Category - Gin

1
What To Do With That Bar Kit You Got For Christmas
2
Why the Hell Are These Men Smiling?
3
Mainstreaming of Cocktail Culture: The Blacklist
4
In Other News, Robert De Niro Has But the Most Tangential Acquaintance With What the F**k a Martini Is
5
Gin-sperimentation: Caorunn Scottish Gin
6
Tiki Drink: Suffering Bastard

What To Do With That Bar Kit You Got For Christmas

h69C76358
So you got a kit of bartender tools for Christmas. Great! Good for you.

Now, make me a drink.
A good one.

Right. Now that you’ve gotten some proper tools, it is time to set aside the Long Island Iced Teas and Rum and Cokes and develop a new repertoire of offerings to show that your knowledge has been upgraded just as much as your equipment.

My nephew/apprentice suggested I do a quick rundown of easy, classic drinks that can give you an idea of what you can do with those new bar tools. You can find all of these all over the web, and in books of course. But this is a good list that covers the major spirits, and gives you a quick overview of the sort of flavors sophisticated, well-made cocktails can offer you and your friends.

The Simple Daiquiri

Spiffy New Tools Used: Shaker, Juicer, Jiggers (Hawthorne Strainer)

Make this guy first. Yes, I know a blender wasn’t included in your bar kit. You don’t use a blender to make a real Daiquiri. I suggest you start with a real Dauquiri because virtually everyone will like it, and it teaches the most essential home-made ingredient you will need to “master” to make great cocktails: Simple syrup.

To make simple syrup, put 1.5 cups of refined white sugar in a small pot on the stove. Add 1 cup of water. Do not stir at any time. Bring the pot just to a clear, roiling boil, and kill the heat. Once it is cool, you are done. For a few cents, you’ve produced something that people pay eight bucks for. You can increase or decrease the amount of sugar you use in the mix as you get used to using simple, and decide how sweet you like your drinks. Simple will last quite a while in your fridge. If you add in an ounce of vodka as a preservative, it will last every bit as long as you need.

DAIQUIRI

  • 3 parts light rum
  • 1 part fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 part simple sugar

Pour all ingredients in your shaker and add plenty of ice. Shake it until the tin is very cold in your hand. Use whatever strainer you received to strain the frothy, icy mix into a cocktail glass. The garnish is traditionally a wedge or wheel of lime.

All the recipes in this post will be in “parts” rather than specific measurements. What matters when you make a cocktail, any cocktail, is the ratio between ingredients. How big a part is depends on how large your glasses are, and how many drinks you are making at once. More importantly, you can easily adjust any recipe to your personal taste by modifying the ratios. Many people like a 2:1:1/2 Daiquiri, which will be much more sour. The point is, put in some effort to determine what ratios you like. And since you are putting in this effort to get those ratios right, measure your ingredients. That’s why you have those fancy jiggers or measuring cups in your kit!

The Mighty Manhattan

Spiffy new tools used: Stirring pitcher, bar spoon, jiggers, julep strainer

Learn to make good Manhattans to impress the older, very experienced drinkers in your life. Show skill in making these, and a significant portion of the people who employ people in the world will take you just a bit more seriously. And while you are at it, slip one to your younger friends as well. You will open their eyes.

The Manhattan can be made with most any North American aged whiskey. But you will likely only be happy with one made with either bourbon or American rye whiskey. This is a bold drink, and benefits from the bolder flavors in those spirits. While you are learning, I’d use bourbon, as you can get a drinkable call brand (e.g. Maker’s Mark) for less than an equivalent rye. Once you know what you are doing, buy a bottle of good rye. Lots of us think it makes the superior Manhattan.

MANHATTAN

  • 4 parts quality American whiskey
  • 1 part Italian vermouth (the sweet, red stuff)
  • Angostura Bitters, dash to taste

Combine ingredients in mixing vessel. Add ice and gently stir a good long time. Strain into a cocktail class and garnish with a single brandied cherry.

There are three things to learn from making this drink.
First, the vermouth makes this drink. And with vermouth, you generally get what you pay for. Spring for the good stuff like Dolin, or Antica Formula if you can get it. And buy it in the smallest bottle you can, because vermouth is a wine, not a liqueur. It goes bad after opening… fast. Keep it in the fridge, and you may get a month out of it before it turns on your drink. As a home bartender, you will pour out a lot of vermouth. Get used to this. The ratio of whiskey to vermouth will vary greatly from drinker to drinker.

Second, learn to dash bitters. Do not tentatively tip the bottle over the vessel and jerk back when the first hesitant drops seep out. Similarly, don’t just let it pour. A dash is a big, swift, sweeping motion, followed by a quick return to upright. Bitters a cheap. Practice. And clean up the inevitable spills at once, or you will need a scouring pad, because it stains. Start with three dashes in your Manhattan until you know what you like.

Third. Do not ever shake a Manhattan. Don’t make me come over there.

The Quintessential Martini

Spiffy New Tools Used: Stirring pitcher, bar spoon, jiggers, julep strainer

This is a gin drink, padawan. Put down the vodka. If you’ve never drunk gin before, I suggest that you try a different gin drink to learn to love the spirit. And if you do drink gin, but have not had a Martini you like, try it again, made right, with fresh, good vermouth. Everything I said about sweet vermouth above, goes double for dry vermouth.

DRY MARTINI

  • 3 parts gin
  • 1 part French vermouth (the dry, white stuff)
  • Orange bitters

Combine ingredients in your mixing vessel and stir you long time, Joe. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with either an olive or a long twist of lemon peel.

Making your Martini is very similar to making a Manhattan.

James Bond and Goldfinger discuss lasers“Do you expect me to talk?
“No, Mr. Bond! I expect you to stir your damned Martinis!”

Martinis are the diamonds of the cocktail world. Like diamonds, the freer they are of inclusions, the more valuable. Shaking a Martini leaves bubbles and shards of ice on the surface. This would be great if your intent is to drown Leonardo DiCaprio in there, but not if you want to drink it. Not only is a stirred Martini more beautiful, it will taste better, as the bubbles injected by shaking will mask and muddle the flavors.
And yes, a really good Martini should have a dash or two of orange bitters in it. You won’t be able to taste them, but you will be able to taste the difference. People who don’t drink Martinis will happily drink your Martinis.

The Sumptuous Sidecar

Spiffy New Tools Used: Shaker, Juicer, Jiggers (Hawthorne Strainer)

This is a drink every bartender knows how to make, but since few have any idea how to make one well, it is one you can really show off with. It is a brandy drink, so be careful about what you use. Good brandy (sorry America, that usually means French cognac) gets pricy fast, and will be wasted in a Sidecar. But crappy brandy is just a shame in any terms. Keep a bottle of something French with the letters “VS” on it around, and you’ll be golden.

SIDECAR

  • 3 parts cognac
  • 1 part Cointreau or other high-end orange liqueur
  • 1 part fresh squeezed lemon juice

Combine in the shaker with ice and give it a good shaking until your hands are cold. Strain into a cocktail glass half-rimmed with superfine sugar.

Wait!
You told them shaking is all bad n’ stuff!

It is… sometimes. Other times it is essential. Here is a general rule that will go further to make you a cocktail expert than any other:

If all the ingredients in your drink are clear, then you stir it. If anything is cloudy or viscous (e.g. dairy or citrus) then you shake it.

As with the lime in the Daiquiri above, the lemon juice will make the Sidecar cloudy anyway. And opaque ingredients can leave the drink mottled in appearance if you only stir them.
Squeeze your own citrus juice. You will quickly learn there is a noticeable difference.
Sidecars traditionally have a sugared rim, but some people don’t like the extra sweet. Whenever you rim any glass with sugar, or salt as with a Margarita, rim only half to two-thirds of the way around, so drinkers who don’t want the rim won’t have to partake.

The Not-Really-So-Girly Cosmopolitan

Spiffy New Tools Used: Shaker, Juicer, Jiggers (Hawthorne Strainer)

This is probably the greatest vodka cocktail ever invented. And no, a well-made Cosmo is not necessarily a girly drink. Listen guys, if you aren’t manly enough to enjoy a pink drink that is this good, well, you are no man.

COSMOPOLITAN

  • 3 parts vodka
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • 1/2 part fresh lime juice
  • 1 part cranberry juice cocktail

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake gently until chilly. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lime wedge.

This is a good drink to examine to understand that ratios are guidelines. Depending on the cranberry juice brand you use, all of these numbers can change. And of course, your desires for color, sourness, and cranberry-ness will also affect how you put this one together. My ratios here will give a pretty tart, colorful Cosmo. That said, the recipe is pretty bullet-proof. Just understand that the ingredients matter here. Cheap vodka will taste like crap. (Super-expensive vodka will taste exactly the same as the twenty dollar stuff in this and most other drinks.)
Do not use Rose’s or sourmix instead of fresh lime. Do not use triple sec instead of Cointreau. Use good cranberry.

Do not let the sweet pink color and gentle alcoholic impression make you forget that this is a full-power cocktail. Be safe.

The Old-Fashioned Old Fashioned

Spiffy New Tools Used: Bar spoon, jiggers, vegetable peeler

The Old Fashioned is a drink that is actually easier to make well than it is is to make crappily. Yet every day, thousands of crappy Old Fashioneds are offered to hapless drinkers. Why has this become the norm? Bad booze, that’s why. Don’t let bad booze happen to you.
The first thing you are going to notice about my recipe is that there are no orange wedges or maraschino cherries to be seen. A disgusting mass of crushed fruit is not part of a true Old Fashioned Cocktail. People started adding all that fruit because they were making the drink with liquors like Early Times. Booze like that needs something to cover it up. But if you are using good liquor, why not appreciate it?

OLD FASHIONED COCKTAIL

  • 4 parts high-quality brown liquor
  • 1 part simple syrup
  • several good dashes of Angostura or other complimentary bitters

Pour ingredients over ice in a low glass. Stir in the glass to get a good melt on the ice. Garnish with a long slice of orange peel, removed from the fruit with your veggie peeler.

That’s it! No muddling, no useless soda water. This is a quick, easy, extremely high-quality cocktail. After a few years of drinks learning, you may well settle on this as your “Gawd! I’m in no mood for crap, but I need a drink now!” tipple.
Most people use bourbon in an Old Fashioned. It is an American invention, and bourbon is the American spirit. But most any good quality aged spirit will make a delicious Old Fashioned. For my part, I make a slight majority of my Old Fashioneds with good quality rum. Knock the sugar down a bit when using rum, or if your bourbon is of the sweeter variety.

The Merry Mojito

Spiffy New Tools Used: Bar spoon, jiggers, muddler

One last suggestion, since you may well have gotten a muddler in your tool kit, and as just noted, it should not be used in making Old Fashioneds. This is actually the most complex of these drinks for your first bar kit, but if you make a killer Mojito, and if you do it with style, you will be King come Summertime.

MOJITO

  • 3 parts white rum
  • 1 part fresh lime juice
  • 1 part simple syrup
  • 4 mint leaves per drink

Drop mint and simple syrup into bottom of highball glass. Muddle briefly. Add lime juice and rum, then ice. Top with soda water and give a quick stir. Garnish with more mint and a lime wheel.

Be careful with muddling. Unlike you may have seen in certain rum ads, you need neither arms like Thor’s, nor a half an hour’s free time to muddle one Mojito. You are merely bruising the mint, not crushing or tearing it. If you do crush or tear the mint, you will release not only the essential oils you need for flavor and aroma, but also other, less appetizing chemicals.

Er, the hotties in short dresses dancing on the tables in the video? Also not required… but recommended.

Now, you have your kit of real bar tools. Go out and make yourself some real drinks with them!

Why the Hell Are These Men Smiling?

Question of the day: What in God’s name is making these men smile?

Pictured is a bunch of men pouring out huge bottles of bootleg spirits into the gutter in 1931. Awful as bathtub gin was during Prohibition, the glee at so much hooch going down the drain seems… strange.

They are smiling so much because they already poured the gin into another tank. I’m guessing this is water they are pouring out.

That makes a certain amount of sense. Even today, you can’t capture smells in a picture.

Mainstreaming of Cocktail Culture: The Blacklist

Blacklist Megan Boone James Spader
Among the more important elements in growing and sustaining the cocktail movement is the way it is seeping into the popular culture, particularly the entertainment media. The obvious leader here is Mad Men (the show no one watches, and everybody talks about), with its loving ruminations on the importance of a well-made drink. If the world of fine cocktails wants to move beyond the strong fad or wave of fashion stage and embed itself firmly in a place in modern society similar to that of fine wine, it needs shows like Mad Men. But more, it needs scenes like the one that popped up this week on a new NBC show called The Blacklist, a show no one is talking about, but everyone is watching.

Below is the entire second episode, embedded for your perusal. NBC doesn’t seem to want to let me embed a clip or set the start time, so fast forward to 12 minutes for the scene that concerns us here. NBC may take a few moments to interest you in some insurance or soap before you can watch the video….

Here we see the series’s heroic villain (villainous hero?) proantagonist, Raymond “Red” Reddington sitting down with young FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen at a Montreal restaurant. Before I get to the cocktail implications, I’m going to do a brief review of the show, because regardless of your cocktailian proclivities, it is worth a watch. Red is a former government agent who currently holds down the number four spot on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, yet he has turned himself in to the feds solely in order to screw with the mind of Keen for some unknown and likely nefarious reason that we’ll get a little bit closer to understanding each Sweeps Week. Red is played by James Spader (you know, Ultron), who chews the scenery in a delightfully understated manner and he uses the rest of the cast, and the FBI as a whole, to accomplish lots of Really Good Things, by Really Dubious Means, for reasons that no one understands, but that we viewers imagine are Really Bad. He is stylish, unflappable, decisive, and nearly omnicompetent. He loves a really good drink. Oh, and he’s a textbook sociopath.

Red’s keeper/protegé Liz is played a bit too strongly in the first two episodes as an innocent with things to prove. I think this is to provide contrast to the dark and twisty road that Red (and probably her own past and her apparently too good to be true hubby) will take her on.

The rest of the cast is to this point unfleshed out. Most so far remain stock characters that you’ve seen in a host of other shows. The team leader, Cooper, needs to get some interest quickly before he turns into a black Basil Exposition. Malik is the sweet-faced CIA agent forced upon the team because… Justice always likes to have the CIA around to keep an eye on the FBI or something. Her main role on the show so far is to torture suspects right in front of FBI agents because the CIA is unbound by any law, and to just generally give some ambiguity to Red’s evil by being just as heartless. Finally the young FBI field agent Ressler is on the show to look smashing for the ladies while almost being blown up every episode.

I snark about these characters because snark is what I do. There is potential in each, combined with Red’s already fascinating portrayal and the generally strong stories, this could make for an ongoing hit. Think White Collar, with Hannibal Lecter instead of Neal Caffrey.

Now, back to the scene. It was crafted, I guarantee you, by someone who is a genuine cocktail snob who wants to show cocktails as superior to wine, not just a writer in search of a display of sophistication and mentoring (grooming?). Let’s break it down.

Liz orders first, a glass of chardonnay, as boring and prosaic as you could imagine from someone who isn’t really a world class sophisticate. Red immediately overrides her order to the waiter, in French. When the waiter returns with a purple cocktail, Red explains, “Aviation Cocktail. From the 20′s. Tastes like… Spring, doesn’t it?” The great cocktail in place of the boring wine is meant to be a gift, and also represent another step in taking control of her. But the clear implication here is that he upgraded her.
Blacklist Megan Boone
The Aviation is less popular today with the top of the cocktail set, but it used to be the cocktail fraternity’s Secret Handshake. It is a gateway concoction, and you largely find it on menu these days in markets or areas where the industry is still impressing on the minds of its clientele that cocktails have a next level. Red is using a gateway cocktail as part of a gateway conversation. And like the most effective gateways, the subject doesn’t know what she’s getting into, with the drink or her relationship with Red. The show also takes great pains make the drink look appealing: It is generally backlit so you can appreciate the exotic purple coloring, etc. (Incidentally, there is no way whatever is in that glass is actually an Aviation. That jewel-like color means there is no lemon juice present, and the purple is so dark you’d need 50% Creme de Violette to get there.)

We also get meaning from what Red drinks: a glass of neat whisky. Culturally, this is a cue that here is an older, more mature, and thoroughly masculine man, possessing both wisdom and perhaps inner pain. The scotch symbolizes him.
Blacklist James Spader
Scenes like this are essential to the mainstreaming of cocktails. First, it appears on a broadcast network, with an audience six times larger than a Mad Men, and ten times as diverse. Second, the drinks are portrayed as distinctly superior, in taste and sophistication, to wine. Third, the drinks are used to advance the story, and at multiple levels. Also, this episode is evidence of how far toward that end cocktails have come, for exactly the same reasons.

In the event you haven’t had an Aviation lately, or ever, I think I’ll finish with what I think is the best recipe, along with a picture of what one really looks like (equally as gorgeous, but perhaps less videogenic.) This is the exact recipe I happened to have just made for myself before my wife and I sat down and hit play on the DVR to watch this week’s The Blacklist. The looks on our faces at the twelve minute mark were priceless, I’m sure.
Aviation

UN COCKTAIL DE L’AVIATION

  • 2 oz. light, floral gin (Bombay Sapphire or a good New American style like Aviation)
  • 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
  • scant 1/4 oz. creme de violette

Combine ingredients with plentiful ice and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass, then gently place a single brandied cherry in the bottom.

In Other News, Robert De Niro Has But the Most Tangential Acquaintance With What the F**k a Martini Is

From the instructions he sends out to you just in case he decides to attend your party: Gin, chilled glass, small pour size. Check, check, check. That last item is especially well put (read the New York Post’s article).
So far so good. He sounds like a reasonable man here. Why am I getting so hot under the collar?

Shake for 45 seconds…!
Muddled cucumber…?
“No vermouth necessary.”?!?!

Tangential. At. Best.
robert_de_niro_wireimage--300x300-2
Yes, I’m talkin’ to you, Bob. It might be a fine drink, whatever it is, but show some respect in the future. I don’t want to hear you taking the name of the Gospel of Gin in vain again.
(Thanks to @Teekeemon for his alertly twigging me to this cultural travesty.)

Gin-sperimentation: Caorunn Scottish Gin


It’s pronounced “ka-roon“. Caorunn is a new gin from that hot bed of white liquor production… Scotland? Produced at the Balmenach whisky distillery in the Speyside region, Caorunn is a small-batch gin with a uniquely Scottish character, a gorgeous bottle, and fascinating flavors. Given the nature of this blog and my own significantly Scot heritage, I am compelled at this point to ask Mike Myers for his opinion on Scottish gin:

Caorunn does not distill its base grain neutral spirit at Balmenach, since pot-distilled barley is not exactly a great base for gin. The Scot element comes from the water (of course) and the unique blend of botanicals, including five unusual ones which they identify as “Celtic botanicals“. Heather, Dandelion, and Bog Myrtle all are sharply evocative of Highland landscapes. Coul Blush Apples are an early 19th century hybrid, recently rediscovered. The final element is Rowan Berry, which the maker describes as “the very soul of Caorunn.” Rowan berries are traditionally used in a variety of Celtic herbal medicines, and seen as a powerful source of mystical good fortune. Also, they are popular eating and commonly used to make or flavor brandies, though I’ve never seen such here in the US.
The traditional botanicals are juniper, coriander, angelica, cassia, and lemon and orange peels.

The infusion of the alcohol into gin is what is performed at Balmenach and is performed in the above pictured 1920′s made copper berry chamber. The botanicals are spread out on the wide trays you see, then the chamber is filled with the alcohol vapor over a long period to infuse them into the gin. This contraption was originally designed for extracting essential oils used in the manufacture of perfume. It is a pretty uncommon device for distilling gin.

The spirit resulting from these unique as the processes and ingredients is pretty special in its own right. Caorunn is bright and very clean in flavor, and has for me the rather odd effect of smelling lightly sweet while tasting fairly dry. The apple in particular seems evident in the nose and less so in the mouth. It is certainly no Tanqueray, but I think it is closer in character to a London Dry than it is to the hard to define “New American” gins.

I like this gin. A lot. But it is not a gin you can deploy indiscriminately in all cocktails. Its real strength is in combination with other herbal flavors. To that end it is a simply magnificent Martini gin. It is difficult to describe why this gin goes so very, very well with vermouth, but it does. I don’t go with the whole olive thing, so I cannot attest to how things will go if you like to dirty up the waters. On their extensive and beautifully illustrated recipe page, they recommend garnishing a martini with a slice of apple, which I have not tried, but will next time I get my hands on some really good ones.

I’m into my second bottle of Caorunn, largely because it’s about the only thing I’m making Martinis with any more. When I find a particular brand that seems perfect in a particular drink I make regularly, I tend to just dedicate it to that particular purpose. But of course, as with all gins I had to try Caorunn in the Greatest Cocktail Ever Mixed™. I actually tried this first, and it almost made me give up on Caorunn from the start. I think the product has a Kryptonite, and it is indeed green: The Lime. There is some chemical interaction happening between the two that triggers a very slight but notable acridity in the mix. If you peruse the brand’s recipe page, you won’t see lime listed at all in the excellent Search by Ingredient feature.

So, no Pegus, no Rickeys, no lime with your Caorunn. It seems to go quite nicely with other citruses, however, and some whose taste I trust say it works particularly well with grapefruit. Rather than get frustrated with this weirdness, I just chalk it up to the marvelous opportunity for experimentation cocktails offer.

Caorunn is not yet available all over the US, so I am happy indeed that Ohio is among the first states where it is distributed. I’m guessing that it will be appearing in lots more markets before too long, so if it isn’t in your local store right now, keep looking. In the meantime, it is available from several online retailers such as DrinkupNY.

Tiki Drink: Suffering Bastard


This one is an absolute classic Tiki drink. It has an awesome name, which was stolen by Trader Vic for a variant on his Mai Tai. It has all sorts of varients, such as the Dying Bastard and the Dead Bastard. It is not in fact a rum drink, which makes it stand out. It has a very distinctive, unusual, and exotic taste. And it is one of those drinks that is once again accessible to normal drink mixers because of the sudden plethora of good ginger beers that you see in mainstream grocery markets these days.

SUFFERING BASTARD

  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. brandy
  • 1/2 oz. Rose’s Lime
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 4 oz. ginger beer

Shake all except the ginger beer with large ice. Add the ginger beer and pour unstrained into a double old-fashioned glass, or better yet, a Suffering Bastard Tiki mug. Garnish with orange and mint.

Plenty of folks in the non-Tiki Cocktailosphere have covered this one before me. Matt Hamlin notes its similarity to but greater complexity than the more widely known counterpart, The Dark ‘n Stormy. Interestingly, while the Dark ‘n Stormy is in fact made with rum, it’s not generally thought of as a Tiki drink! Both, of course, are Bucks….

The Dead and Dying variations are billed as hangover cures, and SeanMike, back in his LiveJournal days, offered his own caffine-laden version, the Wake Up and Suffer, You Bastard.

Among the awesomeness that surrounds this drink is the array of Suffering Bastard-themed Tiki mugs out there. The iconic one is Trader Vic’s, even though these would not have been served containing a real Suffering Bastard. These are quite collectible, selling for over $100 on eBay in the last few months.

My favorite of the bunch is MunkTiki’s Wannabe Bastard offering. This little guy almost makes a hangover sound fun. Almost.
It, like most of the really cook Bastard mugs out there, is also expensive, which is why you see a snifter used in my own photograph above.

For a completely sober and serious take on the nature and construction of the Suffering Bastard, I leave you with the classic first episode (that’s worth a damn) of TikiBarTV:

Copyright © 2014. Created by Douglas A Winship. Powered by WordPress.