Tuesday, May 27, 2008

An Afternoon With Some Arrogant Bastards

So, technically, Stone Brewery has little to do with the cocktail world. But the appreciation of a quality brew over some tasteless, mass-marketed "beer" is analogous to what the mixology world desires. People should know that they have the option to drink something other than that slushy "margarita" made with 51% agave tequila and a treacherous product known as "sweet and sour mix" (and sometimes even "margarita/daiquiri mix").

But back to the brewery. I don't consider myself to be a beer expert, but I have tasted a few here and there. In fact, I'm quite proud of the fact that I have my own plaque on display at 99 Bottles of Beer, a fantastic restaurant/pub up in Santa Cruz, California. I'm on somewhat of a quest to sample as many brown ales as possible, so on this trip, I didn't actually order any Stone brews. Instead, I opted for the Rubicon Maggie Brown and the Bear Republic Pete Brown Tribute Ale. The Maggie Brown was a little bit aggressive for my palate, but the Tribute Ale was near perfection. I'll definitely have to sample another... and another... If you're a fan of Newcastle (or any other brown ale), you should absolutely check this one out. If you're interested in more brown ales which are quite delicious -- and highly available -- you should drink deeply of Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale and Nectar Ales' Humboldt Hemp Ale (the hemp is NOT just a marketing ploy). I thank you for indulging me in allowing this non-cocktail post. And as always, I pray that whatever you drink, you drink well.

A couple of the bourbon barrels used for Stone's semi-new Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale. Above are some hops talked about on the tour.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Old Fashioned

There are a number of good reasons to begin discussion of cocktails with the Old Fashioned, not the least of which being that it just happens to be my favorite drink. While many are not familiar with this drink, they may be familiar with the short glass renamed after it. Let's get right into the recipe.

The Old Fashioned

1/4-1/2 oz. simple syrup*
1-3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 oz. whiskey

Stir all three ingredients well and pour into an Old Fashioned glass filled with large ice cubes. Garnish as desired with nearly any combination of orange slice/peel, lemon peel, and/or a cherry. Please be cautious with over-garnishing your Old Fashioned. If you believe yours requires a fruit salad to be added, serve it in a separate bowl with a fork or find another drink entirely.

The whiskey selected, by tradition, should be a bourbon or a rye. I generally use bourbon, although I have been known to experiment slightly. For a while, I was crazy about Irish Old Fashioneds, made with Bushmill's. Truly, though, one can use any liquor desired, even tequila.

And depending on the size of your glass, there may be a great deal of empty space remaining. I implore you, however, not to "top off" with soda water. This heinous practice seems to have stemmed from imprecise measures of water being recommended to help muddle sugar instead of using simple syrup. This, of course, leads us to our discussion of simple syrup.

*Simple syrup (sometimes called sugar syrup or bar syrup) is nothing more than sugar dissolved in water. This serves many purposes. Most obviously, there is no need to muddle a sugar cube and teaspoon or so of water together for 45 minutes per drink to avoid the grainy texture of undissolved sugar. Secondly, depending on muddling time and technique, much of the sugar content is likely to remain at the bottom of the glass until the final sip, creating an unbalanced drink during some, if not most, of the drinking experience. Thirdly, making your own simple syrup makes you feel like a real mixologist, even though all you did was mix sugar and water ahead of time.

Simple syrup is made by heating (but not boiling) one part water and slowly stirring in an equal part of sugar until dissolved. For a rich simple syrup (what I prefer), merely double the amount of sugar used. I use a pan on the stove top, but anything that heats water will work. Once everything is dissolved, pour the syrup into an air-tight bottle (a cleaned out liquor bottle works fine) and place in the fridge or cabinet. To lengthen the time before it starts to crystallize, simply add a splash of vodka. If you'd like to experiment, a myriad of different flavors can be used.

As for the bitters, don't bother making this drink if you don't have bitters. Go out and buy some. They're dirt cheap and they're available at BevMo, some liquor stores, and several grocery stores. If you've got them, it's also quite fun to experiment with using orange bitters and/or Peychaud bitters in this drink instead of (or in addition to) the Angostura. Whatever you do, don't leave them out entirely. This cocktail illustrates the perfect balance: Whiskey to make it strong, water to make it weak, Angostura to make it bitter, and sugar to make it sweet. Along with this comes the personal balance. Everybody likes their drinks a little bit different, so I encourage you to play around a little with the measurements until you find the perfect Old Fashioned for your tastes.

If you'd like more information on the Old Fashioned, Robert Hess does an excellent job in his look at the recipe and in his in-depth look at its history. If you'd prefer to watch a video with a charming old man (who makes a fantastic cocktail), Chris McMillian should do the job nicely.

Drink Well.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Drinks at the Doheny

The drinks at the Doheny were, of course, of a rather high caliber. Upon entering, my friend and I were greeted with a couple of Jalisco Flowers (found below in the Partido section). I scrounged up a slightly more detailed recipe as well:


1/2 oz reposado tequila
3/4 oz St. Germain
1 oz ruby grapefruit juice
2 - 2 1/2 oz champagne or prosecco

Combine the tequila, St. Germain and grapefruit juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne.

The tequila (possibly because it was reposado) was very well blended (no sharp agave, nor overly woody tastes). I must have been crazy though, because I could have sworn that the juice was at least partially pineapple. I guess I'll have to try more grapefruit/bubbly combinations. I've been wanting to try champagne with more varied juices in general, but now I'm intrigued about the grapefruit. The St. Germain seems to be a favorite of Vincenzo's (note its use in many of the other cocktails). He also seems to be quite enamored with ginger. But as long as he uses them well and stays with the freshly squeezed juices and promotion of the resurgence of bitters, I'm a big fan.

The event was a lecture on the history and basic concepts behind true cocktails and other alcoholic beverages. During the lecture, he created for each of those interested, a Pisco Sour and a Manhattan. The sour was mostly enjoyable to me simply because I had never tasted a Pisco before. The Manhattan, on the other hand, was quite tasty. In fact, it might just inspire me to soak my own cherries. The Doheny's were a little tastier than the store-bought jar I've been using. We'll see if this inspiration can help me overcome my laziness though.

After the lecture I also wanted to order a drink from the special menu prepared for the festivities. I went with the 10 Tangos (Rhum, Green Chartreuse, St Germain, orange bitters, egg white, and ginger beer). Quite a tasty treat. Perhaps even light enough for a laid back brunch. Regardless, an excellent variation on the sour.

For those interested, here's the entire drink menu made up for the week:



CORPSE REVIVER # 2 (Classic)
Plymouth Gin - fresh lemon juice - lillet bland - Cointreau

Plymouth - Carpano Antica - Fernet Branca

POSITANO (Vincenzo’s original)
Strawberry – Plymouth - Campari - fresh lemon juice - champagne

SPRING COLLINS (Vincenzo’s original)
Blackberries, mint leaves – Plymouth - Massanez Crème the Mure -fresh lemon juice - Pomegranate syrup - Bundaberg Ginger beer


Partida Reposado -fresh lime - agave nectar

EL DIABLO (Classic)
Partida Blanco - Massanez Crème de cassis - limejuice - Ginger Ale

JALISCO FLOWER (Vincenzo’s original)
Partida reposado - St Germain - fresh grapefruit juice - champagne

PANCIO VILLA (Vincenzo’s original)
Partida Anejo - Campari - Aperol - orange bitter


Sagatiba - lime - sugar

Sagatiba - fresh lemon juice - whole passion fruit

GISELLE (Vincenzo’s original)
Blackberries - mint - Sagatiba - Massenez Crème de Cassis - fresh lemon juice - homemade agave ginger syrup - Champagne

RIO (Vincenzo’s original)
Basil leaves – Sagatiba - Carpano Antica formula - limejuice -homemade agave-ginger syrup - pineapple juice


RATTLESNAKE (from Patrick Gavin Duffy 1940)
Makers Mark - fresh lemon juice - egg white - Pernod

Maker’s Mark - fresh limejuice - Carpano Formula Antica

DOWNTOWN SOUR (Vincenzo’s original)
Maker’s Mark - Marie Brizard Apry – homemade vanilla syrup - fresh lemon juice - egg white - Taylor 20 yrs Port

DIVA (Vincenzo’s original)
Maker’s Mark - Mozart Black Chocolate liqueur – Campari - orange bitter


PISCO SOUR (Classic)
Barsol Pisco - fresh lime – homemade simple syrup - egg white

BarSol Pisco - fresh lemon juice - Organic pineapple juice -soda

PERUVIAN PASO (Vincenzo’s original)
Barsol Pisco -St Germain - lemon juice - homemade agave-ginger syrup - egg white - organic Acai juice - Bundaberg Ginger beer

BELLA NICOLE (Vincenzo’s original)
Black seedless grape - basil leaves - Barsol Pisco - Marie brizar Apry - fresh lemon juice - home made Honey syrup


BEACHCOMBER (from Patrick Gavin Duffy 1940)
Depaz – Cointreau - fresh lime - Maraschino liqueur

SANTIAGO (Savoy cocktail book 1930)
Depaz - fresh lime - homemade grenadine

MARTINIQUE ROSE (Vincenzo’s original)
Depaz - Amaretto DiSaronno - fresh limejuice - almond syrup - fresh ruby grapefruit

10 TANGOS (Vincenzo’s original)
Depaz - Green Chartreuse - St Germain - orange bitter - egg white - Bundaberg Ginger beer


Thanks to the Museum of the American Cocktail for the above reproduction of the menu (I forgot to snag one on my way out -- with permission of course). Anyway, I've got a lot of new ingredients and recipes to try out and play around with. I trust that we all do.

Drink Well.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Christening

In honor of the holiday yesterday I decided to finally create this blog as well as give myself a special cocktail treat. More on that, shortly, but first... For those of you who are unaware of the holiday in question, May 13 is commemorated every year by mixologists and cocktail enthusiasts all around the world as it marks the date just over two hundred years ago when the word "cocktail" was first defined (or at least the first definition not lost to the sands of time). That fateful day the world learned that a cocktail is composed of four ingredients: any spirit, water, sugar, and bitters. While the word has since then garnered a much broader semantic range, purists will not refer to any beverage without all four as a cocktail. The vast majority of what is today referred to as a cocktail, while possessing the first three, do not (and should not) contain bitters. There are many types of bitters available for purchase at a variety of stores and websites. The most common is Angostura bitters, which can be found quite easily, even at major grocery stores. It is a necessary ingredient in a proper Martini, Manhattan, and (my personal favorite) the Old-fashioned.

Now that we've discussed the importance of the holiday, let's get to my special treat. Living in L.A., I'm often unable to walk in to a bar and receive a drink worth the $10 I handed the "bartender" waiting to hit it big in acting/writing/(insert some other job that will never happen). I apologize. I have a bit of a distaste for the adulteration of our trade by those who don't want to be practicing it to begin with, but I digress. There are a rare few fantastic watering holes in the area, one in particular which makes mouths water. I'm talking about the ultra-premium, the highly exclusive, The Doheny. That's right, last night, the elite members-only club was graced with the presence of yours truly. To honor the holiday, Vincenzo, the head mixologist gave a short lecture complete with some fantastic drinks, and luckily I was in the intimate crowd of two dozen or so. Any other night, The Doheny would be closed to the likes of me. In fact, to become a member, one has to drop north of two grand for the initiation fee as well as an annual fee, also north of the two grand mark. In short, if you're planning on walking in that door for the first time, you'd better bring $4950 in addition to what you plan on spending on drinks. Did I mention that the drinks generally run in the $20 range? There even exists a house rule declaring the inappropriateness of ordering anything using Red Bull. The rules may seem a little over-the-top, but they serve a certain purpose, and they serve it well. This is one classy joint. Oh, the Doheny also sells drinks. More on that later.

Drink Well.