Aperol spritz and cantaloupe martini.
Cocktail Menu, spirits, and wine list on iPads at Cork in Chandler.
I’m currently reading, “Cosmopolitan: A Bartender’s Life,” by Toby Cecchini.
While a lot of the passages are entertaining and interesting, the following regarding his father’s gin & tonic ritual was one of the most vivid.
“One of my fondest running memories I have of growing up is arrival in his kitchen after the long, stuffy Greyhound bus ride from Madison and sitting to chat with him while he prepared drinks. He would take down a tall crystal pitcher and pour it almost a quarter full of gin. For years we had an ongoing polemic about which gin to use. He used to claim all gin was simply grain neutral spirits spiked with juniper and that it made no difference which one you used. One visit, then, I brought up a bottle of Tanqueray and won that argument handily. Taking fat limes at room temperature, he would need them in the ball of his hand against the cutting board, setting the intoxicating aroma tumbling through the room. This brings the citrus oil to the surface, he explained, and allows the gin to act as a solvent, removing and incorporating it into the drink. He He would cut them in half, juice them, and set the juice aside. He would slice the rinds into thin strips, which he then dumped into the gin and pummeled a bit with a pestle. The juice was added to cause further extraction. At this point he would invariably swirl the pitcher under my nose and declare solemnly, ‘You could wear this as cologne!’
“While that marriage was left to macerate for a few minutes, he would then take large ice cubes and, palming them lightly, thwack them expertly with the back of a heavy spoon, just once, whereupon they would obediently crumble into perfect shards, which he would scatter into the pitcher until it was half full or so with aromatic lime granita. I always marveled at the elan with which he pulled off that simple action; my efforts at duplicating this maneuver always end with me bludgeoning the recalcitrant glacier mercilessly as chips fly helter skelter.
“He would remove the tonic from its chilling and pour it gingerly, on a slant, down the side of the pitcher, stirring it cursorily with a tall glass want, just so the gin, which rises to the top, gets distributed; you don’t want to jostle that life-giving fizz out of it. We would take glasses from the freezer, garnished with fresh lime rounds for aesthetics, and carry the whole works like an Easter processional on a try out to the front porch. In the late-norther twilight with my first drink as a young man, chatting with my dad, I could feel the tie to civilization, the history in this lovely laying down of one’s burdens at the day’s close.”
Who could read that and NOT desire a Gin & Tonic?
The Gin & Tonic is an interesting bird. You’ll never really find a recipe or method for making one in a cocktail book. Like the Pimm’s Cup, I guess it is just too simple to be included with more complicated cocktails.
On the other hand…
When we were in Spain a few years ago, we were trying to get in to the Dry Martini Bar. Unfortunately, they had a private event, so we went across the Street to Peter’s Tavern and ordered Gin & Tonics. The ritual with which the bartender prepared 4 Gin & Tonics rivaled the Sazerac in its complexity. I was totally blown away by the grace and elegance with which he prepared the seemingly ‘simple’ drink. First the frilled beverage napkins were placed upon the bar in front of us. Then the bartender pulled out chilled glasses and hand selected cubes with tongs to fill each glass. Placing the glasses in front of him, he first poured the gin. A lot of Gin. Then he gently poured the tonic (Schweppe’s Indian) down the side. He stirred each gently, then, using tongs added the straws and lemon garnish. Finally he placed each glass in front of us to enjoy.
So let’s try and translate Mr Cecchini, the younger’s, rather large block of text into a recipe.
First, there are four components in a Gin and Tonic.
Gin: Other types of Gin are interesting, but when making a Gin & Tonic, I’m afraid I have to insist on a stiff, Juniper forward, traditional London Dry Gin, made in England. In the US, your choices of traditional London Dry Gin made in England are basically Beefeater, Plymouth, and Tanqueray. As we can see above, Mr Cecchini, the younger, favors Tanqueray, and I do not disagree. (If you must use an American Gin, about the only two, (I’ve tried,) which hew fairly closely to the London Dry blueprint are Anchor’s Junipero and Death’s Door Gin.) Regarding the amount of Gin, you will often find people rather overpour the Gin & Tonic. I prefer to stick to 1 1/2 oz per person and a highball glass on the smaller size. Otherwise, the drink waters down before you finish.
Tonic: The classic Tonic is Schweppes Indian Tonic, but it is rather hard to come by in the US and also tends to be priced at a premium. As a rule, when possible, I avoid anything with High Fructose Corn Syrup or Agave Nectar, so this leaves me with Fever Tree or Stirrings, which are also not cheap. I personally prefer Fever Tree, but your mileage may vary.
Ice: As Mr Cecchini, senior, cracked his ice, so shall we. I make cubes in my Tovolo King Cube Ice trays and then crack them into shards and cubes with a lovely japanese ice pick, purchased from Cocktail Kingdom.
Citrus Garnish: In some parts of Europe, you are far more likely to find your Gin & Tonic garnished with lemon than the lime more common in America. I prefer lime, I guess because it is what I am used to, though lemon is ok in a pinch. Mr Cecchini, senior’s, recipe is the first I’ve seen where the juice is quite literally separated from the skins in the drink. Interesting, I’ll give it a try. Also, do note you will get more juice out of a lime if it is at room temperature.
Gin & Tonic for Two a la pere Cecchini
3 oz London Dry Gin
about 7 oz Tonic (or one 200ml bottle)
Lime Wheel for Garnish (optional)
METHOD: Peel limes longitudinally (from top to bottom). Squeeze peels into a mixing glass or pitcher and drop in. Add Gin to mixing glass. Juice lime and add to mixing glass, should be between 1/2 to 3/4 oz lime juice. If your limes are sad and dry, you may need more than 1. Crack ice and add to mixing glass. Ice two collins glasses, no more than 12 oz. Stir gin and lime juice briefly and strain into two glasses. Pour tonic down the side of the glasses to nearly fill and stir gently. Garnish with lime wheels and serve immediately.
To be honest, one of my favorite things about this recipe is that it is for two. Individual cocktails are cool, but making pitchers of cocktails is even better, especially for loved ones and friends. And this is quite delicious, almost more like a Gin Rickey with Tonic than what I usually associate with GNT. However, I’m not going to be a stickler when the results are this appealing.
Especially when served as an aperitif before a classic Flannestad fall dinner for two like: Arborio Rice with Butternut Squash and Mushrooms. Grilled Sausages. Red Romaine salad with Fuyu Persimmon in a white wine, sage, and scallion dressing.
Bonus picture of Monty the Dog at Fort Funston! Ball!
Ridiculously expensive drinks, barrel aged cocktails, cocktail tasting menus, and ‘molecular mixology’ are all well and good, but to me the most exciting recent development in American cocktail culture is the neighborhood bar with decent, and usually relatively reasonably priced, cocktails.
We are lucky to have at least two such establishments within slightly aerobic, (our neighborhood is called Bernal HEIGHTS,) walking distance of our house. The first to open was Royal Cuckoo near Mission and Valencia. A fun establishment, they have many of the trendy accoutrements of craft cocktail bars: Curated LP selection, taxidermy, and an organ built into the bar.
The second to open in our neighborhood opened a little less than a year ago across the street from the established Southern American Comfort Food restaurant, Front Porch at 29th Street & Tiffany. Opened by the same partners that opened Front Porch, Rock Bar moved into the space that housed the dubious International Club and is rather interestingly Geologically, Minerally, and Mining themed.
They also have a jukebox curated by the nearby Aquarius Records staff, a pool table, and several exciting theme nights including Football on Sunday, Ping Pong on Monday, Teacher Tuesday, and Films Played Silently on Wednesday. The night I stopped by they were playing Buster Keaton shorts.
I did mention it was Minerally themed?
Anyway, two of the best things about Rock Bar, are first, that you can put your name in at Front Porch, and then retire to Rock Bar, while you wait for your table. Front Porch, being a small and rather popular restaurant, is often busy, so a place to retire and chat is always nice. However, secondly, waiting an extended period with only drinks and no nutrients can be dangerous, so you are allowed to call over to Front Porch for take out, and they will deliver it to Rock Bar, such as this Big Bucket of Mixed Fry Up, including Chicken Wings, Okra, Pickles, and Potatoes.
I recently stopped in to try some of their new fall cocktails and chat with the staff. Bar manager Brion Rosch started me off with a story.
“When I opened the bar, I told our co-owner Kevin Cline that I wanted to have Cocchi Americano. He kind of freaked out. He had previously worked at Bix, where someone had briefly had an infatuation with Cocchi Americano. Every month Kevin had to do an inventory and count the many bottles of Cocchi Americano, some still old enough to have tax stamps, and could never figure out a way to sell it. So I’m going to start you out with a drink a created as a tribute to Kevin and his time at Bix, on Gold Street, in San Francisco. It’s called the Gold Street Cocktail and is Plymouth Gin, Cocchi Americano, and Angostura Bitters.”
Dry and delicious, this is a Martini on steroids.
The second drink we tried was his Fall Pisco Punch. The traditional Pisco Punch’s most basic elements are Pisco, Citrus, and Pineapple. He’s keeping the Pisco and Lime, but has made a sort of custom sweetener by combining Small Hand Foods Pineapple Gum, Allspice Dram, and other secret ingredients. Definitely has that fall, Christmas spice feel.
“Kevin was giving me a hard time about how many fall drinks we’re using Allspice Dram in.”
I told Brion, I actually think it is a requirement for all fall drinks.
Lastly, we tried Brion’s most recent concoction, The Old Sage. This drink started as a variation on an Old Fashioned, using St George Spirits Dry Rye Gin as a base. A couple iterations later, and somehow egg white ended up in the drink. That day, they had gotten in some awesome new organic Sage over at Front Porch. When co-owner Josey White tried the drink, she suggested Brion include some sage with the Dry Rye in the drink. I was pretty impressed by how well the flavor of pungent sage combined with the St George Dry Rye. Sweet and savory at the same time, this would be a fun after dinner drink.
If you find yourself in the outer Mission/Bernal Heights area, do stop by Rock Bar. Good drinks, good beer, friendly folks, and more Minerals & Crystals than you are likely to find in any other bar in the world.
Some successful experiments from this Week at Heaven’s Dog.
The Delicious Sour
A goblet with the juice of one lime,
a squirt of seltzer,
a spoonful of sugar,
1/2 of apple-jack,
1/2 of peach brandy,
the white of one egg.
Fill your glass with ice, shake well, strain, and serve.
However, for some reason I misremembered and substituted Beefeater Gin for the Apple Brandy Schmidt calls for. Well, it is a very “Savoy Cocktail Book” thing to do, combine Brandy and Gin.
Delicious Sour, London Style
1 oz London Dry Gin
1 oz Kuchan Indian Blood Peach Eau-de-Vie
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Simple
1/2 oz Egg White
Dry Shake, Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass, twist lemon peel over and discard.
Turns out it is still delicious, though I think it might be even better with Genever than with Dry Gin.
A customer asked for an after dinner cocktail and I thought of the Fox River from the Savoy Cocktail Book.
Fox River Cocktail, Adapted from Savoy Cocktail Book
1 1/2 oz Bonded Rye
scant 1/4 oz Tempus Fugit Creme de Cacao
1/4 oz Punt e Mes
2 dash Miracle Mile Peach Bitters #3
Stir briefly and strain over a big rock. Grate over fresh nutmeg.
He enjoyed enough to ask for another.
My friend Louis Anderman makes Miracle Mile Bitters in Los Angeles. He recently completed some barrel aged Forbidden Bitters as a side project from bottled cocktails which he is briefly aging in barrels which have been seasoned with his bitters.
They are forbidden because they include tonka bean which is not considered GRAS by the FDA. Tonka bean has the substance Coumarin, a blood thinner.
They are an old fashioned Boker’s or Abbot’s Clone, great in Old Fashioneds or Improved Holland Gin Cocktails. Also, f-ing awesome in the new car, I believe this may be the platonic ideal for this cocktail:
1 oz Oro Torontel Pisco
1 oz Ransom Whippersnapper Whiskey
1 oz Dolin Blanc
2 dash Miracle Mile Barrel Aged Forbidden Bitters (Or regular MM Forbidden Bitters. If not forbidden, something like the Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters.)
Stir briefly and strain over a big rock. Squeeze lemon peel over and discard.
Along with Jennifer Colliau, of Small Hand Foods, I appear in a recent blog entry and video on the K&L Wines’ Spirits Journal Website.
It’s a wide ranging discussion covering cocktails, spirits, ingredients and recipes. Check it out!
One of our regular guests dropped in and asked for something “Whiskey, bitter, and sour.” She reminded me, I had last made her the often unjustly ignored Los Angeles Cocktail.
Little Los Angeles Fizz
3/4 oz Cynar
3/4 oz Punt e Mes
3/4 oz Bonded Bourbon
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup (or to taste)
3/4 oz Egg White
Briefly shake vigorously without ice. Add ice and shake until well chilled. Strain half mixed drink into fizz glass. Add splash soda to remaining unstrained mixture and strain on top of drink. Squeeze lemon peel over drink and discard.
I delivered the cocktail with a comment that is was, “A Los Angeles Cocktail turned up to 11.”
…Where Angels Fear to Tread.
In his book, “The Gentleman’s Companion,” Charles Baker includes a drink called an Angostura Fizz.
THE ANGOSTURA FIZZ, sometimes Called the Trinidad Fizz, Being a Receipt Gleaned from One of Our Friends Piloting the Big Brazilian Clipper from Here to Trinidad & Rio & on South to “B.A.”
This mild fizz is again like the initial olive sampling; either it suits or it doesn’t, and subsequent trials often show sudden shift to appreciation. It is a well-known stomachic along the humid shores of Trinidad, in British Guiana; wherever the climate is hot and the humidity high, and stomachs stage sit-down strikes and view all thought of food–present or future–with entire lack of enthusiasm. Further than this, the cinchona bark elixir in the Angostura, the other herbs and valuable simples, are a definite first line defense against malaria and other amoebic fevers–especially in warding off their after effect in later months when all actual peril is past.
Take 1 pony of Angostura Bitters, add 1 tsp of sugar or grenadine, the juice of 1/2 lemon or 1 lime, the white of 1 egg, and 1 tbsp of thick cream–or slightly less. Shake with cracked ice like a cocktail, turn into a goblet and fill to suit individual taste with club soda, seltzer, vichy, or whatever lures the mind. Vary the sweet also, to suit taste. It is a very original, cooling drink as well as a valuable tonic to those dwelling in hot countries. Garnish with sticks of ripe fresh pineapple, always.
Uh, right, Baker at his verbose best, how about this for some less romantic simplification:
1 pony Angostura Bitters (Baker’s “Pony” is an ounce)
1 tsp sugar or Grenadine (to taste)
Juice of 1/2 Lemon or 1 Lime
1 Egg White
1 tbsp thick Cream
Shake with cracked ice and pour into a goblet. Fill with club soda, seltzer, or vichy (to taste). Garnish with a pieces of pineapple.
A few years ago, an Italian Bartender named Valentino Bolognese won some cocktail competitions with an Angostura heavy Pisco Sour sweetened with Orgeat.
1 oz Angostura Aromatic bitters
1 oz orgeat syrup
2/3 oz lime juice
1/3 oz Pisco Mistral
Shake well with ice and fine strain in to a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime zest twist.
Even more recently, Guiseppe Gonzalez came up with a variation on the Trinidad Especial for the New York Bar The Clover Club with, what else, Rye Whiskey instead of Pisco:
1 oz Angostura Aromatic bitters
1 oz orgeat syrup
¾ oz lemon juice
½ oz rye
Shake well with ice and fine strain in to a cocktail glass.
Last night one of our regular guests came in, wanting something to drink but feeling like his previous drinks, and dinner, hadn’t agreed with him. He wanted “Something Fizzy”.
With all those drinks mashed together in my head, I figured I could make him an Angostura Fizz. And indeed, it seemed to fix him right up!
1/2 oz Angostura Bitters
1 oz White Demerara Rum
3/4 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz Simple Syrup (or to taste)
1/2 oz Egg White
Shake Bitters, Rum, Lime, Simple Syrup, and Egg White together vigorously without ice. Add ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a Fizz Glass and top with chilled soda water.
Before heading to work the other day, I was reading through Rogue and Beta Cocktails, looking for some improvements to my “Whiskey, Spirituous” game, and glanced at The Defend Arrack by Maksym Pazuniak. Looked cool, but whenever am I going to get a chance to make a, “Batavia Arrack, Bartender’s Choice”?
But then a bartender type came in Monday night, relatively new to the game, and asked if he could try Batavia Arrack, “…and maybe could I make him a cocktail?”
What sort of bizarre coincidence is this?
The Defend Arrack
1 1/2 oz Batavia Arrack
3/4 oz Marie Brizard Apry
3/4 oz lime Juice
1/8 oz St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
Orange twist (garnish)
Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Express the oil from one orange twist onto the surface of the drink and discard.
“Batavia Arrack is a challenging spirit. Funky and pungent, this doesn’t mix easily. When encountering an animal like this, I like to turn to Apry, a magic liqueur that has an uncanny ability to reign in and blend disparate flavors. /Maks”
Note, Apry has been a bit thin on the ground in California recently, so I used the Rothman & Winter Apricot Liqueur. I found I needed to up the amount slightly, as it is not quite as assertive as the Apry is. Nothing near an ounce, but a generous 3/4 oz. Your Mileage May Vary.
Do give that a nice vigorous shake, as well.
I believe you will be surprised how, as the nouveau bartender put it, “more-ish” this seemingly unlikely combination proves to be.
I’ve always liked the Rum drink called “3 Dots and a Dash” but never learned to make it.
A sort of Rum Punch, it is a delicious mix of potent rum flavors and drinkability.
3 Dots and a Dash
1 1/2 oz Neissen Ambre Rhum
1/2 oz El Dorado 5 Year Demerara Rum
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Orange Juice
scant 1/2 oz Honey Mix*
1/4 oz John Taylor Falernum
1/4 oz St Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
1 scoop crushed ice (about 6 oz)
Blend or shake very well, until the outside of the mixing tin or glass frosts. Pour into a collins glass and garnish with a pineapple spear and 3 cherries.
*Honey Mix: Combine Honey 1-1 with warm water and shake to combine.
Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of 3 Dots and a Dash, so this Tabouleh will have to suffice:
I was looking through the fridge the other day and noticed I had a rather large, and totally forgotten, bag of uncooked bulgur wheat towards the back. Realized I hadn’t made Tabouleh in quite a while, so I figured now that tomatoes are starting to come into season, it would make a fine side salad for a roasted chicken.
Tabouleh is an interesting salad to play with, I’ve had them made all over the map. From basically all Parsley to almost entirely Bulgur. It’s sort of left to your interpretation. The mandatory elements, to me anyway, are: Cooked Bulgur Wheat, Parsley, Tomatoes, and olive oil. After that, the sky’s the limit.
Cook bulgur wheat according to the directions on the package it came in. Cool Bulgur, draining if necessary. Get out a large bowl. Finely mince a clove or two of garlic, pour in a couple tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice. Add a similar amount of olive oil. Chop your herbage and add it, being quite generous. Sometimes this dish is more an herb condiment than a salad. Chop a ripe and tasty tomato and throw it in with the herbs and garlic. Slice a green onion or two and add. Salt generously and toss to mix. Peel and chop a cucumber, (or other crispy vegetable,) and add. Toss again and check seasoning. Add bulgur wheat, maybe some crumbled feta cheese, and freshly ground pepper. Toss, allow to stand at room temperature for flavors to marry.
It is really easy to scale this up and down, it makes a totally classic hippie dish for a potluck. In fact, I believe, in certain cities, like Madison, WI and Berkeley, CA, if, through a bizarre set of coincidences, someone fails to bring Tabouleh as a “Dish to Pass”, all you have to do is close your eyes and say, “Tabouleh,” and it will appear on the table.
It’s a little bit of an odd drink, most drinks are made with the bulk of their ingredients being Spirits.
With Eeyore’s Requiem, it is kind of the reverse. Most of the drink is various bitter Italian liqueurs, or Amaros, and vermouth with the minor part of the drink being Gin.
I later learned that the cocktail was created by Toby Maloney, aka Alchemist on eGullet.org, for The Violet Hour. The recipe was published in a few places, including Serious Eats and eGullet.org.
1 1/2 oz Campari
1 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
1/2 oz Dry Gin
1/4 oz Cynar
1/4 oz Fernet Branca
15 drops Miracle Mile Orange Bitters
Stir on ice until well chilled and strain into a cocktail glass. Express a peel of an orange over the glass, and garnish with a ‘pig tail’ orange peel.
To make the ‘pig tail’ orange garnish, start with a whole orange. Using a channel knife cut, make continuous spiral cut of peel, as you can see in the picture above.
For all the rough and tumble of the bitter ingredients of this drink, it is surprisingly smooth.
For what is is worth, it’s a bit rich, maybe a better after dinner, than before, dinner drink.
Or if you’re serving it before, lighten it with a bit of sparkling water or wine.
In either case, it is delicious!