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.

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!