Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Remsen Cooler Will Remind You of Summer No Matter What Time of Year

As you peruse the shelves at your local liquor store this holiday season, you may come across a bottle of Old Tom gin. We’ve talked about Old Tom gin before in an earlier post. It’s slightly sweet, and the Hayman’s Old Tim gin discussed is not so juniper forward. If you pick up a bottle for the Holidays, and you’re into Martinis, then do try the Improved Tom Gin Cocktail that we adapted in that write-up. But if you want something not so boozy, try a Remsen Cooler. This refreshing elixir made with Old Tom gin and soda was putatively created in the mid 1800s by one William R. Remsen, a retired navy officer, who made them for the men of the private Union Club in New York City, of which he was an imbibing member. Cut to 2010, and at Paul’s office there works a woman named Michele Remsen, a writer who occasionally likes to kick back with a gin cocktail in her hand after a hard day of turning a phrase. Could she be a descendant of the esteemed William R.? And is liking gin hardwired into our genetic code? Regardless, the Remsen Cooler may appeal to anyone who enjoys a highball. It may appeal more during the hotter months or in warmer climates, but having one now as the weather turns frosty in many parts of the world will take you back to summer barbecues and afternoon cocktail parties.

What makes a Remsen Cooler special is the wide swath of lemon peel that’s required to gussy up the drink and give it some bright citrus flavor. If you plan on making a bunch of Remsen Coolers, make sure to buy some extra lemons so you can practice on a few using a vegetable peeler to remove the rind in one go. It takes a little getting used to, but hold the lemon in one hand, and start peeling it as you would an apple in one long, wide spiral. Just keep turning the lemon as if your hand were a lathe, and let the peeler do its magic. If, after you’re done, a lot of the white pith remains on the underside of the peel, you can remove it by laying down the peel with the pith side up, and scraping it off gently with a small knife.

Just make sure you also have a lot of ice, and thirsty party guests, and you’re all set. If you can’t find Old Tom gin, you can do one of two things: (1) substitute your favorite gin (try Bulldog or New Amsterdam) and add some confectioners’ or superfine sugar, or (2) try another sweet-ish gin, such as Beefeater 24. Remember, all gin are not created equal. They are as disparate as Chihuahuas and Great Danes, and every breed in between.

To make a Remsen Cooler, some dexterity is required:

Remsen Cooler
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces Old Tom Gin*
very long, wide lemon peel (with no pith)**

1) In a highball or collins glass, place one end of the lemon peel at the bottom so that the shiny side is pressed up against the inside of the glass, and drop in a few ice cubes to anchor it. Then slowly twist the peel up against the glass and press it as it spirals toward the top (this will release some of the lemon oil), all the while adding more ice to keep it in place, filling the glass.

2) When the lemon peel and ice are in place, add the gin, then top with soda. Give a quick stir.

* You can substitute another gin for Old Tom gin, plus 1/2 teaspoon superfine or 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar. To make this version, add the peel, then the sugar to the glass, followed by the gin. Stir, making sure you press the peel against the glass to release the oils. Add ice, making sure the peel spirals to the top, then top with soda.

** One peel will last for several drinks per glass.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Templeton Rye Makes Its Way Back to NYC, at a Brooklyn Bar

We love our rye, we love our Manhattans, and we certainly love an invitation to a 4pm Sunday Brunch. How civilized. We were promised Manhattans made with a special rye, one resurrected from the dust heap of obscurity. A rye so smooth it could make the hardest S.O.B. take pause and reflect upon the experience of sipping it neat.

We’re talking about Templeton Rye, and we had the opportunity, thanks to Laura Baddish of the Baddish Group, Gustavo Valverde of Infinium Spirits, and the kind men and women at The Richardson, to meet the makers, or should we say revivifiers, of this very special old-school Prohibition-Era family-run rye, now freed from mere footnotes of early twentieth-century history to rightfully claim its place on the top shelf at your liquor-store.

Well, that is if you currently live in Iowa, where it’s produced, or Illinois. But don’t despair yet. Both coasts will be making room for Templeton rye as early as December in New York City, and soon thereafter in San Francisco.

Why are we so excited about Templeton rye? At 80 proof, it’s incredibly smooth neat. One sip is all you need to convince yourself that the two of you will have a strong and lasting relationship. We met Brand Manager Michael Killmer, who loves sipping Templeton this way. The initial aromas of dried orange and holiday spice, which play into the palate, “open up your mouth and make you want to drink more.” True. After a few sips, we started tasting the rye’s richness: bolder maple-syrup aromas penetrated our nostrils as our lips kissed the glass, desperate for one more sip. And, according to the charming and passionate owner Scott Bush, whose forebears distilled the spirit on their farm, Templeton is made from a mash consisting of over 90% rye. “This is the Good Stuff.” Good Stuff indeed. We talked with Scott a little about the popularity of rye distilling in pre-Revolutionary War United States, and then the conversation turned to Iowa, where the business continues to be fully run. But first, some nosh.

As we partook in this “brunch” (we put brunch in quotation marks because by that point it was already 5pm) of bacon-wrapped nibblies, and lox, and what we think was Manchego cheese that paired gorgeously with the Templeton Rye Old-Fashioned Laura offered us, Keith Kerkoff, son of the man who had the secret recipe for Templeton Rye, ushered us all into the back room for a little chat. He toasted us with tales of the early days of distilling the rye, when his grandfather Alphonse’s worries consisted of “hoping the hogs don’t get into the mash.” But during Prohibition, when it was made for a select group of people (lucky lawbreaking lushes!), he had more to worry about with the Feds busting him a few times. And we all know what happened to Al Capone, who ran the Good Stuff into Chicago. All good things seem to come to an unfortunate end. Over the years, production waned as tastes changed after Prohibition’s repeal. But thanks to Scott’s determination to resurrect his grandfather’s recipe, we now are blessed by the bounty that is a bottle of small-batch, hand-labeled, luscious Templeton Rye.

Let the love flow! Have a Templeton Rye Manhattan, if you can.

Templeton Rye Manhattan
(recipe from the men of Templeton Rye)

2 ounces Templeton Rye
3/4 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters

 Serve stirred, never shaken. Kiss with cherry.

(You can decide for yourself whether you want it up, or on the rocks. Bottoms up.)