Agricole Libre (Part One)

There are things that I like to think I do well on the blog.

Generally: research, photography, and content creation

There are things I do pretty badly.

These things include: posting timely journalistic content and spirits reviews or comparisons

So no real surprise that the photos for this post were taken in April and the post has been sitting in my “Drafts” bin for most of that time.

One day I was hanging out in the Mixoloseum Bar when Camper English mentioned that he had been invited to a launch party for the new R(h)um from St. George Spirits. Being that it was in Alameda, and he doesn’t have a car, he was trying to figure out some way to get to the party that wouldn’t involve a half day on public transit. Oddly, I had the care of the Flannestad car that day. Hm. Free Booze, check. Free Food, check. Cool people, check. Visit distillery, check. It did not take me long to come to the conclusion that I should give Camper a ride over to Alameda, if he could figure some way to get me in.

Thankfully, it wasn’t hard to convince them, and a short time later, we were both sampling Cuba Libres made with St. George’s Agua Libre!

A few Craft Distillers make Rums, but just about everyone in the US makes their Rums from some form of Sugar or Molasses.

The people at St. George decided to take a different tack and make an “Agricole-Style” R(h)um from fresh pressed Sugar Cane Juice.

They did something similar when they made their Agave Spirit, sourcing freshly roasted Agave Pinas from Mexico, fermenting and distilling them.

However, when they investigated the Farming and Agriculture rules for Sugar Cane, they discovered it was Illegal to import “live” sugar cane into California. It would have to be cooked or something, which wouldn’t work for making an Agricole style Rum from fresh cane juice.

This meant they would have to find a Sugar Cane farmer in California.

A few years ago, as part of a plan to increase productivity from his Sugar Beet farms Carson Kalin, of Kalin Farms, had started planting a few varieties of Sugar Cane. Sugar Beets are only harvested once a year, so much of the year, his Sugar Refining facility sits idle. He thought, if he was able to get sufficient interest, he could use his refinery during the idle part of the year for processing sugar cane into sugar, and maybe even use the cane byproducts (bagasse) for Ethanol production.

Unfortunately, he never found sufficient investors to bring that idea to fruition, and has simply had a few experimental plots of Sugar Cane growing on his farm.

When Lance Winters of St. George Spirits called, asking about purchasing Sugar Cane for Rum, I imagine he was pretty thrilled, maybe even incredulous.

The thing about Sugar Cane, is it must be juiced very soon after harvest. St. George purchased the mill above for crushing cane. You push a cane stalk in one side, and cane juice and fiber come out the other. But even then, while not as challenging as the Agave Debacle, it was a difficult enterprise due to the variety in diameter of the cane, from an inch to a few inches. Well, it wouldn’t be a St. George product, if there weren’t some threat of death, or at least life threatening injury, during the production.

Once they have the cane juice, they inoculate it with yeast and start the fermentation process, racing the wild bacteria and yeast, which would love to turn it into Cane Vinegar. While we were there, they were just distilling a new batch, and so, had a big container full of “Cane Wine”. Dave Smith was more than happy, overjoyed perhaps, to tap a taste of it for us. Let me just say, “Wine,” is kind of a stretch, and vinegar isn’t far off. I was really surprised how sour the “wine” was. Not something you’re going to see on tap in a bar near you any time soon.

As I mentioned, this was something of an exhibit, celebrating the release of the original batch of Agua Libre, now 2 1/2 years old, along with the distillation of a new batch made from cane from the same producer. A number of bartenders and local press in attendence, we were given a fair bit of attention from the producers, including samples of some of their more obscure experiments, like this Carrot Eau-de-Vie…

…and the mysterious young Corn based Whiskey below, fresh from a very attractive graduated beaker, cigar optional.  Not to mention some product involving Foie Gras and Vodka… What did they call it, Foiedka?  The whiskey and carrot eau-de-vie were tasty. Not so sure about meat flavored vodka.

But, for me, the star of the show was the fresh R(h)um coming off the still. I’d never tasted the fermented product and distillate together before. It amazed me how much of the flavor, scent, and character of the “Cane Wine” was captured in the R(h)um. It had such and interesting vegetal and complex taste. Descriptors like grass, green beans, and ripe olives seemed appropriate.

As the flavor haunted me over the next couple weeks, I wondered how close the current unaged spirit was similar to that which they had been serving, so I sent a note to Lance Winters asking about how similar the spirits were before aging.

He replied:

As for the rum, the character of the barrel aged was almost identical to this one as a new make spirit. It’s going to calm down dramatically as it sits, even out of wood. You should come by and taste it as it ages.

To which I replied, “I may just take you up on that offer, but for now, I just kind of want to make a Ti Punch with it as it is…”

Third Rail Cocktail (No. 2)

Third Rail Cocktail (No. 2)
1 Dash Absinthe. (1 dash Lucid Absinthe)
1/3 Bacardi Rum. (3/4 oz Montecristo White Rum)
1/3 Calvados or Apple Brandy. (3/4 oz Clear Creek Apple Brandy)
1/3 Brandy. (3/4 oz Pellehaut Armagnac)
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Simply splendid. Better than 11,000 volts.

Splendid?! There are words which come to mind when trying this all booze concoction, but splendid isn’t really one of them.

However, for me, it mostly reminds me of a band called The Rain Parade who released an album called, “Emergency Third Rail Power Trip,” in the early 1980s.

At the time I was living in Madison, Wisconsin, and listening to a lot of the listener sponsored station WORT.  One of my favorite DJs was a woman who called herself Michele K-Tel and claimed to work at a Buddy Nut Squirrel Nut Shoppe.  She hosted a show called Earwax and was extremely fond of bands in the so-called Paisley Underground“.  Initially, it took me a while to grasp her fondness for the neo-psychedelic music of bands like Rain Parade, The Three O’Clock, Plasticland, Green on Red, and The Long Ryders, but sooner or later, she had me singing along to the radio on songs like, “This Can’t Be Today” and “Jetfighter”.

Little did I know, a few years later, when I worked up the courage to volunteer at WORT as a Jazz DJ, that I would meet Michele K-Tel, we would hit it off, date, and run off to California with our giant piles of Albums, Tapes, and those new fangled Compact Discs.

Some times touching the Third Rail can be worth it.

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.

Stanley Cocktail

Stanley Cocktail
1/6 Lemon Juice. (1/2 of 3/4 oz Lemon Juice)
1/6 Grenadine. (1/2 of 3/4 oz Small Hand Foods Grenadine)
1/3 Rum. (3/4 oz Rene Alambic Rum)
1/3 Gin. (3/4 oz Ransom Old Tom Gin)
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Oh, fun! This recipe specifies neither the type of Rum nor Type of Gin! Carte Blanche!

I found this odd Alambic Rum at a small liquor store in the city of Napa, California. I have no idea about the nature of the beast, other than that the bottle notes it is, “Distilled by Solomon Tournour Co. Capella, CA 95418.” It is, for an 80 Proof Rum, rather flavorful and delicious. It appears to have some color, so must have seen at least some small amount of time in the barrel. I keep going back and forth on whether I think it is Molasses or Sugar based. My guess is Molasses, but it is very well distilled and tasty. It does almost taste like a Rhum Agricole.

Anyway, funky Napa R(h)um, and what Gin to mix with?

Ha! Obviously it needs a funky Gin! And as funky Gins go, I can’t think of one more appropriate than Ransom Old Tom, from Portland!

What does this combination of unusual ingredients result in?

Well, it sure as hell isn’t a Bacardi Cocktail!

Kind of Tasty, though, if I don’t say so myself! Mr. Stanley may have been on to something!

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.

Spanish Town Cocktail

Spanish Town Cocktail
5 Glasses Rum. (2 oz Saint James Ambre)
1 Dessertspoonful Curacao. (1 barspoon Clement Creole Shrubb)

Pour into shaker, add a large quantity of ice, and shake thoroughly. Grate a little nutmeg over each glass as serve.

I always enjoy when the Savoy Cocktail Book is vague. Rum? Goodness, the length and breadth of types of Rum makes the variations on this cocktail nearly infinite. Of course it is just a slightly orangey and sweet glass of cold, diluted rum.

As with the Gin in the Southern Gin Cocktail, whether you will enjoy the Spanish Town is nearly entirely dependent on whether you enjoy the Rum you make it with.

Pick one you enjoy sipping, and you might discover interesting characteristics you hadn’t noticed before.

Personally, I really enjoy St. James’ Ambre, a Rhum Agricole from Martinique. It’s not quite a sipping rum, but has such interesting earthy, cane character it is one of my favorites. You can almost taste the cane fields burning. Unfortunately, the distributor has dropped the brand and is no longer importing it into the US. If you have some, or its older siblings, enjoy it while you have it.

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.

Black Prince Cocktail

While it is fun to go out to Smuggler’s Cove, I find I have a semi-low tolerance for tropical drinks.

Fortunately, Martin Cate’s menu encompasses more than just Exotic drinks. In fact, it is nearly a cross section of Rum Cocktails from the beginning of their history to the present day.

For example, the other day I rather enjoyed the Black Prince, which could only be described as a rum version of the NY “brown, bitter, and stirred”.

According to the Smuggler’s Cove menu it is, “A dark and complex concoction consisting of aged Guatemalan rum, Punt e Mes, Averna, and orange bitters. Created by Phil Ward at Death & Co. in NYC, this is an excellent showcase of rum’s versatility.”

In fact I enjoyed it so much, I decided to try to replicate it at home!

I don’t know the exact recipe, and also don’t have Punt e Mes in the house at the moment, but found this version of the drink quite enjoyable.

1 1/2 oz Zacapa 23
3/4 oz Carpano Antica
1/2 oz Averna
1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters, 1 dash Fee’s Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Hm, while I liked the Punt e Mes version at Smuggler’s Cove a lot, I think I may like it a bit more with Carpano Antica, as it is not quite so sweet. Gonna have to give it a try again when I get Punt e Mes back in the house.

If anyone knows the exact recipe, drop me a note or comment.

–Edit–

Thanks to Matt Browner Hamlin for the proper Black Prince, straight from Phil Ward:

2 oz dark aged rum
0.75 oz Punt e Mes
0.5 oz Averna
Dash orange bitters

Stir and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Sir Walter Cocktail

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Sir Walter Cocktail
(Commonly known as the “Swalter”)
1 Teaspoonful Grenadine. (1 teaspoon Small Hand Foods Grenadine)
1 Teaspoonful Curacao. (1 teaspoon Bols Dry Orange Curacao)
1 Teaspoonful Lemon Juice. (1 teaspoon Lemon Juice)
1/3 Brandy. (3/4 oz Germain-Robin Fine Alambic Brandy)
1/3 Rum. (3/4 oz Barbancourt 15 Rum)
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

It’s kind of hard to know which Sir Walter Raleigh this cocktail is named after. The Sir Walter Raleigh who was an “English aristocrat, writer, poet, soldier, courtier, and explorer who is also largely known for introducing tobacco to Europe,” or the Sir Walter Raleigh who was a “Scottish scholar, poet and author.”

Going from the dates of their lives and the date the Savoy Cocktail Book was published, it seems nominally more likely that this was named after the Scottish scholar, poet, and author, especially since he was well known during World War I.

On the other hand, the other Sir Walter, at least at this point in history, is far more well known.

To me, the ingredients don’t give much illumination, they could have been available in the 16th Century or the 20th Century.  In fact, it is kind of a punchy formulation, though probably in the 16th Century, not many barkeeps were bothering with single serving punches.

Fairly tasty, my advice would be to go long on the lemon juice, and short on the grenadine and Curacao.

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.

Ship Cocktail

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Ship Cocktail
(6 People)
4 Glasses Sherry. (2 oz Williams Humbert Dry Sack)
1 Glass Whisky. (1/2 oz Pig’s Nose Scotch*)
1 Glass Rum. (1/2 oz Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum)
1 Glass Prune Syrup. (1/2 oz Prune Syrup)
1 Dash Orange Bitters. (1 dash Bitter Truth Orange Bitters)
A little Sugar if desired. (None desired)
Shake (I stirred) well and strain into cocktail glass.

Since the cocktail, doesn’t specify what sorts of Whisky or Rum to use, I decided to go a bit avant garde and use Scotch Whisky and Jamaican Rum. Anyway, it is a Ship Cocktail. You gotta use Pirate Rum in a Ship Cocktail!

Interestingly, this turns out to be tasty, if you enjoy the flavors of the component spirits. The Sherry and Prune Syrup seem to act like flavor enhancers, extending and complementing the others. Nice, actually, probably one of my favorite recent Savoy Cocktails. Not that I expect that this endorsement will have a host of other cocktail bloggers running for the kitchen to make themselves prune syrup. Yer missing out, I tell you! It’s a very tasty sweetener, and those prunes stewed in port are tasty! Regularity, it is important, as you get older.

*Note, the teeny, tiny bottle of Pig’s Nose Scotch was sent to me by a marketing firm promoting the brand.  Tasty stuff!  I bet it is even tastier when poured from a 750ml bottle!

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.

Sazerac Cocktail (Smuggler’s Cove)

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. Hopefully, if I can get my act together we’ll have some video.

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Sazerac Cocktail.
1 Lump of Sugar. (Simple Syrup)
1 Dash Angostura or Peychana Bitters.
1 Glass Rye or Canadian Club Whisky. (Pampero Anniversario Rum)

Stir well and strain into another glass that has been cooled and rinsed with 1 dash Absinthe (Herbsaint) and squeeze lemon peel on top.

After the initial failure of Sazerac 16 with one of my favorite r(h)ums, I thought I should leave that sort of experimentation to the professionals. And what better source of r(h)um advice than the professionals at Smuggler’s Cove?

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I’d gone to one of the pre-launch events, had a great time, but had heard that the bar was REALLY busy most nights since it’s launch. I do like to work in a busy bar, but visiting friends in the middle of what might be a nightmare service shift always makes me feel a bit weird.

But, when I heard that long time acquaintance, and true professional bartender, Marco Dionysos was joining the ranks at Smuggler’s Cove, I thought I should stop by and wish him Bon Voyage.

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Uh, right, so again, bars are difficult to take photos in, and I am not all that fond of flash photography. Marco is not a self-illuminating puffer fish.

We mulled a couple rums, and decided Pampero Anniversario might be interesting. Indeed, it turned out to be a much better choice than Barbancourt 15. Still not sure if it is the perfect rum for a Sazerac. I’d be curious if anyone has tried a rum or rhum that they really prefer in a Sazerac Cocktail to Rye or Brandy.

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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.

Sazerac Cocktail (Barbancourt 15)

Sazerac Cocktail 16 out of 28.

I have challenged myself to post 28 Sazeracs in 28 days for the month of February.

I’ll try some different spirits, try some out at bars, and have some friends make them for me. Hopefully, if I can get my act together we’ll have some video.

026

Sazerac Cocktail.
1 Lump of Sugar. (10ml Rich Simple Syrup)
1 Dash Angostura or Peychana Bitters. (a couple dashes Peychaud’s Bitters)
1 Glass Rye or Canadian Club Whisky. (2 oz Barbancourt 15 Year Old Rhum)

Stir well and strain into another glass that has been cooled and rinsed with Absinthe (Sirene Absinthe Verte) and squeeze lemon peel on top.

Let’s just pretend this didn’t happen, OK?

I thought by picking an agricole style r(h)um, I would get closer to Rye or Cognac.

And in fact, we have a drink on our menu at Heaven’s Dog that is basically this r(h)um in an old-fashioned. It is delicious.

In a Sazerac, though, nope. There’s some interaction here, probably between the r(h)um, Peychaud’s and Absinthe that just leaves this tasting like a big glass of flat Sarsaparilla.  Not good, not good at all.

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.

‘Sconnie Milk Punch

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

Most recent variation executed in my home state of Wisconsin for a New Year’s gathering with some friends.

Sconnie Milk Punch

‘Sconnie Milk Punch

6 Lemons
4 Cara Cara Oranges
1 bottle Korbel VSOP
1 bottle Appleton V/X
1/2 bottle Batavia Arrack von Osten

4 bags Twinnings Darjeeling Tea
2 1/2 cups water
3 cups Natural Cane Sugar
1 stick Cinnamon
4 Whole Cloves
4 Allspice Berries

1 pint Whole Milk

Peel 4 lemons and 4 oranges.  Combine Brandy, Rum, and Batavia Arrack.  Add strained juice of 4 oranges and 4 lemons.  Steep citrus peel in booze mixture for 48 hours.

Heat water and add spices and sugar.  When it is at a simmer, remove from heat and add tea bags for 5 minutes.  Remove tea bags and cool.

Remove peels from booze, remove spices from syrup.  Combine.  Add juice 2 more lemons.  Scald milk mixture and add to booze and citrus base.   Allow to stand for 25 minutes without disturbing.  Filter milk solids off through fine strainer or cheese cloth.  Allow to stand overnight in a cool area.  Remove clear punch from settled out solids. Makes about 3 quarts.

Chill well and serve by combining with equal parts fizzy water.

Without some of my usual spices and pineapple, this was a little more citrus heavy than other versions.  Still, quite tasty.

Described by Rich, “Tastes like Orangina, but kicks your ass.”

Where did the beer go?