of locusts in the Old Testament. As a couple who seem to have forgotten to produce offspring, we can only marvel.

Weather was mostly springy-perfect, if you like your days peppered with itchy eyes and prolonged sneeze-fits. I read somewhere that you need higher mathematics to express the pollen count that has been kicking up allergies we didn't even know we had in this swanky neighborhood near you.

Last spring and summer, I made a lot of Mai Tais and Singapore Slings. They were tropical and seemed like the thing, but this year, I'm a little bored with them. And yet, like the little girl I once was, the one who once loved the cherry life saver the best out of all the candies in the roll, I still crave something on the sweet side in this sweet in-between season. Mind you, nothing icky, but a nuanced application of Cherry Heering can be a pleasant thing.

I experimented a bit with a drink called a Gilroy this week. Don't know the precise history of it, but what it tastes like is a slightly more concentrated, slightly less sweet Singapore Sling. It's served up, in a cocktail glass. Here's where I'm at with the recipe:

The Gilroy

1/2 oz lemon juice (at least--you could go up to 3/4 oz)
1/2 oz good dry vermouth
3/4 oz Cherry Heering (or a little, wee bit less)
3/4 oz gin--I used Plymouth, but you could go a bit heavier with the aromatics in your choice of brand
a couple good dashes of orange bitters

Taste before you shake, for balance. There's a sweet/sour/herbal/bitter thing going on here, and it should all be present.

Shake HARD--you want this one cold--and serve in a chilled cocktail glass, up. I used a quarter of a lemon wheel, perched on the rim of the glass, as a garnish. Could also see, for folks who really like tart, running one of the spent lemons over the rim of the glass but NOT sugaring it.

It's an interesting drink, just the thing for a mild spring evening when the apple blossoms are just beginning to drift down like benign snow. I don't have it quite nailed yet, though, so feel free to play with the proportions. It absolutely doesn't have to be sweeter, but I don't think it should be too bracingly sour.

I read of an older version of this drink, that skips the lemon and orange bitters, and uses kirsch. Might be interesting, but it sounded wintery. Besides, any excuse to use orange bitters is a good thing, I think!

Drink up, and see you at 4 Eastern today on!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Legalities, tax day--A Bacardi Cocktail

This will be short, because I'm on the fly today. My darling goddaughter is celebrating her 18th birthday tomorrow, so Cocktails with Chris is going on the air a day early--that's today, Tax Day, April 15th, at 4 Eastern.

And because it is Tax Day and a warm, springy one, I thought a cocktail with a legal history would be good today. Hence, The Bacardi Cocktail, which legally MUST be made with Bacardi rum. There was actually a court case back in the day. I went straight to their website, thinking it would be good to obey the law in all things today.

So sign your forms, drop 'em in the mail, and mix this one up:

The Bacardi Cocktail

2 parts Bacardi rum. Silver works best, I think, but you COULD use amber
2/3 part fresh lime juice
1/4 part real pomegranate grenadine (Bacardi suggests Monin, but you can make your own easily enough by simple syrup-izing some Pom)

Shake really, really hard with a mix of ice cubes and crushed ice (Bacardi specifies this, t00), and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish? They say "a preserved cherry" (could be good), but I'd rather a half a lime wheel.

Cheers! I'll see you at Rando at 4!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Another Cloudy Friday...

One forgets how deeply strange Spring can be from year to year, no matter how many times one (in this case yours truly) has been through it. Right now, I'm looking out the window high atop the Potter building at a sulky grey sky that's actually some sort of misty moisty thing trying to burn off, although it's almost noon and it should have done that by now. Maybe the weather is feeling as lazy as I've been. But it's cooler, at least...

COOLER at least, you say? You want COOLER in the spring? Yeah, I do. It was 91 degrees in our swanky neighborhood near you earlier this week, and we're talking full-bore Hudson River Valley 91 degrees: schweaty schweaty sweat. I staggered into a few shops in a fever dream in search of sleeveless girly tops that I hadn't worn to death last August. Decided I was too hot to try anything on, and staggered back out.

Today, it's 55 degrees, and it'll get a little warmer, but not much. It was warm enough on Sunday last to have Easter dinner outside--and to HAVE to grill the lamb because roasting it in the house would have made the folks gathered there to celebrate the Resurrection miserable. That is, if they hadn't all been outside, anyway. It's been so unseasonably hot here that I'm sort of lost in time. WAS last Sunday actually only Easter? It could be June...or early September...or late July. The ancient apple tree just outside my office, having miraculously cheated death once again despite the nasty winter storms of only about a month and a half ago (!!), is in bloom. We'll have apples again in the fall, but who knows what temperature it'll be by then?

The knee-jerk thing would be to make a blender drink with melons and rum and mint, but I'm resisting that for now. I've been into a lot of antique gin drinks lately, and I think we'll be enjoying this one today, in honor of Robyn Hitchcock's new CD, released just around the time the temperature started going nuts.

The English Rose

2 oz gin (I'm thinking Plymouth, nothing too funky. You could use Hendricks, I think, too)
1 oz dry vermouth
1 oz apricot-flavored brandy
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 tsp real grenadine

Shake hard, serve up, garnish with a brandied cherry.

The Internet Cocktail Database suggests a sugar rim for this drink, but I'm thinking that unless you pretty much doubled the amount of lemon juice, it would be too sweet that way. And you should ABSOLUTELY taste before you shake--a little less apricot brandy and a little more lemon juice might be more to your liking.

It sort of fits this week--a recipe I'm still playing with to see if it's going to be sweet or tart. Kinda like the weather.

See you at four Eastern on!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Falernum, again...

...and a gorgeous spring day on which to think about it.

The first time I tasted Falernum (I'd bought a bottle to experiment with some Tiki drinks, in which it's a sometimes ingredient), I figured that it was what the Captain Morgan people were really after--except that it was more like a liqueur than a plain old strong spirit. It's sweet. Wikipedia says there are non-alcoholic versions of it, but I've never seen one.

It improves many, many drinks, though, especially ones made with rum. And so I will celebrate this lovely spring day (after many days of soaking rain) with a Mai Tai, a very good example of a drink that you can make without Falernum, but is MUCH better with a bit thrown in.

There's a lot of back and forth over what is a true, historic, Don The Beachcomber kinda Mai Tai. I'm not Tiki enough to worry about that sort of thing, but here's the ICB recipe for the drink, which does include the golden potion in question:

Shake in iced cocktail shaker & strain
1 oz light rum (3 cl, 1/4 gills)
1 oz dark rum (3 cl, 1/4 gills)
1 1/2 oz fresh lime juice (4.5 cl, 3/8 gills)
1/2 oz orange curacao (1.5 cl, 1/8 gills)
1/4 oz grenadine (6 dashes, 1/16 gills)
1/2 oz orgeat syrup (1.5 cl, 1/8 gills)
1/4 oz falernum (6 dashes, 1/16 gills)

A Mai Tai is properly served in a tall glass filled with crushed ice, and sipped through a straw, I think. I like a mint leaf garnish. If you're making a bunch of these, taste before you shake for lime juice/sweet balance. You shouldn't have something as tart as--say--an Aviation--but you should be aware of the lime. And as I have found out lately, the better the curacao you use, the better the drink will be. Shop around and spend a few bucks. The stuff goes a long way.

In other news, I've finally got the new ROBYN HITCHCOCK! And so Cocktails with Chris goes forth live on the intertubes at today at 4 PM! We're on the air a day early to kick off the Easter weekend, and to allow a certain otherwise impossibly groovy radio host to sing in her husband's choir tomorrow...