The future is now

•July 24, 2011 • 13 Comments

Please accept my apologies for the silence on this blog, but it is for good reason. Later this summer I will be opening my own bar here in Seattle, and it has been occupying most of my time. Once the bar is up and running, I plan to start blogging more regularly once again.

In the meantime, please “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, to keep up on the progress and to be the first to know when we open. Our website will be up and running shortly: http://www.canonseattle.com

Thanks and we hope to see you at Canon!

 

Cannon logo-final by jamiebdr

 

St-Germain Cocktails

•January 3, 2011 • 14 Comments

While I’m aware that most people that read my blog won’t require this help, I’ve created a small database of St-Germain cocktail recipes that is organized by spirit for those of you who are having difficulties trying to figure out what to do with your bottle of St-Germain. I’ve imaginatively named the site St-Germain Cocktails and it can be found here.

Update: The website can now be found by the shorter link: StGermainCocktails.com

Happy mixing!

small st germain

Old Fashioned, Cubed and Syruped

•October 23, 2010 • 40 Comments

As a bartender I find that I’m constantly being asked what my favorite cocktail is, to which I have always replied that I don’t have a favorite cocktail, but that what I truly enjoy is change and when I frequent my local watering hole it is a rare occasion indeed that I would order the same drink twice.

Another question that I’m often asked is what the “best” cocktail is, to which I have to reply that there is no such thing as a “best” cocktail. I usually then bring out the analogy of shoes (I used to mention cars, but that was lost on much of the fairer sex). I ask what they would consider to be the “best” pair of shoes. There is usually a pause to which I answer the question for them: “Best for what? Dancing? Hiking? Boating? Work? Winter? Summer? The shoes that one chooses depend upon the time, your needs and your attitude. It is the same with a cocktail”.

Having said that, it has come to my conclusion that while I may not have a “go to” cocktail, I definitely have a favorite style of libation: that of the venerable Old Fashioned.

While it may be true that I can’t recall the last (or first) time that I have actually ordered an Old Fashioned in a bar, panning over some of my older posts I became aware that I’ve mentioned the Old Fashioned or a variation of it several times, which got me to thinking: whenever I’m at home, nine times out of ten, when I’m wanting of a cocktail, I’m going to make myself an Old Fashioned or similar concoction. And while I may not be able to remember the last time I ordered an Old Fashioned in a bar, it wasn’t that long ago that I ordered one of its more famous variants: the Sazerac. But I digress.

The Old Fashioned refers to, of course, the Old Fashioned Cocktail. It was as early as the 1870’s when the discerning drinker began to tire of all the new cocktail variations and just wanted an old fashioned (or original) cocktail, which as I’m sure we all know by now, consisted simply of a spirit, water, bitters and sugar. There was no ice in the finished drink (one must realize that ice during this time was a luxury, and would never have been just given away to a customer’s unless absolutely necessary!) and heaven help the barkeep that threw in a fruit salad of orange and cherry: such an action was liable to get the man shot! The Cocktail was a simple drink, made in simpler times, but oh the chorus of angels that made their presence known when this amazingly deep and complex concoction was first put to the imbiber’s lips and past his gullet.

OLD FASHIONED

2 oz rye whiskey (or quality dry bourbon)
3 goodly dashes of Angostura aromatic bitters
1 sugar cube (or ¼ oz rich simple syrup)
dash of club soda (if not using simple syrup)
place the sugar cube into a chilled mixing glass
wet the cube with Angostura and soda
crush the cube with a muddler
add rye and stir
add ice and stir until well chilled
strain into a chilled rocks glass
garnish and add ice at your own peril

As great as the Old Fashioned is, as with most things in life, there is always room for improvement. Those that are familiar with my recipes know that I am always looking for ways to add or compact as much flavor and complexity as possible when creating cocktails, and to this end, I’ve come up with the Cubed Old Fashioned. In this variation, I’ve tripled the number of spirits, I’ve tripled the types of bitters and even complicated the sugar by making a syrup with three ingredients, not one of which is water (more on this later). In the creation of the Cubed Old Fashioned, I’ve added just as much flavor as is humanly possible, and the only way to go further would be to add a scotch or absinthe rinse. Sometimes one has to just let things be (as hard as that may be for the likes of this bartender).

My “eureka!” moment for this cocktail came when I decided to create an Old Fashioned within the Old Fashioned by making a syrup to replace the normally used sugar out of the ingredients that one would find in a traditional Old Fashioned.  In other words, I replaced the water with rye and bitters when making the syrup, and for added complexity I employed turbinado sugar instead of refined white sugar (demerara or raw sugar will work wonders as well). I’ve now made other syrups using this technique and am in absolute love with how they enrich cocktails. Good examples have been a Caipirinha syrup using lime peel, cachaca and white sugar, as well as Margarita syrup with tequila, orange bitters, sugar and honey. As you can see, the possibilities are endless and the syrups don’t have to be used solely with the cocktails after which they are named.

Enough talk, let’s mix up a:

CUBED OLD FASHIONED

¾ oz Remy VSOP (or any good cognac)
¾ oz Appleton V/X (or any good rum)
¾ oz Rittenhouse 100 (or any good rye/bourbon)
½ oz Old Fashioned syrup
1 dash Bitter Truth Xocolatl Mole bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Angostura orange bitters
stir all ingredients with ice
strain into a chilled rocks glass filled with one giant ice chunk
garnish with orange zest and brandied cherry resting on the top of the glass

Old Fashioned Syrup

200 mL Bourbon or rye
100 mL Angostura bitters
550 mL Turbinado sugar
5 cloves
7 allspice
3 star anise
stir ingredients in a pot over low heat until all sugar is incorporated
let cool
strain and funnel into a sanitized bottle
add 1 oz of bourbon/rye to help preserve your syrup

While I don’t ordinarily add ice to my Old Fashioneds, the Cubed Old Fashioned is so complex that I feel it requires a large chunk of ice. If you don’t have a large chunk of pristine ice on hand (and the sad reality is that few of us do), the least you can do is order one of these trays. If both options fail you, try the drink without ice, as small ice cubes will just muck up the dynamics of this powerful, yet elegant libation.

Try other iterations of the Old Fashioned by subbing out the sugar/syrup with a variety of liqueurs (St Germain, Crème Yvette, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, Fernet, or Canton ad infinitum) or swapping out the spirits and bitters and you’ll find that this is a cocktail that has no bounds. Leave comments below to tell me of some of your newfound Old Fashioned variations, or experiments with new types of flavor-packed syrups.

Happy mixing!

Cubed Old Fashioned

Cubed Old Fashioned

Picture by:
Jamie Boudreau
Cocktail Whisperer

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Balvenie 17yr Madeira Cask & Drinking at Home

•March 11, 2010 • 14 Comments

I’ve decided to take this moment to opine on something that is dear to me: drinking well. Now while this will mean different things to different people at different times, today I want to talk about the selection of our spirits when we imbibe. While we are in a economic downturn right now, it is common knowledge that people are drinking just as much as they were when they were flush, they’ve just opted for less expensive options, and this pains me down to my soul.

A little time ago I posted some Scotch options for Xmas presents and one of the comments that were posted asked why all of the options were so pricy, and why I hadn’t decided to give people many options that were under $75. Now while many of you may whole heartedly agree and loudly proclaim that spending $75, $100 or even $150 is way too much to spend on a bottle of booze, I invite you to do a little math with me.

Figuring that a bottle of hooch has approximately 17 servings, one can deduce that a $120 bottle of quality spirits will cost you approximately seven dollars per serving. Seven dollars.  As a barkeep for many years, I can tell you of the numerous masses that don’t flinch at dropping $15 for a Grey Goose martini, but would seriously balk at paying $120 for a bottle for the home bar. The same goes to the classic cocktail connoisseur that pays $12-$15 for that well designed cocktail. Yet if one thinks of that pricey bottle of booze as an investment into better drinking for the future, a plethora of fabulous bottlings awaits!

Am I saying that one can’t find great spirits for $50, $30 of even $15? Absolutely not (I’m looking at you Rittenhouse bonded). Am I saying that one always has to mix with three digit bottles? Of course not. All I am saying is that if one goes out of their comfort levels to buy a bottle outside of what one would normally pay, not only will you end up drinking better, but on those occasions when you do have a drink at home, you will be able to crack open something “special” and at a fraction of the cost of the drinks that you would imbibe so readily on a Friday night at your favorite watering hole.

I bring this to your attention, because a little while ago I was presented with a wonderful bottling of the elegant and graceful Balvenie 17-year Madeira Cask. As I have been immensely enjoying it over the last two months, I felt that if I just suggested it as a potential future purchase, many of you would look at the price tag and immediately strike it from further thought, but as a bottle that runs around $120, you would be dismissing a wonderful scotch that will only set you back around seven dollars a serving.  And that would be a great shame.

The Balvenie 17-year Madeira Cask is Grace Kelly to a Laphroig’s Mae West. While this isn’t a dram that will wow the lover of Islay’s peat bombs, it will amaze those who dig Speyside’s contributions and it might even convert a bourbon drinker or two. This Balvenie expression has tons of spicy Xmas cake (dried fruits like apple, apricot and fig with nutmeg and cinnamon) followed by a nice long spicy vanillin finish. I find the Madeira finish even more integrated then their well-vaunted Rum finish, and at 17 years the barrel doesn’t overtake the dram, which I feel is beginning to happen with their 21 year Portwood finish. (Having said that, I still wouldn’t throw the Portwood finish out of bed for leaving crumbs, or wood chips as the case may be.)

I’m going to suggest something that may seem like sacrilege to many of you: let’s make a cocktail with this fine spirit! Again, let’s keep in mind that the final cost of this cocktail will come in around $8, a bargain for having a cocktail that you would probably never consider at you local bar. So crack open the seal and let’s prepare a:

BORDEN CHASE

1 ¾ oz Scotch
¾ oz Carpano Antica
1/8 oz absinthe
2 dashes Bitter Truth orange bitters
stir with ice
strain into a chilled cocktail glass
(circa 1935)

I had first discovered this twist on a Rob Roy (or perhaps a Bobby Burns) many moons ago in David Wondrich’s wonderful tome, Esquire Drinks. The Borden Chase is named after the American writer born as Frank Fowler who changed his moniker, it is said, after enjoying some Borden Milk while looking across the street at the Chase Manhattan bank. His choice could’ve been a lot worse if he’d had Leigh Valley whilst gazing upon Wachovia, methinks.

While preparing this drink, be careful with the absinthe, as it could quickly overtake the other flavours if poured with a heavy hand and if you can’t find Bitter Truth’s wonderful bitters (and they are available in the US now) Angostura orange will do in a pinch.

I hope that I’ve convinced you that there is value to drinking better, if not at your favorite bar, then at least at your home, and remember, when making cocktails, your end result will only be as good as your weakest link, so let’s not chince out on any of the ingredients!

Santé!

Picture by:
Jamie Boudreau
Cocktail Whisperer

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Combier, Haiti and the Blood and Sand

•January 22, 2010 • 4 Comments

I have had in my possession for some time a bottling of Royal Combier Grande Liqueur, and while I had wanted to mention it, I wasn’t sure how to present it, as I’ve already discussed Combier’s other bottling and had compared it favorably to Cointreau in its use in cocktails. My first thought was to compare it to Grand Marnier’s premium bottling, the Cuvée du Cent Cinquantenaire but quickly realized that this wouldn’t be fair as a) they are two very different beasts and b) the price point of the two bottles was far too dissimilar ($37 as compared to Grand Marnier’s $250). So there went my idea for a post.

But then a little bit of information crossed my desk that I felt that I absolutely needed to share.  Combier USA announced that the company will donate 20% of all earnings from January 20 until March 1, 2010 to Doctors Without Border – Emergency Relief Fund in response to last week’s devastating earthquake in Haiti. Combier is especially close to this disaster as the orange peels used in Combier Liqueur d’Orange and Royal Combier are sourced from plantations throughout the island of Haiti.

So if you were looking for a reason to finally try a different triple sec, or were looking for a different cherry liqueur for your Blood and Sands (Combier makes a cherry liqueur as well: the Roi René Rouge), now is the time!

Speaking of Blood and Sands, this little cocktail named after a 1922 Rudolph Valentino movie has been making the rounds here in Seattle, and if you haven’t tried one recently, why don’t you start with this traditional recipe:

Blood and Sand

1 part scotch
1 part sweet vermouth
1 part Roi René Rouge (or other cherry liqueur)
1 part fresh orange juice
shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

I’ve found that I’ve needed to up the quantity of scotch in my Blood and Sands, especially if using a blended scotch. It doesn’t hurt to tame the orange juice and liqueur either. Play around with the proportions until you find a ratio that is perfect for you.

For those of you who are wondering about the Royal Combier, it is a blend of their triple sec, cognac and Elixir de Combier (which includes ingredients such as aloe, nutmeg, myrrh, cardamom, cinnamon and saffron). While I would say that Cointreau is full of raw bright orange zest, I would say that Royal Combier is a darker, muted orange zest with prominent spice notes, notably nutmeg and saffron.

There you have it, a chance to help a hurting country whilst you hurt your helping liver!

Picture by:
Jamie Boudreau

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Bitter Truth to hit U.S. shores

•December 30, 2009 • 13 Comments

Big news for all you cocktail nuts out there: Bitter Truth bitters will become more readily available in the U.S. While one can always order them online from Cocktail Kingdom, it appears that one will soon be able to walk into their nearest speciality store and get Bitter Truth bitters at a reasonable price (as oppossed to the $25 we have to pay for them in Seattle).

Straight from the PR firm’s keyboard:

The Bitter Truth, a brand of cocktail bitters and flavorings, has partnered with Domaine Select Wine Estates’  (DSWE) Classic and Vintage Artisanal Spirits Portfolio to bring their award-winning products to the United States.  The first shipment will arrive stateside in mid-January 2010.

Founded in 2006, by mixologists Stephan Berg and Alexander Hauck, The Bitter Truth offers bartenders a broad range of cocktail seasonings and flavors.  The products that will be available in the U.S. include the award winning Celery Bitters, Old Time Aromatic Bitters, Orange Bitters, Lemon Bitters, as well as the Bittermens Xocolatl Mole and Grapefruit Bitters. All bitters are priced at $15.95 for a 200 ml bottle. A coveted item by bartenders around the world, The Bitter Truth Bitters can now be purchased nationwide.

“It will be nice to have easy access to these products after searching far and wide with limited availability in the US” commented mixologist H. Joseph Ehrmann, Proprietor of San Francisco’s Elixir. “The quality of their bitters is superior to many products on the market today and more consistent than homemade.”

“Improving the world one cocktail at a time has a new ally in the arrival of the Bitter Truth Bitters in the US. This expansion of commercial, artisanal bitters is long overdue. Thank you!”  Brian Miller, Death & Company, New York City

Originally used as a pharmaceutical elixir, bitters were one of the main ingredients in the earliest cocktail recipes. With the resurgence of classic cocktail culture and growth of contemporary mixology, The Bitter Truth’s products have found great favor amongst the best bartenders in the world.  The Bitter Truth line of products helps bring complexity to cocktails and are intended to be another tool for bartenders and mixologists to create unique, creative and innovative cocktails.

“Bringing the bitters to America has been our dream,” says Stephan Berg, co-founder of The Bitter Truth, “but finding the right importing and distribution partner has been our greatest challenge. The Classic and Vintage Artisanal Spirits Portfolio has the background in specialty spirits and nation-wide reach that we need in order to make this a success.”

About The Bitter Truth Bitters:

Celery Bitters: The first celery bitters to be commercially produced in decades. This 19th century cocktail ingredient enriches cocktails with unusual flavors.

Lemon Bitters: Gives the liveliness of fresh lemons to every cocktail. Bitter to the taste, this formulation also has notes of coriander seeds and cardamom in the background.

Aromatic Bitters: Classically bitter and tangy. Combining the aromatics of cinnamon, cardamom, anise and cloves, it reminds one of gingerbread.

Orange Bitters: The aroma of bitter orange peel is in the foreground, complimented by the spicy flavors of cardamom, caraway and nutmeg.

Bittermens Grapefruit Bitters: Grapefruit meets with hops to create a fresh, bright citrus note. Best friends with gin and tequila, this bitter plays nicely with fizzy and fruity drinks as well.

Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters: Deep chocolate notes are supported by classic bitter flavors and accented with a hint of spice. Plays perfectly with most dark spirits, rums and tequilas.

The initial U.S. launch will be in 16 states including: California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Nevada, Illinois, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Washington, Oregon, Maryland, Washington DC, Louisiana and Colorado.

Picture by:
Jamie Boudreau

Public Service Announcement

•December 16, 2009 • 1 Comment

The folks at magnificentbastard.com have embarked on a quest to invent a new cocktail called the Magnificent Bastard and are asking mixologists and drink enthusiasts for worthy recipes. In exchange, the winning entrant will receive all the glory for inventing a new cocktail plus a $500 shopping spree at kegworks.com.

All the info and entry form is here:
http://www.magnificentbastard.com/features/magnificent-bastard-cocktail

 
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