Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Four New Cocktails Inspired by Classics

Well, August is almost over, which means that summer fun is winding down. Is that a chill in the air? Maybe it’s just a cool breeze. Or maybe we’ve been holding our ice-cold cocktails for too long. In any event, we’ve been having fun experimenting with new cocktails and we’d like to share with you our results.

“Cut Flowers,” a tangy blend of tequila, lemon, and white vermouth.

A Birthday Surprise

This birthday cocktail was invented in July for our friend Curt Flowers. Curt used to be our roommate, but now he lives a few floors below us and we see him all the time. Curt is a beer man; not much of a cocktailian. But of course we love to change people’s perceptions of cocktails, and Curt loves our Oriental, as well as our classic Margarita, so we thought we would invent him a new drink that would be in the same flavor profile, both sweet and sour. We named it after him, sans the letter r in his first name, and added some orange flower water and an edible flower to drive the name home. We present to you Cut Flowers.

Curt and Steve enjoy some Cut Flowers, tripping the light fantastic.

Cut Flowers
(created by Steve Schul and Paul Zablocki, Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces silver tequila
1 ounces bianco (white) vermouth
1/2 ounces agave nectar
1/2 ounces lemon juice
1–2 drops orange flower water
edible flower, as garnish

Shake all ingredients except flower in a shaker filled with ice for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add flower, such as a pansy or dianthus. Enjoy!

And if you’re wondering, Cut Flowers go really well with chorizo sobres and, of course, guacamole.

Gin Is In

When trying unfamiliar gins, martinis are the way to go. But what if you’re out of olives and the lemons you have resting in a bowl on your counter have softened to the point of disuse? Try another garnish, such as a cocktail onion, and you have a Gibson.

We were given some free samples of DH Krahn gin when we were at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans and thought we would give it a go. What a beautiful fragrance: light juniper with hints of pine. And the taste, equally beguiling.

Our Gibson uses a little less dry vermouth than most recipes, so we balance the flavors by using some orange bitters (which were originally used in early-20th-century Martinis). Plop in the slightly briny cocktail onion and you’ve got yourself a late-summer sipper that’ll pair with a variety of foods, including seafood, eggs, and herbed chicken.

(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces gin (try DH Krahn)
1/3 ounce dry vermouth (we used Noilly Prat)
1–2 dashes orange bitters (we used Bitter Truth)
Cocktail onion, as garnish

Stir for 30 seconds in ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add onion.

Imbibing with Friends

Jack, Jim, Phil, Paul, and Steve at Captain Dusty’s Ice Cream.

August is the perfect month to spend a weekend on the North Shore of Boston. Our friends Jim and Lou own a beautiful estate, Sunset Rock, resting on the cliffs looking out over Cape Ann, resplendent with gardens of heirloom tomatoes, luffa, eggplant, hydrangea, roses. Simply divine.

The pool at Sunset Rock.

We recently spent the weekend with these food-loving gentlemen along with friends Phil and Jack. Jack brought a bottle of Plymouth gin along and wanted to make a variation of a French 75, a classic gin and champagne cocktail. So he and Paul whipped up a quick, potent cocktail using imprecise measurements, turbinado simple syrup, and lemon juice with pulp left in. The result was bestowed the moniker “Sunset Rock,” beginning with a golden cloud of bubbles and tart sweetness, ending with a concentrated gin kick!

Sunset Rock
(created by Jack Gorman)

2 ounces gin (we used Plymouth)
1 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce rich simple syrup (we used turbinado)
3–4 ounces champagne
long lemon twist, as garnish

Use chilled champagne and gin. Pour the ingredients one by one into a champagne flute in the order presented above. Dangle the lemon twist over the side into the flute.

Lou tends to dinner, as Henry and Edie wait for something to drop on the floor.

The Marriage of Rum and Absinthe

Remember last month when we told you that Steve was playing with rum and absinthe, and that he invented a yummy mule. Well, here’s the recipe for a Lancaster's Mule:

Lancaster’s Mule
(created by Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces white rum
1 teaspoon absinthe
4 ounces ginger beer (the spicier, the better; try Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew)

Stir rum and absinthe in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled highball or double rocks glass. Top with chilled ginger beer.

❤ ❤ ❤

Bottoms up, everybody! Take the time to make a cocktail for a friend or loved one. Make a toast. Sip and smile. What are you waiting for? Ahhh, much better.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mixology Monday XXX: It’s a Brooklyn Thing

The Brooklyn Nonino, perfect for a Brooklyn sunset.

So, what better way to celebrate the place we live than riff on the classic Brooklyn Cocktail, which unfortunately contains the unattainable Amer Picon (and we had no time to create Amer Boudreau . . . but perhaps next time).

Ah, Brooklyn. The borough we love. Our Brooklyn Cocktail variation, which we imbibed tonight while overlooking the Brooklyn (and Manhattan) skyline, is made using another amaro, one of our favorites, Nonino. Bittersweet bliss. And with the addition of a bit of orange rind, the complexity of all of its components reveals itself exposing a bright New World essence that is this great borough. You’ll already have all the other ingredients at home, so go out and get some of that Nonino, stir until cold, and fuhgettaboutit.

Brooklyn Nonino
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 ounces rye (we used Wild Turkey)
1/2 ounce dry vermouth (we used Noilly Prat)
1/4 ounce Amaro Nonino
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur (we used Luxardo)
orange peel, as garnish

Stir all but garnish in a pint glass 2/3-filled with ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.

Greetings from the Buzzed Boyz in Brooklyn.

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Sunday, August 3, 2008

One Wafer-Thin Mint: Temptation on the Road to Per Se by Way of Sobieski Vodka

This is a tale about the breach of integrity and shamelessly jumping at an opportunity presented mysteriously, as if it were a gift from the culinary gods. In literature, we would say, “It’s about the loss of innocence,” or perhaps a “Faust Story.”

So, it all begins Thursday night. Hanna Lee (who we met in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail), a PR superwoman from Hanna Lee Communications, invites us to the Sobieski Vodka “Spread the Truth” event where she introduces us to Junior Merino (from one of our favorite restaurants, Rayuela, and the newer Macondo). Junior created some new summer drinks for this vodka (Sobieski is an award-winning Polish grain vodka, very inexpensive, and smooth, with a slightly sweet start, and a slightly peppery finish). Although vodka drinks on the rocks are probably our least-favorite cocktails, we do love the addition of fruit and refreshing liqueurs in summertime, so we placed our orders with Junior and his associate Heidi. One called “Sobieski Truth Serum,” was slightly fruity/slightly tart, made with Sobieski Vodka, Veev Liqueur (made from açaí, a Brazilian berry), Republic of Tea Açaí, simple syrup, lime juice, and currants). Another thirst quencher was the “Sobieski Blues”:

Sobieski Blues
(created by Junior Merino)

1 1/2 ounces Sobieski Vodka
1 ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 ounce bianco vermouth
1/2 ounce lime juice

Shake in ice. As you strain into highball glass [filled with ice], drop in 8–10 blueberries.

❤ ❤ ❤

The techno music was way too loud, so we headed up to the VIP area, a gorgeous terrace overlooking the west. It was a sultry night, but the outdoors beckoned us and we answered its siren call. While gazing out over Manhattan, we ran into the cutest couple in the world, Kelly Samardak of Media Post Communications, and her boyfriend David. Kelly was snapping photos and accumulating dish for her post, Just an Online Minute, and David joined her for the ride. We chatted endlessly about cocktails, living in New York, and cooking. David told us that his roommate used to work in the kitchen at Per Se, but left because the work methods of the powers that be disturbed his gentle, carefree ways. (For those of you who do not know what Per Se is, bless your hearts. At $275 per person, you are served nine courses of drop-dead gorgeously plated and flavored food. Amuse bouches and mignardises are also guaranteed. Service is reportedly impeccably over-the-top efficient. Word is that trainees are subjected to militaristic dressing-downs in order to perfect their craft.) After listening to Kelly and David go on about how David’s roommate had to get out of there because of the putative institutionalized daily scolds, and after imbibing several of Junior’s drinks, we proclaimed in tipsy solidarity, “We will never go to Per Se.”

Well, the lesson learned is “Never Say Never.”

Jump ahead twelve hours. We receive an e-mail from cousin Barbara: “Please join us Saturday Night. 9:30. Per Se! Barbara’s treat.”

Life works in mysterious ways. Sometimes you send something out in the universe, and the message comes back to challenge you. Only, in this instance, no gauntlet was thrown down, no hair-pulling ambiguity. Our proclamation of the night before was cast into the trash can like an emptied plastic cup.

Our immediate response was unequivocally YES!!!!!!

The evening began at the The Bar at The Four Seasons Hotel where we each imbibed a cocktail (at $22 a pop). We chose the “Allure,” a heady mix of champagne, Frangelico, and blackberries. A refreshing way to start any evening. Barbara looked summer ravishing in a short, Holly-Golightly-like turquoise dress, adorned with only a few strands of sparkly chartreuse green around her neck and her hair slightly up. No earrings, no ostentation, perfection.

Onward via cab to Per Se, which is located in the Columbus Circle Time Warner Center. After four escalator flights, we enter and are instantly amazed. The Asian-influenced blue doors do not open for us. Rather, the windows on either side of the door part and we enter, commenting on how someone thought out of the box to come up with that crafty effect. The food surely had to beguile us with the same sleight of hand.

Barbara’s husband, the adorable Jon, was turning 40, and this was the gift. Well, let us tell you something about turning 40 . . . it’s %$@#! awesome! Jon, with his infectious smile, looked handsome as any New York Dapper Dan.

Our waiter, the dashingly casual, let-me-take-care-of-you-while- you-dine-with-us Jonathan guided us through the nine-course menu, complete with amuse bouche, seemingly endless mignardises, and a tour of the immaculate kitchen (which surprised us for its tight quarters and lack of rows of burners). Highlights of the fare included Pan Roasted Maine Sea Scallop served with Sweetbread–Corn Ravioli, Cipollini Onion with Lovage “Mousseline,” and of course Per Se’s famous “Oysters and Pearls,” a “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar. The wines all equally impressed, and by the time dessert (one of three) rolled around, we were all feeling a little stuffed. But how could we refuse the first dessert that Jonathan (who by now is our best friend on the planet) brings to us via the well-drilled wait staff, a gorgeous Plum Sorbet made with Santa Rosa Plums, accompanied by Ginger Pudding, Plum Consommé, and a Gingerbread Crisp.

Jonathan had surmised by hearing us chat that we were knowledgeable of spirits and liqueurs, so he tempted Paul with a mystery glass of a dark red–amber spirit. He said it was his new favorite and it had bewitched him from the start. Paul put it up to his nose and announced it was an amaro. Jonathan was impressed. After Paul took sip and informed everyone at the table it was Nonino, Jonathan looked a little shocked. “I can’t believe you guessed that.” What Jonathan didn’t know was that Paul loves amaro and all things bitter, and Nonino is one of his faves.

But the story doesn’t end here, dear reader. If you look again to the title of this piece, you need to ask yourself, “What does a wafer-thin mint have to do with an evening at Per Se?”

Poor Steve. He was tempted by the final mignardise that Jonathan brought to the table, one of his favorites, a Passion Fruit White Chocolate. And as the avoirdupois diner at the end of Monty Python’s Meaning of Life is tempted by one wafer-thin mint to end his food orgy, Steve too reaches for the confection and pops it into his mouth.

Ah, yes, ladies and gentlemen. Karma is a funny thing. Perhaps we should not have proclaimed our solidarity with Kelly and David two nights before the blessed Per Se nonathalon. Or perhaps we should have not sacrificed our integrity for one of the best dining experiences in our lives. In any event, we indulged, and are very happy for all the choices we made.

After Jonathan introduced us to the remaining kitchen and front-of-house staff, he handed each couple a bag full of cookies and led us to the sliding window–doors, waving good-bye and we parted into the chilled evening air of the mall. Innocence lost, integrity compromised, experience . . . priceless.

We’d do it again in a heartbeat.