Blood and Sand, and Tango #2

I got my Cherry Heering months ago and had wanted to try the Blood and Sand for months before that. Well, I figured, now was the time. The Blood and Sand was named after the 1921 film, and dates back to at least 1930 (the Savoy book). It is one of the few Scotch drinks that have endured the test of time with relative popularity. There seem to be two prevailing ratios for this drink; with equal parts, or as Ted Haigh and others have recommended:

Blood and Sand

Blood and Sand 1

1 Blended Scotch (Famous Grouse Malt)
1 Orange Juice (fresh-squeezed Navel orange)
3/4 Cherry Brandy (Peter Heering Cherry Heering)
3/4 Sweet Vermouth (Cinzano Rosso)

Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry. Or if you’re me and feeling fancy and admire Jamie Boudreau’s blog… (it required TWO cocktail picks!)

Perplexing. Definitely a sweet drink- not sweet enough to turn me off it, but a sort of compelling sweetness that leaves your mouth asking for more, like those gummy snakes you chain-nibbled when you were a kid. All ingredients make themselves known, but meld together in a appreciable, if somewhat uneasy, companionship. Not surprising for such odd bedfellows. Part of me wants a more assertive scotch presence, either by using a different whisky or upping the measurement, but the slightly more discordant notes I detect caution against this. Actually, it’s fine as is. As the drink warms and my palate adjusts, dissonance turns to rich harmony, and I’m beginning to really like it. Perhaps the best way to take advantage of this phenomenon is to have another…

For full disclosure, I will admit I added a drop of The Bitter Truth orange bitters in the middle of drinking it as I wanted a slightly deeper bitter taste and a better link between the flavours. This may or may not have influenced my final enjoyment of the drink- clearly, more experimentation is needed!

Blood and Sand 2

I figured I had some orange juice left to use and hadn’t yet treated myself to a Tango 2 (from the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book). From what I can gather on Jay’s site, there were no instructions to garnish, but I went ahead with an orange peel because it was just lying there (he used lemon). Also notable is the recommendation to stir, not shake, even though the drink contains a cloudy ingredient (orange juice), presumably for the less airy texture and lack of froth.

Tango #2

Tango 2

Equal parts:
White Rum (Havana Club Anejo Blanco)
Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat)
Sweet Vermouth (Cinzano Rosso)
Benedictine
Orange Juice (fresh squeezed Navel)

Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Another sweet drink. An upfront fruity freshness created by the vermouths and orange juice segues to a deep herbal finish with lingering honey. A really good drink, and potentially a very accessible tipple to introduce neophytes to a more aromatic style of drink. I always found Benedictine to have a beautiful flavour but is far too intensely herbal on its own- drinks like this are a great way to explore its nuances, and I verily appreciate them.

MxMo XLII: Egg-Gullet

mxmologoThis month’s Mixology Monday is hosted by the eGullet forums, a great online resource for culinary information. The theme of the month is “Dizzy Dairy”; anything involving milk, cream, eggs, butter, cheese, etc.

Eggs are one of my favourite ingredients to work with in cocktails. Many of my favourite drinks owe their excellence to the texture imparted by egg white; for example, a Whiskey Sour is wholly elevated by the addition of 10mL of egg white. In this post, I’ll be covering a few egg-based drinks which I think don’t get enough press on the net; the Royal Gin Fizz, the Prado, 1806’s Margarita Custard, Morning Glory Fizz and the Golden Gin Fizz.

The Royal Fizz was a pre-prohibition subcategory of the Fizz, essentially referring to fizzes shaken with whole eggs. They could be made with any spirit, though I believe it was most popularly ordered with gin. The Royal Fizz and its cousins the Golden and Silver Fizzz (made with an egg yolk or white, respectively) are near extinct in the majority of bars these days, as people have shied away from the once-popular practise of imbibing raw eggs, particularly as morning-after drinks. This is a real pity as I believe they are great and equally palatable variations on the simple Fizz, which can get pretty boring fast.

Royal Gin Fizz

IMG_0741

1 1/2 Gin (Plymouth)
1 lemon juice
2tsp sugar syrup (2:1)
A whole egg
~1 1/2 Soda

Shake the gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg without ice for a decently long time to combine and aerate. Shake with ice and strain into a small tall glass. Top with soda water.

I found the Royal Gin Fizz to largely approximates a Ramos Gin Fizz in flavour, but without the creaminiess and stability of froth. I may even prefer this to the Ramos, being less thick and filling. It didn’t foam as much as I’d have liked on the head due to the soda water I used being less than freshly opened. Rich and floral, but tangy and refreshing. Between this and a Continental Gin Sour I made at a friend’s house a few weeks ago, I find that pairing egg with gin really brings out the floral notes present.

I invited my friend Nick over to taste the following drinks with me.

The Prado is a sort of Margarita variation, subbing Maraschino for Triple Sec and adding an egg white. Though Washington Post claim it was created by Kacy Fitch of the Zig Zag Café, the drink actually dates to at least 1977, being printed in Jones’ Complete Bar Guide. Zig Zag have certainly made a good effort at popularising it, however.

Prado

IMG_8719

1 1/2 Tequila (Sauza Blanco)
3/4 Lime juice
1/2 Maraschino Liqueur (Baitz)
3/4 to 1 Egg white

Mime shake all ingredients. Shake with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime twist, partly for the aroma but mainly because it looks pretty.

I like to use a whole egg white for this to get it as fluffy and light as possible. I’ve made this with both the Sauza Blanco and Tequila Blu Reposado, both mixto tequilas, but haven’t yet tried it with a 100% agave spirit. I actually preferred it with the Tequila Blu, whose harsher character and strong pepper note held its ground better in this mix. The Sauza is more subtle. This is one of my favourite tequila drinks, a crowd pleaser I use to introduce people to egg white. Given there’s a half ounce of liqueur in there, it’s surprisingly not particularly sweet, and fairly bitter. When shaken right the texture is heavenly, like sipping a cloud. I noted on this tasting that the tequila and especially the Maraschino dominated the flavour when the drink was on the tongue, but upon swallowing a wave of lime burst over the palate, leading into a mildly bitter finish.

The Margarita Custard is yet another riff off the Margarita, but a fairly unique one. Created by Sebastian Reaburn of 1806, a Melbourne cocktail bar that specialises in history, this ‘drink’ is like a lemon custard, only alcoholic. Here is Reaburn’s recipe:

Margarita Custard
A modern take on a 1930s favourite

Margarita Custard

30ml Herradura Blanco Tequila or Cuervo 1800 Blanco Tequila
30ml Cointreau
20ml fresh lemon juice
15ml sugar syrup
1 whole egg.

Whip ingredients together well. Pour into a heat resistant glass. Heat using the steam wand of a coffee machine until the mixture sets. Garnish with a light dusting of grated nutmeg. Serve with a spoon. Eat while hot!

I used Trago Silver for the tequila, and 2tsp of sugar instead of the syrup. I’ll be honest, every time I’ve made this I forgot the nutmeg finish. Regardless, the Margarita Custard is amazing. I’ve never tried it at 1806, but have not been disappointed by it at home. Very upfront orange flavour, luxurious texture and a lovely alcohol burn that results from the heat – this can be off putting to some. Being essentially a lemon custard, this is obviously an after dinner treat.

nom custard

Lacking a steam wand, I cooked this in the microwave instead. This brings some complications – it is essential that you get the cooking time right lest you end up with scrambled eggs. I have found it hard to get it to a satisfactory overall texture without having a few scrambly bits in, mostly at the bottom of the glass. Whilst these bits can be pretty detrimental to the texture, it’s not such an issue as the drink/food is far more than delicious enough to make up for it. I advise that you start with a shorter microwave time first, check the custard and microwave it further as required. In my microwave, about 40 seconds on the medium high setting does the trick. I have not yet experimented with stirring the mixture during cooking, for fear of ruining the texture, but may try this in the future.

This is my take on the Morning Glory Fizz. The Morning Glory Fizz was intended as a 19th century hangover cure. Inspired by my favourite bar Der Raum’s own interpretation, the delicious Islay Morning Fizz which uses Ardbeg 10 as a base and rosemary as a garnish, I basically took a standard Morning Glory Fizz recipe and added some Islay scotch and a few dashes of Peychaud’s bitters.

Morning Glory Fizz

Morning Glory Fizz

1 Blended Scotch (Famouse Grouse malt)
1/2 Islay Scotch (Laphroaig 10)
3/4 Lemon juice
3/4 Egg white
2tsp sugar
1tsp Absinthe/Pastis (Ricard) (slightly scant, maybe 4mL)
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
~1 1/2 soda water

Mime shake the lemon juice, sugar and egg white. Add the blended scotch, Peychaud’s bitters and absinthe to the shaker. Rinse the inside of a chilled wineglass with the Islay Scotch, pouring it into the shaker as well. Shake hard with ice. Strain into the chilled wineglass and top with soda.

I managed to work a huge and dense foam on it this time. This was probably due to using a freshly opened bottle of soda for the drink, a practise which I heavily recommend for all carbonated drinks but especially egg fizzes, where it is paramount that you build a nice head. It also seems it might be very important with such foam-topped drinks (including the Singapore Sling) to pour the soda directly into the drink, without jiggering. Jiggering the soda takes a lot of the initial fizz away, which I think may really diminish the frothing ability. Of course a lot of other factors were in play when I’ve mixed these drinks, such as freshness of the soda, so I can’t say this entirely conclusively.

Other notes on the method: I find that mime shaking the sugar with the citrus and egg is enough to dissolve it well. Make sure you don’t add the alcohol at this stage as it inhibits the dissolution of sugar. If you’re using sugar syrup you can just skip that step, of course. I like to rinse with the Islay before shaking the Islay in to get more of it on the nose whilst drinking.

IMG_8739

This was a very nice drink. Nick commented that it was “very well balanced”. In the past when I’ve mixed this the pastis has kind of dominated (not unpleasantly), but this time it played nice with the others, perhaps because I used a mL or two less than I normally poured (hence the scant in the recipe above). After drinking through some of the thick foam, we hit the body of the drink, finding a fizzy citrus tang which gave way to anise flavours and lingering smoke. I think I could have done with a stronger Islay presence in this drink, perhaps using only Islay scotch as the base, but I don’t think I can afford to mix a 1 1/2 ounce pour of single malt every time I want one of these. It’s fantastic as is.

mmm

Having an egg yolk left over from the above drinks, I decided to also give the Golden Gin Fizz a try. Instead of using the recipe I used for the Royal Gin Fizz above, I took my Tom Collins proportions and added the egg yolk, which turned out to not be such a good idea…

Golden Gin Fizz

Golden Gin Fizz

1 1/2 Gin (Beefeater)
3/4 Lemon juice
1tsp sugar
An egg yolk (approximately 15mL)
~2 Soda water

Mime shake lemon juice, sugar and egg yolk to combine and aerate. Add gin, shake hard with ice. Strain into a small tall glass. Top with soda awter.

This turned out distinctly bitter, perhaps remediable by increasing the sugar content or using Plymouth gin instead. Or maybe the somewhat large soda pour I gave accented the bitterness. Essentially, this would have turned out a better drink had I followed the recipe for the Royal Fizz above and simply omitted the egg white, as the richer nature of the drink calls for more sugar than a tart Collins or plain Fizz. I also prefer the the Royal Gin Fizz overall for its airier texture – the egg white quite improves the mouthfeel. This was still an enjoyable drink, but really, I reckon you might as well throw the whole egg in or stick with an eggless Gin Fizz.

That’s all for this post. I also made Nick a fresh grapefruit Paloma (which I’ll write about later) and we had a nip of Ferro-China Bisleri, an iron tonic amaro…

IMG_8795

Published in: on September 28, 2009 at 6:16 am  Comments (1)  

Taking Two to Tangelo

Had these two a few days ago.

Tip Top

Tip Top

2 Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat)
1/8 Benedictine
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This cocktail was recently featured on Robert Hess’s video blog The Cocktail Spirit. Feeling like a light aperitif, I decided to mix one of these up. Lacking a spirit base, I found the Tip Top to be weak in flavour and texture, though this was not much of a surprise, and it consequentially went down rather easily. The flavour was herbal, and slightly funky. Perhaps a stronger dash of bitters and a bit more Benedictine would’ve done the drink good (as I quite love Benedictine). Overall, I wasn’t particularly impressed, and am unlikely to revisit. For my money, I’d rather the Noilly in a Martini, or fridge chilled or on the rocks.

Tart Gin Cooler

Tart Gin Cooler

2 Gin (Beefeater)
2 Fresh grapefruit juice (Ruby)
2 Tonic Water (Schweppes)
3-6 dashes Peychaud’s bitters, to taste

Build over cracked ice in a tall glass. Stir.

This drink was invented by Gary and Mardee Haidin Regan for a Food & Wine article. What struck me most about this was how well the Peychaud’s complement the grapefruit juice. As cocktailnerd pointed out, you’ll definitely want the bitters “to taste”, as a major flavour component – it’s all about that interplay. Don’t forget to stir like I did or it’ll be too ginny for a while. I’d still say that an arbitrary 3 times out of 5 I would go for a fresh juice Paloma as my preferred grapefruity summer beverage, but this is certainly a great drink and another showcase of the excellent mixing potential of grapefruit juice.

Tonight I made myself a Manhattan (Rye, 3:1). No detailed post on this yet, but suffice to say it reminded me why it was one of my favourite cocktails ever.

Also, my mother asked me to make her something using the tangelos we had in the fridge. I’ve not had much experience or success thus far with improvising drinks; I’ve rarely felt the need to try, given the many great recipe sources at my disposal. But here goes.

Ad-lib Tangelo Cooler

Tangelo Cooler

Muddle half a tangelo and a few leftover slices of grapefruit, all peeled
Add 1 1/2 White Rum (Havana Club)
Taste. Hmm…. gee, I might’ve put too much rum in for her liking.
Add 1tsp sugar and mime shake to dissolve.
Taste. Add a dash each of The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters and Angostura Bitters, another quarter of tangelo and muddle more.
Taste. Not fantastic, but the flavours are more balanced and blended. Let’s see how it turns out.
Shake with ice. Strain into a stemless goblet/tumbler/not quite old fashioned glass full of crushed ice.
Taste. It’s pretty dull. Needs perhaps some sour, but I don’t feel like using a lemon. Oh, tonic water in the fridge!
Top up with tonic water.
Taste. Yes, that’s quite good.
Garnish with a tangelo quarter.

It turned out pretty well thankfully. Probably should have used just tangelos instead of grapefruit as well, for a cleaner flavour.
For dad, who asked for something simple with gin:

Old Fashioned Gin Cocktail (stub)

Old Fashioned Gin Cocktail

2 Gin (Beefeater)
1tsp white sugar
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Dissolve sugar with very little water in an old-fashioned glass. Add bitters, gin, and ice. Stir to chill, serve.

Better be into your juniper for this one. Obviously, if you really like gin with not much else going on, you’ll probably dig this drink. It’s kind of a sweetened Pink Gin on the rocks. The taste of the gin seem to be expressed fairly emphatically here, when compared to, say, a Martini, though I do like those relatively heavy in vermouth. It’s also a bit of a strange sensation to be drinking such sweet gin. It was enjoyable, but if I had a full one I could see myself getting sick of the heavy gin flavour, and probably be left wondering why I didn’t just have a whiskey Old Fashioned in the first place. If I got my hands on some old Holland gin though, I shall definitely be revisiting the gin Cocktail, most likely in Improved form.

Published in: on August 15, 2009 at 12:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Welcome; the Floridita and the Margarita

Hullo and welcome to The Manhattan Project. My name is Aaron, I’m an 18 year old engineering student from Melbourne, Australia with a keen interest in mixing drinks. (And if you want to avoid a self-indulgent history lesson, you’d best scroll to the bottom of this post.)

I guess my interest in the subject sparked about a year and a half ago, when underaged Aaron’s father contemplated a bottle of Bombay Sapphire in an airport shop, and was mildly curious about the brilliant blue bottle and its contents. A the same month, at a Sufjan Stevens concert (which my father was decidedly bored at), he let me have a sip from his gin & tonic. I thought it tasted bloody brilliant. “Vodka lime?” I asked. “No. It’s a gin and tonic.”

In the following months I began taking nips from my parents’ dusty collection of duty-free liquor they had acquired over the years (they were more wine drinkers than anything), then mixing them- I remember being fond of Bacardi and grapefruit juice, serving my friend Nick White Russians, and even once trying a recipe inspired by the “Colorado Bulldog” – vodka, Kahlua, Coca-Cola and milk. But I replaced the Coca-Cola. With root beer. And liked it. One of these days, that concotion must be revisited…

Thankfully, in the year since then I have been scouring the Internet and a handful of print sources fervently for educational material. The most helpful by far, when I was getting started, was Robert Hess’s video blog, The Cocktail Spirit. He provided much insight into all the basic principles of mixing drinks, and many a great, classically styled recipe. Another resource that was very important to me was 750 Cocktails, by Walton, Olivier and Farrow. It provided detailed backgrounds and explainations of most of the spirits and liqueurs one is likely to encounter in a lifetime, and many recipes with short descriptions and sometimes photographs and histories for each. Though I could now recommend better texts for a beginner, this publication is certainly far above the depressing average standard of most cocktail books on the shelves today. Shout outs must also go to Jay from Oh Gosh! and the boys from Infusions of Grandeur (who seemingly mysteriously disappeared almost exactly a year ago). More recently, I’ve found a wealth of knowledge at the eGullet forums, which many of today’s cocktail visionaries frequent, and have been exploring some of the excellent cocktail bars my city has to offer (Der Raum and Black Pearl being my favourites so far).

Well, that’s more than enough of a history lesson. I can hardly expect you, the reader, to care in the slightest about a backstory when I’ve not yet posted a single thing. So, on to the first drink of the blog!

Floridita

Floridita

1 1/2 White Rum (Havana Club Anejo Blanco)

1/2 Sweet Vermouth (Cinzano Rosso)

1/2 Fresh lime juice

1tsp Grenadine (Monin; I used 4mL actually)

<1tsp White Creme de Cacao (Baitz, I substituted dark; about 3.7mL. White is preferred for a cleaner colour, but seeing as such a small quantity was added the brown did not impact too badly.)

Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into achilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime slice.

Sorry for the slightly mangled garnish – mum used a lime’s peel for cooking and I used the juice.

An interesting and somewhat unlikely recipe, the Floridita combines rum, lime, grenadine… vermouth… and chocolate? I had made one of these before, but that was a long time ago in my newbie days when I was using a 10 year old bottle (!) of local sweet vermouth – far from ideal (though an interesting flavour in its own right; My best friend and I, upon first sip, concluded that it tasted like Mother Nature). I thought it was about time I retried it, seeing as it had given great praise by Robert Hess and a few others.

On tasting, the drink reflects the complexity in its recipe: the initial flavour is mostly vermouth and spirit (alcohol), a suggestion of rum, but whilst swallowing this gives way to a wave of crisp lime, then the body of the rum, more lime and just a hint of chocolate – more the ‘feeling’ of chocolate than a pronounced flavour. It’s quite a pleasant drink, but though the flavours are complex and give that great “marching down the tongue” sensation, they are light and none of them particularly grab you; I love complex drinks, but I prefer them to have bold, heavy flavours, like a Sazerac or an Islay Morning Fizz. This is much the same issue I had with the 20th Century I had at 1806, and come to think of it, the two drinks are kind of similar (the 20th Century consisting of Gin, Lillet, lemon juice and Creme de Cacao, albiet quite a lot more Cacao). Regardless, both are fine drinks, well worth trying, and may certainly appeal to many drinkers out there.

Margarita (stub)

Margarita

1 1/2 Blanco Tequila (Trago Silver – 100% agave)

1 Cointreau

3/4 Fresh lime juice

Before juicing the lime, take a cocktail glass and run the exposed flesh of the lime around the outer lip of half of the rim.  Lightly sprinkle salt upon the wet edge of the rim. Chill the cocktail glass. Juice the lime, shake all ingredients with ice and strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with a lime slice.

I made this one for my father, so I can’t write in depth about how it tasted. From the few sips I had though, it was quite delicious. I made it using a super-premium 100% agave Tequila which I managed to pick up for half price due to import discontinuation (for the other Melbourninans out there, Nick’s Wine Merchants is one hell of a shop if you love your wine and/or spirits, and they have a fantastic site to boot which is a real trove of information). I had only made Margaritas before with Tequila Blu before, which as far as I know is a mixto (meaning it’s not pure agave spirit, instead being blended most likely with sugar spirit to produce an inferior and cheaper product) Reposado (it has been lightly aged). Some confusion arises from Tequila Blu being occasionally marketed as 100% agave- however, as it is fairly cheap, bottled locally (100% agave Tequilas are by law restricted to bottling in Mexico) and not stated as being 100% on the packaging this is highly unlikely. It does have a very strong pepper note, and the Margaritas never turned out quite right. It did quite well in Palomas and Prados though, which I shall cover later.

On the other hand, Trago Silver is a very clean tasting tequila, and makes a very drinkable Margarita, if a bit light on the agave flavour. To be honest, I’ve never tried another 100% agave tequila, but I feel I’d prefer if the Trago could stand up for itself a bit better in a mix – the Cointreau somewhat overshadowed it in this drink. Maybe I need to try a drier ratio, or a Tommy’s style recipe, using agave syrup as the sweetener instead of Cointreau. Other future Margarita experiments will include using Grand Marnier instead of Cointreau (“Cadillac Margarita”), and mixing one using Sauza Blanco, a mixto, for when I’m not feeling so luxurious.

The final note on the Margarita for this post is the salt rim. Some love it, some hate it. I like to salt half the rim, and only lightly, to give the drinker a choice with every sip. I’m not partial to the salt myself, and oversalting to get a big crusty rim  I feel is harsh on the tastebuds, and the cocktail. If desired, the salt should just be there to slightly enhance the flavour of the drink – and between Mexican food, the alcohol and the lime juice, you’re going to be thirsty enough! It is also very important not to get any salt on the inside of the glass, where it will dissolve into the drink.

Thank you for reading!