Monday, September 22, 2008

Suntory Spirits Unite in This Early Fall Cooler

The Bank of Japan is crisp, zingy, and refreshing.

Suntory makes an incredibly smooth whisky, Yamazaki, and we thought we would challenge each other to come up with a drink that showcases its mellow smokiness. The “Bank of Japan” is the name of the first drink (we’ll explore the other at a later date), and the path we took to come up with the name was long forgotten after a few rounds of these coolers that are perfect for late summer–early fall. (Happy Fall, by the way, and we hope you enjoy the lack of humidity wherever you may be.)

Sometimes it’s difficult to mix whiskies (the flavors of most single malts can be slightly overpowering when mixed with liqueurs that cannot hold themselves up to their piquancies). Mulling around the liquor cabinet, Paul thought that the addition of Midori, another Suntory product, might just be the sweetness that this 12-year Yamazaki needed. Midori, as you all know, is a melon liqueur, and a guilty pleasure in the Schul–Zablocki household. It’s also an ingredient in The Universe, which won First Prize in the the 1978 U.S. Bartenders Guild Annual Competition, and was a favorite at the bacchanalian Studio 54.

The addition of Midori did add just the right amount of sweetness, and also a tantalizing fruitiness, to the Yamazaki Whisky, but something was missing. The characteristics of what makes single-malt whisky, whisky, were now suppressed. How to bring them back? Another glance at the liquor cabinet revealed a bright yellow liqueur, recently purchased, and crying out to be used creatively. Strega! Italian for witch, and a brew of spicy, herbal wonder. Just a little bit goes a long way, so after a splash, and a few drops of Peychaud’s Bitters to round out all the flavors, we threw in some ice and garnished with a slice of pear (apple works just as well) to welcome the fall into our home. The color is gorgeous, and changes from a bright yellow, to a glowing chartreuse, depending on the light source (see photos).

Now as we enter the fall, and are sitting outside on our terrace, or back porch, or near an open window, we can sip our Bank of Japans, breath a sigh of relief knowing that in less than half an hour we’ll be ready for another one. Kampai!

Bank of Japan
(created by Paul Zablocki, Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 ounces Yamazaki whisky
1/2 ounce Midori melon liqueur
1/4 ounce Strega
2 drops Peychaud’s Bitters
splash of soda

Stir first three ingredients in ice for 30 seconds. Pour into rocks glass. Add ice. then bitters. Top with soda. Add red pear slice (such as Clapp, Red Barlett, or Red Anjou), as garnish.

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mixology Monday XXXI: Imbibing Old School with Old Tom

In C. F. Lawlor’s 1855 The Mixicologist, or How To Mix All Kinds of Fancy Drinks, there appears a recipe for The Improved Tom Gin Cocktail. For those of you who are not familiar with Old Tom Gin, or are but have never tried it, we direct your attention to Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, a botanically nuanced, balanced gin that is pleasantly sweet. Old Tom gin is called for in a lot of 19th-century cocktails, and has always been available in England, but in the U.S. it has only been recently made available since departing some time in the 1950s. Imagine taking your favorite London Dry Gin and adding a little simple syrup to it. That’s Old Tom gin in a nutshell. So we thought it would be fun to pick up a bottle and make one of Lawlor’s recipes, and see what happens.

The Improved Tom Gin Cocktail differs from its predecessor, the Tom Gin Cocktail, by requiring Curaçoa [sic] in place of simple syrup. We decided on l’Original Combier Liqueur d’Orange for our Curaçao, a perfect match since Combier touts itself as being the original triple sec (from 1834). It’s also delicious, with intense orange aroma and taste. Add to that a few dashes of The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters, which gives the drink a jolt of sharpness, and you've got on your hands a 19th-century recreation that will pack quite a punch. A few sips of this, and you'll feel like your brain’s taken a mini-vacation (both spirits are 80 proof.) As far as garnishing goes, we had some blueberries left over from a blueberry-stout salsa we had just made, so we threw in a few to give the drink a little color (and it’s always extra nice to bite into a gin-soaked berry once the drink has been imbibed).

So here’s our recipe for this 19th-century spirituous delight, based on C. F. Lawlor’s:

Improved Tom Gin Cocktail
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces Old Tom gin
1/4 ounces triple sec
3 dashes orange bitters

In a mixing glass filled halfway with ice, stir the ingredients for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish. Sip. Get carried away.

Further Exploration
We are happy to report that since posting this, a new Old Tom gin, developed with the collaboration of cocktail guru David Wondrich, has hit the market. It’s from Ransom, and it touts itself as being historically accurate, the way gin was made before Prohibition. Its hue is a deep gold, and the smell and taste of the botanicals and slight maltiness will definitely win you over, tempting you to make old school pre-bathtub gin cocktails, like the one above. Seek it out today and start stirring tonight.

photo © Cocktail Buzz

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Gin Stevie and Bruschetta Make a Perfect Pairing

Ah, the Gin Stevie. Watermelon–Sake ice cubes slowly melting in a pool of muddled mint and basil bathed in gin and lime juice.

Watermelon is still in season as we enter late summer. So Steve came up with an amazing cocktail that is perfectly paired with bruschetta topped with heirloom tomatoes and just a hint of red jalapeño. It’s called the Gin Stevie, and you will fall in love by drink’s end. Two drinks and you’re ready to walk down the aisle (sadly for us that is not a reality here in Brooklyn).

Politics aside (though you should be gearing up to vote this November), we are concerned now with the success of your cocktail party. Perhaps you are planning one this coming weekend and want something different, something relatively simple, and of course something delicious. Steve has crafted his Gin Stevie in a highball glass using chilled Hendrick’s gin, fresh lime juice, some watermelon–sake ice cubes (which were inspired by a recipe in Imbibe Magazine), and basil and mint leaves. Top with a little soda, garnish with a sprig of the mint, and bingo! the taste of summer comes sharply into focus.

We pair the Gin Stevie with bruschetta. Why? Because watermelon and tomato know how to get down and boogie-oogie-oogie with each other without stepping on one another’s toes. Balance is key, so we added a bit of red jalapeño to the bruschetta topping to bring out the sweetness in the Gin Stevie. Bruschetta is so easy to make, a real no-brainer, that requires you to grill some sliced baguette, chop up some tomatoes and red jalapeño, and sprinkle on some salt and pepper with a little drizzle of olive oil (oh, and you have to rub a little garlic on the bread once toasted). Simplicity at your grill.

Making a classic tomato bruschetta is easy. Just a few ingredients, and a hot grill are all you need.

Gin Stevie
(created by Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces gin (we like Hendrick’s for this)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
5 spearmint leaves
5 basil leaves
1/2 ounce simple syrup
3–4 watermelon–sake ice cubes*
splash of soda
spearmint sprig, as garnish

In a highball glass gently muddle lime juice, simple syrup, and leaves. Add chilled gin, watermelon–sake ice cubes, and soda. Stir. Garnish with sprig. Add a straw.

* Watermelon–sake ice cubes
4-lb. seedless watermelon, cut into cubes
1 ounce fresh lime juice
up to 1 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of watermelon)
180 ml bottle sparkling sake

Add first 3 ingredients to a bowl for at least 15 minutes and up to several days. Transfer contents of bowl to a blender and puree until chunks are broken down. Stir in sake. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze until ready to use.

Makes up to 8 dozen cubes. (It may sound like a lot, but trust us, you’ll be much happier with lots in your freezer.)

❤ ❤ ❤

You can learn how to make a Gin Stevie and bruschetta by watching our new video on our Web site, Cocktail Buzz. We had fun shooting it (although we had to wait every time the helicopters whirled above and planes soared by us), and editing was actually a blast. Hope you like the final products. And let us know when you make the Gin Stevie and bruschetta how every little thing turned out. Cheers and Bottoms Up!

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz