SF Chefs Unite

SF Chefs Unite

On May 7th & 8th a line up of top San Francisco chefs will create a meal you can’t get anywhere else. Join us for a cocktail reception, a 6 course Japanese inspired meal with beer, sake, wine and cocktail pairings from some of the best in the business, while perusing the silent auction for local goodies. It’s a night to mix and mingle with some people in your community while helping a great cause.

Leaving aside the worthiness of the cause, if someone asks you if you would like to help out at a benefit featuring chefs which include: Michael Black (Sebo), Danny Bowien (Mission Chinese Food), Jake Godby (Humphry Slocombe), Jordan Grosser (Stag Dining), Robbie Lewis (Bon Appetit), Richie Nakano (Hapa Ramen), and Chat Newton (American Box) you really don’t say no. These are some of the most important names among San Francisco’s Restaurant and chef scene. What I’ve seen of the menu looks off the charts!

I’ll be contributing a punch to be served during the Cocktail Hour and silent auction which precedes the dinner. There will also be beer pairings by Jesse Friedman (of Beer and Nosh and Sodacraft), Wine and Sake pairings from Alex Fox and Alex Finberg, and Cocktails from Scott Baird and Josh Harris of Bon Vivants.

Whenever I’ve made my variations on Jerry Thomas’ California Milk Punch, I’ve always been struck by how similar the ingredients are to the famous San Francisco drink known as “Pisco Punch”.

While most people these days make Pisco Punch a la minute, especially since we have Small Hand Foods Pineapple Gum Syrup at hand, it was originally a real Punch, prepared in a large batch and served out of a bowl.

When they asked me to contribute a Punch for the SF Chefs Unite Benefit, I returned to the quintessential San Francisco Beverage, and decided to return it to its roots.

I called up Encanto Pisco, and they agreed to donate some of their most excellent Pisco for the cause.

Here’s the plan, in a slightly smaller volume recipe:

SanFranPisco Punch

2 Bottles Encanto Pisco
1/2 Bottle Batavia Arrack

1 TBSP Coriander Seed, Crushed
6 Whole Cloves, Crushed
2 Cassia Cinnamon Stick

6 Lemons

16 oz Water
16 oz Sugar
4 tsp Japanese Sencha Green Tea

1 Quart Straus Farms Milk

Zest citrus and add zest to Pisco and Batavia Arrack. Juice Lemons and add to aforementioned liquid. Add Spices. Allow to infuse for 48 hours.

Heat water and add tea. Steep 6 minutes and stir in sugar. Strain tea leaves out of syrup and chill.

Strain Peels and Spices out of Liquid. Juice other two lemons and add to Flavored Booze Mixture. Heat milk to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Add to Flavored Booze Mixture. Allow to stand undisturbed for 30 minutes and filter through cheesecloth, removing milk solids. Add Tea Syrup to filtered booze mixture and pour into clean containers. Allow to stand for a couple days. Rack clear liquid off of any accumulated sediment into clean bottles and store. Chill well before serving. Serve on ice and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. Makes about a gallon.

I hope to see you there!

Ben Franklin’s Milk Punch

Just so you know I’m not completely nuts, here is Ben Franklin’s recipe for Milk Punch, circa 1763, via documents on the Massachusetts Historical Society website.

Ben Franklin’s Milk Punch

Franklin’s Milk Punch recipe shares characteristics of two types of beverages–possets and syllabubs. Possets combine hot milk with ale, wine, or brandy, sugar, and spices. Heat and alcohol curdle the milk. Possets were used as remedies for colds, and were consumed from the spout of a posset cup, which let one drink the whey from the bottom and eat the curd later. Syllabubs combine milk with wine and lemon juice (or other acids); the acid from the wine and juice curdle the milk. Served in a glass, the foamy curd of the syllabub is eaten with a spoon and the punch drunk.

To make Milk Punch

Take 6 quarts of Brandy, and the Rinds of 44 Lemons pared very thin; Steep the Rinds in the Brandy 24 hours; then strain it off. Put to it 4 Quarts of Water, 4 large Nutmegs grated, 2 quarts of Lemon Juice, 2 pound of double refined Sugar. When the Sugar is dissolv’d, boil 3 Quarts of Milk and put to the rest hot as you take it off the Fire, and stir it about. Let it stand two Hours; then run it thro’ a Jelly-bag till it is clear; then bottle it off. —

As you can see, I’m not taking too many liberties! The brandy would have been cask strength at the time, thus I feel OK using a bit less liquid. I have to say, though, he was pretty liberal with the citrus!

Atholl Brose

When I was telling some public transport acquaintances, (riding the same bus, at the same time for several years, eventually even a taciturn curmudgeon like myself meets some people,) about my recent adventures in Milk Punch, they mentioned that it sounded similar to a traditional drink they sometimes make called Atholl Brose.

Given my long term interest in Grain Based Beverages and Food Stuffs, Atholl Brose had always tweaked my interest, but never really enough to research and undertake production. I mean, Honey, Scotch, Oats and Cream, how could it be bad?

But to back track a bit…

Almost every civilized human culture on the planet has some form of grain based beverage. After all, soaking grain in water is the easiest way to derive some small portion of nutrition from it.

The New World has its corn based beverages, which vary in substance and sweetness all the way from liquidy beverages to puddings and eventually forming the basis for tortillas.

Likewise, in Asia, rice and soybeans get this treatment, creating a spectrum of nutrient rich foodstuffs from beverages and porridges to noodles and cakes.

Europe was no different, basing many of its grain beverages on Barley. To this day, you can buy Barley Water beverages at UK import stores and someone might think to make a batch for their senile old uncle who lives somewhere in the attic. Easier to digest than bread.

(At this point, I shall skip a long digression regarding the evolution of Barley Water to the Almond based Syrup which eventually came to be known as Orgeat. I instead refer you to the writeup of the talk I gave at Tales of the Cocktail in 2008: Homemade Ingredients. Most of that information is covered there.)

In Scotland, Oats and Barley were grains of choice, but much of the culinary energy was spent making the Oat palatable. Oats and Oatmeal are used nearly across the board as porridge, cake, and in a few cases beverages.

One of the most famous of these beverages is Atholl Brose, a drink composed of Oats, Honey, Cream, and, nicely, Scotch Whisky.

The name is a two part word. The Brose part of the name refers to the Oatmeal Water leftover from soaking oats. A nominally nutritious beverage, which only becomes palatable if you roast the oats and sweeten it with honey or sugar. Atholl refers to one of the original Pictish kingdoms of Scotland. It was a mountainous region, and calling the beverage “Atholl Brose” was sort of like calling it “Back Country Brose” or “Mountain Brose”, in other words, where the Whisky Stills were.

In any case, a little liquor and honey will put that annoying dyspeptic Uncle to sleep a bit faster than plain old Oat Water!

Scanning the Internet, I didn’t find much commonality among the various recipes for Atholl Brose.

Some were trifle-like puddings, others beverages, some just spiked porridge.

I figured I might as well try my own hand at a variation, using ingredients I like.

1 Cup Goat’s Milk
2 TBSP SF Beekeeper’s Honey
2 TBSP Toasted Steel Cut Oats*

Scald Milk. Stir in Honey and Oats. Allow to stand over night. Strain oats out of liquid and discard. Warm and combine 2-1 with not too expensive Scotch.

*To toast steel cut oats, either put them in a dry pan over low heat and toss frequently until they smell toasty or pre-heat an oven to 325F, spread the oats on a sheet pan, and put in the oven, tossing occasionally, until they smell toasted.

Huh, that’s actually tasty! I started adding it to my coffee in the morning and to whatever other Alcoholic Spirits were handy at night. For the record: Scotch=Awesome. Bourbon=Awesome. Rum=OK. Irish Whiskey=Meh. Rye=Meh. It is even good warm or hot with no booze at all.

But I was soon out of that small batch of Brose and felt a twang of guilt about discarding the Oats. It nagged at my conscience as it just seemed out of the spirit of the Scots people and their famous thriftiness to discard the partially used oats.

So I made a larger batch.

Atholl Brose

1 quart Goat Milk
1 Cup Toasted Steel Cut Oats
1 Cup Decent Local Honey (It should be sweet on par with a liqueur.)

Scald Milk. Stir in Honey and Oats. Allow to stand over night. Strain oats out of liquid and reserve.

Use Brose to sweeten your coffee, drink, whatever.

The Oats can then be cooked for porridge:

Preheat oven to 300 F. Combine Drained Oats with 3 Cups Water. Bring to a simmer in oven proof pan. Cover and place in oven. Cook for an hour or so. Spoon into bowls. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers and microwave for quick oatmeal during the week.

I might add, this is definitely the most successful preparation of Steel Cut Oats I have yet made. Good texture and body with very little crunchiness. Definitely a way forward with an ingredient I have found stubborn in the past.

And to finish, I will quote Father Jack Crilly, a dyspeptic, alcoholic invalid if there ever was one. “DRINK! FECK! ARSE! GIRLS! CAKE!”

Small-ish Orgeat Recipe

The last time I wrote down a successful Orgeat recipe, it was for the batch I made for Tales of the Cocktail in 2008. It was rather large.

Orgeat–Tales Version

I recently made a much smaller version for Savoy Night at Alembic Bar, and it turned out well.

Mostly writing this down so I don’t forget.

Orgeat On a Small Scale

16 ounces Water
16 ounces (by weight) sugar
4 ounces (by weight) Whole Almonds, Pulsed to coarse grind in food processor

1 Tablespoon Brandy
1/2 tsp Natural Almond Extract
A couple drops Orange Flower Water

Dissolve sugar in water over low flame. Add almonds and bring up to 140 degrees. Hold it at 140 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cool and refrigerate over night. Filter almonds out of syrup, squeezing to remove as much liquid as possible. Add Brandy, Almond Extract, and Orange Flower Water. Bottle in a clean sanitized bottle and refrigerate. Makes a bit less than 750ml.

Notes: I did not blanch and remove the skins from the almonds this time. Some “friends” had suggested blanching was an unnecessary step, as they detected no tannic or bitter character from. the skins. Well, this is true, there is no detectable tannic or bitter character from the skins, however there is a lot of pigment. Unless it is cool with you that your orgeat is the color of porter and the drinks made with it look like dishwater, I would recommend blanching.

A lot of people these days recommend roasting the almonds before using them to make your orgeat. I’m on the fence about that. It does give it a more intense flavor, but I think it covers up some of the floral and cherry notes of the pure almond flavor. However, I have yet to give it a try myself, maybe with the next batch.

Bernal Heights Milk Punch, Holidays 2010

Been making variations on Jerry Thomas’ California Milk Punch since June of 2009.

This is a citrus centric Milk Punch, not unlike 2009’s ‘Sconnie Punch.

Bernal Heights Milk Punch, Holidays 2010

1 Bottle Osocalis Brandy
1/2 Bottle Batavia Arrack
1/3 Bottle Coruba Jamaican Rum
2/3 Bottle Barbancourt White Rum
Peel 4 Grapefruit
Peel 8 Lemon
Peel 1 Orange
2 teaspoon Cardamom Pods, crushed
2 teaspoon Coriander Seed, crushed
2 Cassia Cinnamon Sticks
20 oz Water
16 oz Sugar
4 tsp. Hubei Silver Tip Green Tea

1 Quart Straus Farms Whole Milk

Zest citrus and add zest to Brandy, Rums, and Arrack. Juice Oranges, Grapefruit and 6 Lemons, strain, and add to aforementioned liquid. Add Spices. Allow to infuse for at least 48 hours.

Heat water and add tea. Steep 6 minutes and stir in sugar. Strain tea leaves out of syrup and chill.

Strain Peels and Spices out of Liquid. Juice other two lemons and add to Flavored Booze Mixture. Heat milk to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Add to Flavored Booze Mixture. Allow to stand undisturbed for 30 minutes and filter through cheesecloth, removing milk solids. Add Tea Syrup to filtered booze mixture and pour into clean containers. Allow to stand for a couple days*. Rack clear liquid off of any accumulated sediment into clean bottles and store. Chill well before serving. Serve on ice and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. Makes about 3 quarts.

*If you have space in your refrigerator, storing the punch chilled will greatly accelerate the separation of the remaining milk solids from the other liquids.

Tantalus Cocktail Name Speculation

Interesting insight from Randy of Cocktail Journal regarding the naming of the Tantalus Cocktail:

This may just be a coincidence but I’ve had a hunch that the Tantalus Cocktail was named for the mountain range of the same name on the island of O’ahu—where pomelo trees grow quite frequently. In Hawai’i we call pomelo “Jabong” or “bulook” and I think the variety is quite different from the ones found on the Mainland. It is much more bitter and there is far less fruit inside a very thick rind, totally unlike grapefruit and cocktail grapefruit. It doesn’t have the sweetness of starfruit either (at least the starfruit that I know of that grows in Hawai’i).

I just won a full pint of the old formula FF on eBay so soon I’ll be in the tasting club too… and noting that the flavor may have dissipated with age.

Cool, I didn’t even bother to google the name Tantalus, as I figured it had to do with the figure from mythology, but that’s interesting that it might have been named after the Tantalus Range of Mountains in Hawai’i!

I look forward to reading your tasting notes regarding Forbidden Fruit liqueur!

Bernal Heights Milk Punch, July 2010

First off, our next Savoy Cocktail Book night will take place at Alembic Bar August 1st. I hope to see you there!

There’s occasionally confusion about the exact nature of Savoy Cocktail Book night.

A few years ago, the bartenders at Alembic started an event called Savoy Cocktail Book night.

When one of the bartenders left, it sort of fell out of practice.

After they had stopped holding them, I was talking to Daniel Hyatt, bar manager at Alembic, and telling him they should go back to holding the event.

He suggested, if they were going to hold Savoy Cocktail Book night, that I should join them in hosting the event.

Well, twist my arm!

We restarted the monthly Savoy Cocktail Book nights in December of 2008, and have been holding them every month since.

When I’ve talked to people about the event, they are sometimes under the mis-apprehension that we only make a select number of Savoy Cocktails.

That is not the case.

The bar staff at Alembic and I have done our best to find or make every ingredient called for in the book, from Prune Syrup to Kummel to Hercules.

For the evening of the event, The Alembic puts away its regular menu and instead hands out copies of the Savoy Cocktail Book.  We do our best to make any of the 900, or so, cocktails you might order from the book, from Abbey to the Sauterne Cup.

There are a few exceptions: We don’t make cocktails from the 1999 introduction to the book, mostly because they are uniformly horrible and call for ingredients completely at odds with the rest of the book. Passion Fruit Nectar, Banana Schnapps and the like.  We also sometimes can’t make cocktails due to seasonality of the ingredients or because they call for the ingredients to be steeped two hours before the cocktail is served.

We also usually will make a punch or two, though we cannot promise to be able to make any punch in the book a la minute.

In this week’s case, I’m going to be bringing a version of the Savoy Cocktail Book’s “Milk Punch”, which is a reprint of Jerry Thomas’ California Milk Punch recipe.

Amazingly, I’ve been making versions of this Milk Punch for over a year now!

First batch was in June of 2009: Bernal Heights Milk Punch, June 2009

However, until now I have never attempted going full bore and using Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum and Batavia Arrack in the same batch.

Bernal Heights Milk Punch, July 2010

1 750ml bottle Cognac Park V.S.O.P. (I feel a bit bad about this, but it was the cheapest decent brandy they had at Cask, the only liquor store located near a convenient public transport route and which stocks S&C and Batavia Arrack. You gotta do…)
1 750ml Bottle Smith & Cross Jamaica Rum.
1/2 750ml Bottle Batavia Arrack von Osten.
Peel 4 lemons.
Juice 6 lemons, strained
1 pineapple, chopped and crushed.
6 cloves, crushed.
1 cinnamon stick (cassia).
3 Green Cardamom Pods, crushed.
10 Coriander Seeds, crushed.
4 teaspoons Darjeeling Tea.
16 oz Water.
1/2 # Florida Crystals Natural Sugar.
1 quart Straus Family Creamery Whole Milk.

Peel lemons and add to Brandy.  Juice 4 lemons and chop pineapple.  Add to rums (including Arrack).  Allow both to infuse for at least 48 hours.

Heat water and add spices and tea. After it has steeped for 10 minutes, strain. Add sugar, stir to combine, and cool.

Juice other two lemons and add to pineapple, lemon, and rum mixture. Heat milk to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Add to Rum, lemon, and pineapple mixture. Allow to stand for 30 minutes and filter through cheesecloth. Strain brandy mixture off peels. Combine Rum mixture, brandy mixture, and syrup. Cool, bottle in clean containers, and chill over night. Filter again through coffee filters, leaving any sediment which has collected in the bottom of the containers behind.  Makes about 3 quarts.

If you’re interested in tasting what funky Jamaica Rum and Batavia Arrack will do in the same punch, stop by Alembic Bar, Sunday, August 1st during our Savoy Cocktail Book night, 6 until around Midnight.

Underhill Forbidden Fruit

Underhill Forbidden Fruit Liqueur

Peel from 1 Marsh Ruby Grapefruit
Peel from 1 Cocktail Grapefruit*
Peel from 4 small Blood Oranges (golf ball size)
1 Tablespoon Cardamom Pods, crushed
1 Tablespoon Coriander Seeds, crushed
3/4 bottle Vodka
1/2 bottle Brandy
1/2 pound Orange Flower Honey
1/2 teaspoon natural vanilla extract

Steep peels with spices in vodka and brandy for 2 weeks. Strain out solids and add 1/2 pound Orange Flower Honey and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Shake to combine. Let stand another week and rack off clear liquid from settled solids. Makes about 750ml.

As the Pomelo and honey based Forbidden Fruit is a truly lost ingredient, I have no choice but to attempt to make it myself.  Fortunately, there’s only about 1 cocktail in the whole world which calls for it.  Unfortunately, that cocktail starts with “T”, so I needed to get busy and make some Forbidden Fruit analog tout de suite.

I missed Pomelo season by a week or two, so am using blood oranges and a couple kinds of Grapefruit. I forgot to buy a vanilla pod, so used natural vanilla extract instead.

As a first (second, actually) try this isn’t bad, the sweetness about on par with Cointreau. I think in the future, I would leave out the ginger. It was a last minute impulse add. Initially it was all heat, but as the heat fades, it evolves into a menthol/camphor flavor which I am currently considering a flaw. A tad bitter, I may have over steeped the peels, or gotten too much pith when I peeled. It will be interesting to see how it evolves, as most orange liqueurs are aged significantly before being bottled.

*”Cocktail Grapefruit are exceptionally sweet and juicy. They are not actually a true grapefruit, but a cross between a Frua Mandarin and a Pummelo. This variety has a similar flavor to a grapefruit but is sweeter and less acidic. Cocktail Grapefruits are grown in the Central Valley of California and they are hand picked for the best quality.”

Cocktail Kingdom Milk Punch

Cocktail Kingdom Milk Punch

1 liter Landy Cognac
1 liter Appleton V/X
375ml Batavia Arrack
Juice and Peel 5 Lemons, 1 Lime
1 Pineapple, chopped
1 1/2 cups water
3 teaspoons Darjeeling Tea
1 Tablespoon Coriander Seed
4 Cardamom Pods, crushed
1 stick Cassia Cinnamon
3 Cups Natural Sugar
1 Quart Straus Farms Whole Milk

Combine Rum, Brandy, Arrack, Chopped Pineapple, Juice and Peel of Lemons and Limes. Let stand to infuse for at least 2 days.

Heat water and steep tea and spices for the usual 6 minutes. Strain off solids. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Cool spiced tea syrup.

Strain rum mixture. Juice boozy pineapple and add to rum mixture. Add Spiced tea syrup to rum mixture.

Heat Milk to 150 degrees F. If your hot plate blows the circuit breaker in the basement and you can’t find a pan, run next door to Starbucks and have them steam it for you. Add hot milk to sweetened rum mixture.

Let stand for 15 minutes.  Strain punch through cheesecloth and chill well before serving.

Makes about 3 liters.

To serve combine 2 parts punch with 1 part soda.


Bonus Sazerac!

I challenged myself to post 28 Sazeracs in 28 days for the month of February, but I’m not quite done. We’ve got a few bonus Sazeracs coming up that didn’t fit into the month of February.

I’ll try some different spirits, try some out at bars, and have some friends make them for me.



1 1/2 oz Calvados Reserve, Roger Groult
1/2 oz Pork Belly Fat Washed Wild Boar, er Turkey, Rye
1/4 oz “Orchard Syrup”*
Dash Peychaud’s

Stir and strain into a chilled absinthe rinsed glass. Twist a fat swath of freshly cut lemon peel over the drink and drop in or discard as you prefer.

Tsunami Advisory.

One of the sort of ridiculous things about having a ridiculously cute dog, is that you often meet people at the dog park. Really, they just want to pat your dog, but for better or for worse, they also have to talk to you. For a while I’ve occasionally been getting sandwiches at Pal’s Takeaway in San Francisco. One morning I noticed that one of the men who worked there walked his dog in a park near my home.  We had chatted about our dogs, but not really made the connection between non-dog walk life and dog-walk life.   On one of my off days, when Monty and I were on the way to the beach, I stopped at Pal’s to get a Sandwich for lunch and said, “Hey, didn’t we meet the other day walking our dogs?”  Struck up an acquaintance of sorts.  Some time later, walking our dogs, we got to talking again and it turned out he was enormously fond of Rye Whiskey.  A man after my own heart!  Anyway, as we were jawing about booze, he mentioned he was curious about these meat infused whiskies he’d been hearing about.  I said, “Yeah, cool, fat washing is fun, but I think you need a really smoky bacon.  I tried it once with the Niman bacon and was pretty underwhelmed.”  “You want bacon?  I can get you bacon!  I cure and smoke my own!”

A bit later, one night when I got home, there was a canning jar full of Fat Rendered from Cured Pork Belly and a Meyer Lemon sitting on our steps.

Obviously, I needed to revisit fat washing!

Keeping mind that he had said he really liked Rye Whiskey, I decided to forgo the usual Bourbon/Bacon axis and go with Wild Turkey Rye instead.  I followed the P.D.T. instructions, adding a generous ounce of hot pork fat to the rye, infusing for a few hours, then freezing to separate.  I also embellished, in my usual free association manner, adding a teaspoon of toasted caraway seeds to the Rye.  As I was tasting the final product, I was pretty sure that all I was tasting was pork, no smoke.  Interesting and very, very porky.

I brought the pork fat washed rye in to the most recent Savoy Cocktail Book night, where opinions varied.  Generally, the opinions were split between, “I can’t even think of drinking that,” and, “This is wrong, but I can’t stop drinking it.”

Amusingly, Daniel Hyatt had been making drinks for a Cochon 555 Event in Napa that day, so for him, it was a little beyond the pale.  “I’ve just had 10 plates of pork, and man, is this whiskey porky.” He did finish the glass, I believe, despite it probably not being in his best interest.  Anyway, as we were chatting about what to do with the pork fat washed rye and he mentioned cutting it with Calvados to temper some of the pork-i-ness.

Letting that percolate for a couple days, I decided to give it a try in a Sazerac mixed with Calvados.  But Calvados reminded me of Jennifer Colliau’s experiments with “Orchard Syrup“.  I’d always meant to give an Orchard Syrup a try, so figured: Pork. Caraway. Apples. Why the Hell Not?

*Tiny Orchard Syrup

1 cup Apple Cider
1/8 Cup Natural Sugar
1 Clove
1/2 teaspoon Caraway Seed

Reduce to 1/4 Cup and strain out spices.

Huh, that orchard syrup IS really tasty, I’d pour it over ice cream, no problem. Nice viscosity, too. Pectins?


Anyway, should you dare drink a Piggerac, I hope you are imagining a perfectly browned whole suckling pig, apple in its mouth, crisp skin crackling as you cut, unctuous fat oozing through your fingers. Lift the haunch to your mouth. Go on, take a bite. You know you want to.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.