Friday, December 24, 2010

Cocktail Buzz Holiday Cocktail 2010: Big Apple

Manhattan, meet sparkling cider.

We don’t always come up with a new cocktail in our test kitchen. Sometimes, we’re at a friend’s or relative’s place, and the itch to create a new drink needs to be scratched. Take for instance our recent visit to our friend Matt and Daniel’s swanky Midtown pad for some holiday cheer. Lots of new faces, lots of “What do you do?”s, then Bang! Someone asked if we could come up with something new to go with the sparkling apple cider he brought to the bash.

Luckily we brought with us the makings for some fine Manhattans, so we were eager to see if the sparkling cider and the island’s eponymous cocktail would become friends. Indeed they did, and on the rocks, this baby is smooth and is blessed with a creamy mouthfeel. The nose is slightly caramel, and the first sip proves what your nose already knows. You can control the sweetness by how much sparkling cider you top it with.

So, for those of you searching for a holiday cocktail this season, you need look no further. The Big Apple pairs well with loads of winter Holiday fare unlike its mother, the Manhattan. (Boozy cocktails like Manhattans are notoriously difficult to pair with bread- and vegetable-heavy apps because they leave a burning alcohol sensation on the tongue, and no one wants that.)

Big Apple
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 oz. rye or bourbon
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
dash aromatic or orange bitters (such as Bitter Truth or Angostura)
generous splash or two sparkling apple cider (such as Martinelli’s)
maraschino, brandied, or marasche cherry, as garnish

Stir first three ingredients in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Top with Sparkling cider. Garnish with cherry.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cocktail Buzz Island Hops, Aloha Style

The view from the lanai, near Hanalei on Kaua‘i

Our first view of Kaua‘i. Just beautiful.

We had been dreaming of vacationing in Hawaii for what seemed like forever. Steve had been once before, to the Big Island, and ever since then wanted to return. So we planned a two-week excursion, boarded the plane, and headed for our destinations: Hawai‘i (the Big Island), Kaua‘i (the Garden Isle), and Maui (the Valley Isle). We even managed to spend a few hours on Lāna‘i, catching some snorkeling followed by some picnicking on the beach.

Snorkeling off Hulopo‘e Bay, Lāna‘i

Aboard the Paragon, between Maui and Lāna‘i

We ate local, on both humble and grand scales, and drank cocktails using fresh tropical fruits and easy-to-find bottles of whatever booze we fancied our first day at the grocery store for each new island we visited. Our feeling on this matter was mutual: Hawaii is a magical place, a state of tranquility, a tonic for the soul. We drank it up and soaked it all in, and cannot wait to return to revisit some favorite spots, and venture on to new islands.

For more photos and tales from each island we explored, visit our Web site by clicking here.

Flora at the zoo in Hilo, Hawai‘i

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Everyone Loves Punch During the Holidays (Especially the Host)

Serving punch at your holiday party will take the burden of having to play bartender to your guests. The Pomander Punch, above, tastes of cranberries and spice.

The final fifteen minutes before your guests are scheduled to arrive are always fraught with trepidation. We curse ourselves with nonstop invective. “Why the @#$% did I agree to throw this @#$%ing party. I’m such a @#$%ing idiot.” It’s at these moments, when we all turn into whining teenagers, that we must take a deep breath and rise to the occasion. You threw this cocktail party because you are awesome and your friends rock, and you wanted to share with them some cocktail and party-food pairings that will be remembered forever (and not in a bad way). So that you will be touted as the cocktail-party thrower of the century and not the sniveling spaz you seem to be playing at the moment, you must do the following: make a punch. Not the kind you imbibed as a child—those were sweet and sparkling sugar-rush inducers filled with ginger ale and neon sherbet. No, this punch will be filled with high-quality spirits and liqueurs, possibly champagne, fresh seasonal fruit, and flavors that will send you into adulthood negating any old associations with prom punch ever again. Welcome to the grownup table; you can now fold up that kiddy card table and banish it forever.

Punch is a blessing or, more appropriate, a mangala. The word itself, many believe, derives from the Hindi word panch, meaning five, alluding to the five ingredients that purportedly made up historical punch: spirits, sugar, lemon, water, and tea or spices. But if you ask the average josephine what she thinks of when she thinks of punch in a historical context, she may describe for you a Hogarthian scene of jack-tars, slinging their flagons while singing a shanty tune honoring the drunken sailor, which isn’t at all inappropriate. Sailors brought the Hindi punch back with them to England, bedazzled by its bold flavors of spice and citrus, and from the early seventeenth to the mid nineteenth centuries, punch ruled supreme. Punch houses dotted the London landscape, filling the hearts and minds of men with merriment. Sharing a bowl was like taking communion: it brought you closer to God, if you let it.

We want punch to bring you closer to a reasonable frame of mind. With a punch at the ready, all you have to do is point your guests in the direction of the chilling bowl and say, “help yourself to a delicious glass of [fill in the blank] punch.” At first they may be surprised that no islands of lime sherbet dot this quaff, but after a sip, you’ll hear their contented sighs, and they’ll hear yours.

Here are a few punch recipes that will brighten up your party and set your mind at ease. Some of them are for 1 serving, but with a little math, you can easily create a bowl full of shimmering panch. Just remember to make a block of ice for the punch bowl (you can freeze water in a freezer-safe bowl).

Global Punch
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 ounces Jack Daniel’s
2 ounces amber (medium-bodied) rum (such as Old New Orleans or Mount Gay Eclipse)
1/2 ounce ginger liqueur (such as Domaine de Canton)
1 ounce real pomegranate grenadine
1/2 ounce elderflower liqueur (such as St-Germain)
2 ounces red grapefruit juice (you can substitute pink if red is not available)
1/4 ounce lemon juice
1/4 ounce lime juice
2 dashes Angostura orange bitters (you can substitute with another orange bitters)

Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into chilled glass. Serves 3.

If making a bowl of punch, first make a block of ice in a freezer-safe bowl that’s smaller than the punch bowl. Then, multiply all the ingredients by eight or more depending on the size of your party. Refrigerate until chilled. About a half hour before serving, remove the ice from the bowl and place in the punch bowl. Pour the punch into the bowl. Garnish with lemon and lime wheels. Ladle into punch cups or glasses.

Try pairing with Chorizo Sobres, little deep-fried spicy smoked sausage and peach bites.

(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1 ounce amber rum (such as Old New Orleans or Mount Gay Eclipse)
1/2 ounce white rum (such as Mount Gay Silver Eclipse)
1/8 ounce Cruzan Black Strap rum
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1/4 ounce Velvet Falernum
1/2 ounce simple syrup*
1/4 ounce crème de banana (such as Bols)
3/4 ounce orange juice
1/4 ounce lime juice

Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into chilled glass. If you’re feeling the call of the tiki gods, garnish with cherries and banana slices poked through with a straw. Serves 1.

If making a bowl of punch, first make a block of ice in a freezer-safe bowl that’s smaller than the punch bowl. Then, multiply all the ingredients by eight or more depending on the size of your party. Refrigerate until chilled. About a half hour before serving, remove the ice from the bowl and place in the punch bowl. Pour the punch into the bowl. Garnish with cherries and banana slices. Ladle into punch cups or glasses.

* Dissolve one cup of sugar in one cup of water over low heat, stirring occasionally. When all the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat, let cool, and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a month.

Try pairing with baked coconut shrimp.

Pomander Punch
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 ounces cranberry sauce–infused Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon Carolina Moonshine*
1 ounce bourbon (try Bulleit)
1/2 ounce clementine orange juice
1/4 ounce St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
block of ice

Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into chilled glass. Garnish with a half-moon slice of clementine or a whole pericarp of star anise. Serves 1.

If making a bowl of punch, first make a block of ice in a freezer-safe bowl that’s smaller than the punch bowl. Then, multiply all the ingredients by eight or more depending on the size of your party. Refrigerate until chilled. About a half hour before serving, remove the ice from the bowl and place in the punch bowl. Pour the punch into the bowl. Garnish with clementine orange wheels and star anise pericarps. Ladle into punch cups or glasses.

* In an airtight container, add 1/3 cup homemade cranberry sauce (follow directions on package of cranberries) for every 2 cups moonshine (you can substitute vodka if moonshine is not available). Let infuse for at least five days and up to two weeks (the longer you wait, the better), shaking the container at least once a day. Strain into another airtight container and label.

Try pairing with bacon-wrapped dates.

Blackberries and cinnamon combine to create an amazing flavor sensation. This punch is boozy and bodacious. The bowl will be emptied by nightfall.

Bramble Punch

(created by Cocktail Buzz)

4 1/2 ounces amber (medium-bodied) rum (such as Old New Orleans or Mount Gay Eclipse)
3 ounces cognac (such as Martell VSOP or Hennessy VS)
1 1/2 ounces Jeżynówka (blackberry-flavored brandy)
3/4 ounces Becherovka (Czech spice liqueur)
1 1/2 ounces cinnamon-infused black tea*
1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 1/2 ounces tangerine juice
1 1/2 ounces pink grapefruit juice
ice cubes, preferably in a chunk, or a block with blackberries frozen within.

Add all the ingredients (except the chunk of ice cubes) into a large shaker or capped bottle. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds, making sure the sugar dissolves (if you prefer, you can dissolve the sugar in a little water before adding it to the mix). Place ice chunk or ice block in bowl. Pour punch into bowl. If using a chunk of ice cubes, the ice cubes will start to break apart. When they do, or if you are using a block of ice, stir the punch with the ladle to chill, wait a minute (do not rush, let the ice dissolve a bit), stir again, and serve. Add a blackberry to each cup for a nice sweet-tart surprise at the end of your drink.

Serves 4. You can easily double or triple the recipe.

* Steep a tea bag (with black tea) and a cinnamon stick in 1 cup of boiling water. Remove the tea bag after 3 hours. Remove cinnamon stick after 3 days. If you can’t wait 3 days, then make sure you shake it well before using.

Try pairing with Cheddar Blue Fricos, lacy and crispy wafers of cheese.

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

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.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Return of the Rusty Nail

Paul hearkens back to yesteryear in praise of this simple drink.

Back in the Eighties, when big hair and shoulder pads ruled supreme, as did Ronald Reagan in all his numbingly myopic splendor, I tried my first Rusty Nail. My friend Kristen waitressed at The Annex, a local basement haunt that fed and kept mirthful the hoards of Princetonians and townsfolk who hankered for a cheap drink and some cheap eats. Steak Diane was on their menu and it was the best bet, along with your typical strains of Manhattans, Martinis, and Whiskey Sours. I knew I liked bourbon—I got very drunk one night with a few friends, taking shots of Jim Beam—and Whiskey Sours were my go-to cocktail. They were sweet and sour, and they suited my taste buds just fine. Or so I thought. Kristen suggested I try a Rusty Nail when I asked for some cocktail advice one night when she was off-duty and I should have been off writing another boring lit-crit paper. “What’s in it?” “Scotch and Drambuie.” At this point on my spirituous journey, I knew that scotch tasted different than bourbon. I didn’t know what gave them their unique tastes, but I knew I liked bourbon more. “What the hell is Drambuie?” “Sweet scotch.” “Okay, I’ll give it a try.”

I remember the first sip like it was yesterday. The scotch was fine—like I’ve said, I’ve sipped on scotch before and liked it just up to a point. If that’s all there is, I’ll drink it. But this time it was different. I really took a shine to Drambuie. I found out later what it actually is: a Scottish honey- and herb-flavored liqueur made from aged malt whisky, heather honey, and naturally, a secret blend of herbs and spices. I noted while sipping how it played with the scotch, smoothing out its rough edges.

Twenty years or so later, I find myself sipping on Rusty Nails when I’m in the mood for something potent, peaty-sweet, and old-school. There’s nothing like one on a cool fall evening, perhaps in front of the first fire of the season, capping the night off with some friends with whom you’ve just shared a hearty meal.

Rusty Nail
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces Scotch whisky
1/2 to 1 ounce Drambuie (the peatier the scotch, the more Drambuie)

Stir in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.

Drambuie has changed its bottle! Middle photo shows the new, sleeker design, which fits better on the bar shelf. The old design (bottom), though, is a classic, and will always be, for me, the quintessential.

Photo of Rusty Nail © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Friday, October 8, 2010

An East-Meets-Midwestern Barbecue Inspires Sumptuous Delights

Grilled Dry-Rubbed Pork Steaks with Sides, Apps, and Cocktails (and don’t forget the dessert!)

Basil Caesar Salad, All-American Potato Salad, and Grilled Dry-Rubbed Pork Steaks. A perfect farewell to summer.

Every so often along comes a cut of meat that has heretofore escaped your grill’s searing clutches. Sometimes even escaping your grillmaster’s lexicon. For us, the new cut on the block calls itself Pork Steak. If you have heard of pork steak, you’re probably from the South or Midwest where pork steaks are grilled regularly. They’re sliced from a Boston Butt, that rich part of the pig that’s also called pork shoulder. Steve’s dad visited us recently from the land of Table Rock, Missouri, and he brought with him his Midwestern recipe so you can make the tastiest grilled pork ever to grace your picnic table. And besides being fall-apart tender, you can grill it all even before your guests arrive. The spice rub Steve’s Dad came up with really gives the meat an authentic Midwestern flavor of smoke and sweet heat.

What to serve our Brooklyn guests before dinner was an easy choice; even though we could feel the cool fall air descend upon us, we decided to leave summer behind with a bang:

{ For recipes, and to read more about and see photos from our amazing barbecue, click here. }

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hooray for the Everyday: The Champagne Cocktail Is for Any Occasion

The Champagne Cocktail in all of its simple splendor

Nothing says “Cocktail Party” quite like a Champagne Cocktail. The sound of the bubbles rippling to the top of the glass, breaking the surface in gentle, aromatic huffs entices you instantly. Draw it to your lips and you can smell the slightly sweet brandy mingle with the spicy redolence of the Angostura bitters. Take one sip and let the giddiness ensue.

The Champagne Cocktail seems to have first appeared in print in Robert Tomes’s 1855 chronicle of the Panama Railroad, and he describes it as “the most delicious thing in the world.” After he carefully watches his friend craft this seemingly magical elixir, the two immediately take sips, and our illustrious author remarks how “the Champagne cock-tail . . . went whirring, roaring, foaming, and flowing down mine and the friendly concocter's thirsty throats.” Already we understand the power of this fizzy delight when in the company of another. It begs to be shared. Just hand one to your guests as they walk through the door and watch their reactions. You will have created an instant frisson of celebration as you welcome these eager, thirsty souls into your home.

The beauty of the Champagne Cocktail not only lies in its simplicity, it pairs will with so much party food. Oysters and clams on the half shell, spiced nuts, canapes, and mini quiches come to mind instantly. But don’t stop there; next time you whip up an hors d’oeuvre, make sure you have some bubbly handy and pour yourself a Champagne Cocktail. How do they taste together? We hope the answer is “Perfect.”

Remember, champagne doesn’t have to be just for a party. A hard day at work is reason enough to pop the cork and start pouring. You deserve it.

Champagne Cocktail
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

1 ounce brandy (we like Asbach) or cognac (Hennessy will do you fine)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
3-4 ounces champagne
sugar cube

Drop a sugar cube in a champagne flute and douse with bitters. Add chilled champagne. Float brandy on top by inverting a spoon over the flute and gently pouring the brandy onto the back of the spoon so that it cascades into the flute.

photo © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cocktails To Keep You Abuzz During HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”

HBO premieres “Boardwalk Empire” Sunday evening, September 19. Which of these cocktails will you be enjoying while watching the hands of Scorsese weave their magic? (photo ©HBO)

Once again, we received a desperate epistle from a thirsty gourmand:
Dear Cocktail Buzz,

I am anxiously awaiting the premiere of “Boardwalk Empire,” [the new HBO show about Atlantic City at the dawn of Prohibition]. Any suggestions for speakeasy cocktails to enjoy while viewing?


Cousin Barbara
We inquired as to what food Cousin Barbara would be serving so we could have an idea of what flavors might pair well with her fare.
Dear Cousin Barbara,

We are currently working on a progression of speakeasy era cocktails for you. Are you planning seafood for dinner that night to highlight the Atlantic City aspect of the show, or will it be something else? Will there be appetizers or hors d’oeuvres? Inquiring minds want to know. If you don’t know yet, not a problem. Cocktail Buzz can devise something special that will go with anything.
Cousin Barbara quickly got back to us:
What an excellent idea! First thing that comes to mind is clams. Maybe two dishes: one chilled, one hot? Clams Casino screams Atlantic City, don’t you think?

I’d love to hear your suggestions and am excited for your cocktail pairings.
We had so much fun researching and mixing cocktails, we decided to let Cousin Barbara choose what appeals to her with this list.
Cousin Barbara,

As we ease into fall’s brisker moments, we feel that Clams Casino is the perfect accompaniment to your soon-to-be-new HBO addiction. One of these cocktails might be a delightful foil to the salty, meaty bivalves:

If you’re feeling particularly witty, this may do you well:

Let loose with witty repartee and an Algonquin Cocktail. Or perhaps a Monkey Gland or a Scoff Law Cocktail would do you better.

The Algonquin Cocktail
(adapted from Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails, by Ted Haigh)

1 1/2 ounces rye
1/4 ounce dry vermouth
3/4 ounce pineapple juice

Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

❤ ❤ ❤

If you want to start the evening with a bang (and who doesn’t?), try this little fella:

The French 75
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 ounces gin (preferably one redolent with juniper)
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup*
1 – 1 1/2 ounces champagne
lemon twist, as garnish
brandied cherry, as garnish

Shake gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup for 15 seconds in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into wine goblet or highball glass halfway filled with ice. Top with champagne. Add more ice if necessary. Garnish with lemon twist and cherry.

* Over low heat, dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1 cup water (stir occasionally). Remove from heat, cool in container, and refrigerate for up to a month.

[To watch our video pairing the French 75 with shrimp cocktail, click HERE.]

❤ ❤ ❤

If you’re the kind of person who likes a theme cocktail, then you’ll do well not to evade this concoction:

The Income Tax Cocktail
(adapted from Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails, by Ted Haigh)

1 1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
juice of 1/4 orange
2 dashes Angostura bitters
orange wheel, as garnish

Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.

❤ ❤ ❤

This Prohibition biggie will certainly make a monkey out of y’all:

The Monkey Gland
(adapted from Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails, by Ted Haigh)

1 1/2 ounces dry gin
1 1/2 ounces fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon real pomegranate grenadine
1 teaspoon plus 1 dash pastis (Pernod, Herbsaint, Ricard, absinthe)

Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

❤ ❤ ❤

Flout the Eighteenth Amendment and all the silly rules that make us so gosh-darned dull with one of these beauties:

The Scoff Law Cocktail
(adapted from Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails, by Ted Haigh)

1 1/2 ounces rye
1 ounce dry vermouth
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce real pomegranate grenadine
lemon twist, as garnish

Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.

❤ ❤ ❤

Simple and refreshing, this elixir’s name evokes British Colonialism and other jolly exploits:

Pegu Club Cocktail
(adapted from Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails, by Ted Haigh)

1 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce Cointreau or other 80-proof triple sec
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

❤ ❤ ❤

And if none of these is floating your boat, why not stick with tradition and down a martini or two.

The Martini
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)
2 ounces gin (try Bombay Sapphire, DH Krahn, or Death’s Door)
1/3 – 1/2 ounce dry vermouth (do not skimp on the vermouth; this is not a vodka martini ;)
2 dashes orange bitters

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an olive or lemon twist.

❤ ❤ ❤

We couldn’t possibly forget an after-show cocktail, to be served with a sweet dessert:

Barbara Cocktail
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz from The Savoy Cocktail Book, by Harry Craddock)

1 ounce vodka
1 ounce fresh cream
1 ounce crème de cacao (either white or brown, depending on your mood, or the lighting)

Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. If you’re feeling adventurous, shave a little chocolate, nutmeg, or cinnamon over the top, or a combination thereof, depending on with what dessert you are serving it.

Enjoy your opening. We’re enjoying an Algonquin and a Pegu Club as we write this e-pistle.

Bottoms Up!

Steve and Paul
Cocktail Buzz
This just in from Cousin Barbara:
This list is just swell, fellas! And more than enough suggestions to last the entire season. With cocktails this good, who needs to repeal prohibition?!?! You're the cat's pajamas!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Finding Just the Right Mate for the Negroni

The deep red glow of a Negroni will entice you with its bittersweetness.

We received an urgent e-mail from a reader named Karina.
I was checking out your blog for a food pairing. I’m looking for types of food that would go well with a Negroni. Do you have any suggestions? We pick out a new cocktail each summer for our week at the Jersey Shore and Negroni is the winner this year (leaving in 1 week—yay).
A Negroni is an acquired taste. You either love the bittersweet bliss of Campari or despise it if the number of taste buds on your tongue are off the charts. Regardless of where you lie in the spectrum of love/hate, the Negroni has withstood the test of time and has reemerged as one of the must-have before-dinner cocktails in this new millennium (can we still say “new millennium”?). Historically ascribed to Count Camillo Negroni, who in 1919 Florence asked a bartender to exchange the club soda in his Americano for gin, the Negroni, when it comes to pairing with party food, can be a difficult child. After all, Campari always asserts itself in sometimes the smallest amounts. Here is our advice, dear Karina.
We always make our Negronis 1:1:1, sometimes on the rocks, sometimes up, sometimes with soda, sometimes with an orange twist as garnish. The one thing that holds true for all versions is that the flavor is unmistakable. You know when you’re sipping a Negroni. Because the flavor is so pronounced, you need food that will stand up to the strength of its flavors. Anything salty is a good place to start. Salumi, such as prosciutto or salami, or bacon hors d'oeuvres such as bacon-wrapped dates, would work nicely. If not, we recommend blue cheese on the thinnest wafer-like cracker. A Piedmont blue cheese, with hints of nutty sweetness to counteract its sharp, salty blueness, works ideally.

We also like making french fries, but french fries only work with a Negroni if you dip them in something salty. We make a mayonnaise with salt and dried tiny fish that we find in the local Asian market. This is a bit esoteric, but can steer you in another direction if you like salty fish such as sardines and anchovies, especially used as flavor enhancers. You can mix mayo with some anchovy paste to get the same effect. Tomato and pepper products such as ketchup and sriracha don’t enhance the Negroni that much unless you add, say, capers to the mix.

We hope this helps. We’re always experimenting with the Negroni, but really love the blue cheese with it. You can try other salty cheeses such as hunks of Romano or Parmesan, or make a cheese plate. It sounds traditional, but sometimes the less outré works best.

Up or on the rocks, the Negroni works both ways depending on your mood.

(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

1 ounce gin (we like the light, citrusy notes in New Amsterdam for pairing)
1 ounce sweet vermouth (try Carpano Antica)
1 ounce Campari
orange twist, garnish

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled glass (or a rocks-filled glass, if you prefer). Add garnish.


We just received this e-mail from Karina and her husband Norman:
Here’s a picture of our Negroni paired with delicious salty blue cheese, on an Adirondack chair at the beach! Thanks for the helpful advice.
(P.S. We used a bit less Campari than 1:1:1 because the flavor was a bit too strong, plus a little extra orange.)
Karina & Norman

What could be better than sitting on beach, watching the sun set, a Negroni in one hand, some blue cheese in the other, and the evening ahead of you.

First two photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz
Thanks to Laura Bruskin at DeVries Public Relations for turning us on to New Amsterdam.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fresh Summer Produce Makes a Cocktail Swing: Part IV: Blueberries and The Blue Moon on Monday Cocktail

A seasonal miniseries showing you how to use farm-fresh ingredients in your cocktails.

The Blue Moon on Monday, bursting with the fresh flavors of summer blueberries and rosemary, is a perfect drink to pair with food at your summer cocktail party.

Blueberries, those North American natives that inspire summertime pies, muffins, and, for the culinarily adventurous, homemade ice cream, inspired us to make a cocktail. The Blue Moon on Monday. It abounds with fresh summertime flavors, and isn’t loaded with alcohol, so you can sip several over the course of an evening as it pairs well with many different kinds of food. Rosemary is the secret ingredient. Just get some fresh from the farmers market, or clip some from your garden, and you’re ready to start muddling it with some fresh blueberries in a little crème de cassis. Add some moonshine, Carpano Antica vermouth, and round that out with the fresh orange taste of Combier, and a dash of Regan’s orange bitters, and you’re ready to start shaking.

Blue Moon on Monday
(created by Cocktail Buzz for Piedmont Distillers)

 2 ounces Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon Carolina Moonshine*
1/2 ounce Carpano Antica vermouth (an Italian sweet vermouth)
1/2 ounce Combier orange liqueur (a clean, orange liqueur)
1 teaspoon crème de cassis (black currant liqueur)
2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6
sprig of rosemary
12–16 blueberries**
3 plump blueberries and a sprig of rosemary, as garnish

 In a shaker, muddle a sprig of rosemary in crème de cassis, then add the 12–16 blueberries, and gently muddle. Add Midnight Moon, Carpano Antica, Combier, and bitters; fill three-quarters with ice; and shake. Double-strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with 3 blueberries speared with a rosemary sprig (or you can drop the 3 blueberries and the sprig into the drink).

* You can substitute another clear moonshine, or vodka, if this is not available in your area.
** If you’re using Maine blueberries, which are smaller and sweeter, you may want to adjust the level of crème de cassis, or eliminate it altogether.

Another cocktail we love to have with brunch or dessert is the Farrah Fawcett. With its homey tropical flavors, the Farrah Fawcett is reminiscent of coconut–banana cream pie. You can even serve some up at your summer tiki luau with spare ribs dripping with your favorite tangy sauce.

Although the Farrah Fawcett only uses blueberries as a garnish, they are an important element to the overall beauty of the cocktail.

And don’t forget about peaches, especially white peaches and nectarines. They’re enjoying a banner summer. Already we’ve been assaulted by the intoxicating aroma of fully ripe specimens every time we walk by them in the kitchen. If you’re looking for some recipes that’ll showcase what makes peaches so special, you can try either the Smash Daddy, a sweet peachy lowball, or a Tokyo Momo that introduces dark cherry flavors into the mix.

And if none of these ideas float your boat, or you don’t have certain ingredients on hand and need to make something intoxicating with your blueberries and peaches tonight, then by all means experiment. You are the bar chef. Muddle your fruit, add a base liquor and perhaps a liqueur or two, and give it a little taste. Make adjustments to suit your taste buds. Enjoy.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mayahuel: Where Food and Cocktails Pair Like Magic

Winner of the 2010 Tales of the Cocktail World’s Best New Cocktail Bar.

If you are a regular reader, you know we like cocktail and food pairings. Preferably small bites, as big plates of food are usually too cumbersome to match with all the disparate flavors, alcohol level, and acid inherent in any given cocktail.

Arachnophobes need not fear the spider chandelier that presides over the East Village bar and restaurant Mayahuel, where the spirit of the Aztec goddess graces every sip and nibble. [photo from Mayahuel Web site]

Mayahuel, a bar and restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village, serves small plates that pair remarkably well with the agave-based cocktails on its extensive drink menu. The smells coming out of the kitchen are redolent with the aromas of Mexico, Oaxacan, and a single bite will confirm what your nose already knows: this isn’t your ordinary bar food. In creative chef Luis Gonzalez’s hands, bold combinations of traditional herbs, spices, and all kinds of peppers combine with new techniques and surprising, revelatory combinations of flavor, all making you want a Margarita, or something akin. Master bartender and shaman of flavor, Philip Ward, is there to help. Phil opened Mayahuel (named the Aztec goddess of the maguey plant [agave spp.]) to proclaim his passion for Mexican cuisine and the highly prized spirits tequila, mezcal, and sotol (a Chihuahuan agave spirit). The menu also boasts an array of sherry and beer cocktails, if that’s where the spirits of ancient Mexico lead you. There’s something for everyone.

Recently, we visited Phil and the gang for a simple happy-hour pairing of cocktails and small plates, in the dining room located on the second floor of Mayahuel. A huge chandelier in the guise of a techno spider hovers over the room not in a menacing, but a carnival-like way. High banquets upholstered with abraded leather adorn the corners of the room offering both style and comfort. But what’s so cool about the dining room is the skylight, underneath the spider, that allows you to peer down at the bartenders carefully crafting your just-ordered cocktail. Steve had a Kurling Cocktail made by the illustrious Katie Stipes, who, when challenged to create a cocktail with cedra, a grappa-based liqueur made from the peel of the cedro lemon, came up with this smooth beauty, balancing sweet and sour by adding three spirits (pisco, blanco tequila, mezcal), a generous pour of white vermouth, and some spicy yellow chartreuse; Paul sipped on a Nicosia, a complex, smoky blend of mezcal, Cyprus Commandaria (a dessert wine), and Amaro Lucano (a less bitter amaro that is extremely popular in Italy).

Kurling Cocktail
(created by Katie Stipes, Mayahuel)

1 ounce Barsol Pisco
1/2 ounce El Tesoro Blanco Tequila
1/2 ounce San Luis del Rio Mezcal
3/4 ounce Dolin Blanc Vermouth (white vermouth)
1/4 ounce Yellow Chartreuse
1/4 ounce Acqua di Cedro (lemon liqueur)

Stir in ice and strain into a chilled glass.

Both cocktails opened up our palates for the food we were about to receive, and we both shouted “Amen” after eating just the tortilla chips that accompanied three fresh and tantalizing salsas: one tomatoey, served warm, with a blast of chipotle (smoked jalapeños) and onions; a hot salsa verde; and one of the creamiest guacamoles ever to grace our gullets. A shrimp and black bean quesadilla fulfilled our seafood and bean craving, but the chorizo croquettes that Phil surprised us with made us realize that standard bland croquettes have no place in this cuisine. Using chorizo in this appetizer, with its strong pimentón flavor, was a revelation, one we hope to imitate at home.

Another thing to note about Mayahuel, besides its friendly staff and creative chefs, is the space itself. There’s a quiet area as you walk in that’s separated from the general din of the main bar. If you like to sit at the bar, which we love to do, you will be entertained by the men and women behind the stick making your drinks to perfection. There are several stools in various alcoves, and small tables to round out the first floor, and of course the main dining room on the second tier. Summer’s a perfect time to visit Mayahuel to nosh on some drinks and eats using fresh produce (the air conditioning will keep you cool as you decide on your second drink), but be warned: it fills up quickly. Best to go early to be guaranteed a seat.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fresh Summer Produce Makes a Cocktail Swing: Part III: Watermelon and The Gin Stevie Cocktail

A seasonal miniseries showing you how to use farm-fresh ingredients in your cocktails.

by Steve Schul

Steve shares his love for using seasonal ingredients in his signature cocktail.

I just love watermelon at its peak during the summer, when one bite into a slice sends pink juice dripping down your chin. When its sweetness reminds you instantly how much you loved it last summer. I definitely wanted to make a cocktail with watermelon, but in a way I had never heard of before. My inspiration came from an old Imbibe Magazine recipe for Watermelon–Sake Popsicles. What overgrown child doesn’t love an ice-cold popsicle on a hot summer’s day, and if it’s watermelon, even better. And with sake? Well hip, hip hoorah.

I think we all get crazy for watermelon in the summertime because of the uniqueness of its sweetness. Sure, its texture is unmatched by any other fruit I can think of, the slightly rough structure that collapses with just a little pressure, shooting forth a big burst of honeysweet goodness. So I decided to make ice cubes inspired by the popsicles, plop some of those into a tall glass, and tickle the cubes with the herbaceous tastes of basil and spearmint, and anoint with a generous portion of Hendrick’s gin, graced by lovely cucumber and rose notes. With each sip, the watermelon–sake ice cubes slowly melt, and with each consecutive sip, you are taken on a journey from tart booziness to slushy sweetness. I know that to make these drinks requires a little effort beyond regular mixing skills, but do believe me when I say they will delight all the guests at your cocktail party. Make sure you have plenty of everything so that each person gets at least two drinks, three for the heavy hitters.

Paul and I love to pair our Gin Stevies with another summertime favorite—heirloom tomatoes. We dice them and dollop generous portions on freshly toasted baguette to create the perfect bruschetta. Take a bite, and follow with a generous sip of this tall summer cooler bursting with flavor.

{ For the recipe and to watch our video pairing the Gin Stevie with Bruschetta, click here. }

The Story Behind the Bruschetta and Those Delicious Heirloom Tomatoes

Every summer we drive up to the North Shore of Boston, to a lazy little little town called Pride’s Crossing, to visit our friends Jim and Lou, and their Dalmatians. Paul was friends with Jim about twenty years ago. They lost touch with each other, as most peripatetic souls do, but were reunited several years back while having dinner in a Boston restaurant. We read about Orinoco and its Venezuelan-inspired menu in a local dining guide and thought we’d give it a try. The restaurant, in a gentrifying part of town, seemed magical. The wait staff enchanted us with mouth-watering descriptions of seasonal fare. At dinner, Paul was telling Steve all about his long-lost friend, Jim, and how for a few years they shared laughs and tales of growing up closeted in their respective New England towns, and while the tale of Jim was being told, there was Jim, with a friend, dining in the same restaurant. After much hugging, and wide-eyed disbelief at the serendipity of coincidence, Jim invited us up to his home. “You’d be crazy not to come.” So of course, we canceled the balance of our hotel reservation and headed up to Pride’s Crossing, but not until the owner of the restaurant, after witnessing this miracle reunion, invited us over to his table for desserts as he regaled us with tales of growing up a foodie in Venezuela.

Heirloom tomatoes can add an unexpected flavors to your summer cocktail party.

We decided to sleep off the effects of the dinner and met up with Jim the next day. As we followed behind him on Route 127 to his home, we turned up a private lane, and following a forest-lined narrow road, entered the gates to the property. The theme from “Dynasty” filled our mind’s ears as we gazed with jaws agape at the enormity of the house and the grounds filled with gorgeous flowers at every turn. Their estate is dubbed “Sunset Rock” and the house sits right next to a bluff overlooking Salem Sound and all the cays that dot the ocean. Lou and Jim are both inveterate gardeners, Jim focusing on the floral landscaping, Lou, the edible. Lou’s obsession with heirloom tomatoes is a blessing to his all his guests. If we visit late enough in the season, we always end up with arms full of these ripe juicy beauties. One summer, after making our friend Evangeline’s tomato tart (it was featured in the August 31, 2003, New York Times, so you know it has to be good!) with Lou’s tomatoes, we still had a bunch left. So we diced them all, bought a loaf of bread, and presto, instant bruschetta. Bruschetta (pronounced broo-SKEH-tuh) is a classic Italian appetizer made with six simple ingredients: bread, tomatoes, salt, pepper, garlic, and olive oil. In our version, we’ve added the slightly hot and bright zing of red jalapeños . . . it brings out the sweetness in the Gin Stevie and other drinks. Heirloom tomatoes in all their variety add a saturation of color and act as a perfect foil to the watermelon, basil, and mint. Be forewarned: the appetizer course may last a while—your guests won’t be able to get enough of this dazzling duo.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hibiki Japanese Blended Whisky Is Smooth and Accessible

The other day I attended an intimate whisky tasting in one of the private rooms at the relatively new Midtown restaurant Aureole. Tanya Thomas of Truth Be Told introduced Seiichi Koshimizu, master blender for Suntory’s Hibiki 12-year blended whisky, and after a gentle and informative PowerPoint lecture (translated by the lovely Akiko Katayama), the wait staff at Aureole surprised us with a four-course meal. I say surprised because Tanya promised us “light fare.” If light fare is Foie Gras Torchon, Walnut-Crusted Soft Shell Crab, Mangalitast Pork Strip Loin, and a Dark Chocolate Torte, then I say so be it (and please keep the invitations coming).

Aureole’s chef designed the dishes specifically for pairing with this smooth and nuanced Japanese blended whisky. The plating of the Foie Gras was artistic to say the very least: a swath of English Peas, as if the artist used a paint spatula to spread the bright green puree across the plate, creating a boundary between the cherry compote and the foie gras, which was kissed with some anise hyssop leaves. Also on the same plate were little cubes of almond paste dusted with what looked like pepper, but it could have been grains of paradise or some other dark ground spice (I should have asked). Separately, all the elements were chock full of flavor, but mixed together, and spread atop a little Chilie Chocolate Croissant, the dish sang when sipped with a bit of the Hibiki.

Similar to Scotch whisky, the Hibiki, when diluted with a little water, gives off an aroma akin to waffles and maple syrup, which made me instantly like it. Master Blender Koshimizu informed us that, to him the nose of the whisky reminded him of fruit, particularly plums, raspberries, pineapples, and honey. The sweetness definitely lasted through the long finish, and “truth be told,” I kept asking for more as the meal progressed. The secret to the flavor lies in the wood used to make the aging barrels, Mizunara, or water oak, which creates a softer, smoother spirit. We were also treated to the 21-year Hibiki, which easily provided us a nonstop sipping orgy. Slightly fruitier and smoother, this potable would go well with chocolate, but might be good for just sipping on its own, whereas the 12-year, when diluted pairs better with rich, well-seasoned fare.

The Hibiki is expensive (over $60 a bottle), but if you are a Scotch or Irish whiskey enthusiast who enjoys seeking out new whiskies, by all means seek this one out. It’s a sipper and will sure to last you through several seasons of pure enjoyment. And also check out Aureole located adjacent to Times Square where the chefs create gorgeous dishes that challenge perceptions, yet somehow manage to find balance, flavor, and progression.

— Paul Zablocki

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fresh Summer Produce Makes a Cocktail Swing: Part II: Plums, or Did I Hear Someone Say Slivovitz Sour?

A seasonal miniseries showing you how to use farm-fresh ingredients in your cocktails.

The Slivovitz Sour will feel like you’re drinking velvet. Just make sure you have some party food on hand as a go-with.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the terrain, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is known to most New Yorkers as The Polish Neighborhood. Most of the stores on the blocks of Manhattan and Greenpoint Avenues have signs that flaunt lots and lots of consonants, taunting you with their utter lack of assonance. Honestly, how does a culture get away with putting szcz in a word, and expect you to pronounce every letter? Thank god kielbasa is easy to pronounce. Our love affair with Greenpoint began many years ago, before the car was totaled, when, on a lazy late Sunday afternoon, we motored North to the neighborhood that beckoned us with its siren’s promise of stuffed cabbage, prune pierogi (plums are practically synonymous with Polish confections) and meaty tubes of unpronounceable Polish sausages. Steve once got a round of good-natured laughs from a lovely menagerie of middle-yeared panie behind the counter at Polam International market when he asked for some kiełbasa wędzona and it came out sounding like vagina. They quickly taught us how to pronounce the name of the sausage properly, then helped us pick out some succulent ones. We usually get a variety pack of smoked weselna (wedding), which is terrific accompanied by some hard-cooked jajki (eggs) and perhaps a little horseradish or mustard condiment; and some wiejska (village) for grilling (our favorite way to prepare them).

Near Polam are some pastry shops that remind Paul of the Polish bakery his grandmother used to work at a long time ago, smelling of resting bread and powdered sugar. It is not uncommon for marbled babka (sweet yeast cake), makowiec (poppy seed cake), and pączki (doughnuts filled with prune) to end up in our shopping bags, and usually for less than two or three dollars.

You’re probably asking where the Polish liquor store is. Rest assured, it’s across the street. Upon entering, we always see the same group of thirtysomething Polish guys in either Greenpoint grunge or immigrant hip-hop, engaged in a heated discussion with occasional gentle jabs, pointing us to the bottles of Żubrówka (bison grass vodka), Jeżynówka (blackberry-flavored brandy), and Krupnik (honey liqueur). Some of our earliest cocktails, like the Z Martini and the Silesian cocktail, shine because of these three unique spirits. But one spirit that we mix more than any other is Slivovitz, otherwise known as plum brandy, śliwowica to Poles, or rakia in the Balkan region. Perhaps you’ve seen a bottle at your grandparents’ place, hidden under the sink, awaiting babci’s cocktail-hour thirst. Our go-to brand is Polmos from Poland. It’s extremely smooth, and because its character is slightly muted (it really tastes like plums), unlike some spicier Balkan slivovitzes, it mixes well.

We make this enticingly tart cocktail with Slivovitz simply called the Slivovitz Sour. It’s chock full of fresh dark plum puree and lemon juice, and sweetened with some maple syrup, which plays off the gentle muskiness of the plum, adding a light richness to the drink. The mouthfeel is velvety. With every sip you get a slight sweet-tart pucker. Perfect with aggressively spiced salty or meaty party food, the Slivovitz Sour pairs well with pigs in a blanket, bacon-wrapped dates, sweet-potato crisps, and even chips with salsa. And depending on the ripe plums you puree, the drink can be orangey-pink to a deep magenta. We just had one last night with some chips and salsa and almost ended up eating the whole bag of tortilla chips.

If you’re not pairing the Slivovitz Sour with a little nosh, you may want to adjust the ratio of lemon juice to 3/4 ounce for a plummier, less tart drink. But we warn you, if you serve it to your guests, you better have some nibbles on hand to satisfy their craving for something salty. If you only have a bag of pretzels in the house, offer it up post haste.

Slivovitz Sour
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces slivovitz (plum brandy)
1 ounce plum puree (darker, sweeter plums work best)
1 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce maple syrup
lemon wheel

Shake with ice for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon wheel. If you’re using a rakia or a Balkan slivovitz from, say, Macedonia, your drink may taste as if you added aromatic bitters. This is not a bad thing at all. And if your plums are not dark and sweet, you may need to add a little more maple syrup to the drink, or less lemon juice. Your choice, as always, dear cocktail enthusiast.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

People Are Jazzed About Tales of the Cocktail

Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans’s annual five-day summer celebration of all things spirituous, is gearing up for its July 21–25 celebration. We asked you what you are looking forward to most from Tales of the Cocktail 2010, and here’s what you told us. (We will continue to update this post as you send in the things you’re most excited about Tales of the Cocktail this year [].)

Stephan Berg, one of the masterminds behind The Bitter Truth bitters and spirits, waxed enthusiastic about Tales this year. “Oh we are excited, because we just got nominated as best new product with our Celery Bitters.” We love his celery bitters and have been tinkering with it recently in a cocktail riff on the Vesper we call Clear.

(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce vodka or a light ginger-infused vodka
1/4 ounce elderflower liqueur (such as St-Germain)
dash or two of Bitter Truth Celery Bitters
splash of soda
grapefruit peel

To build in a highball glass, add the spirits. Then add ice. Top with soda. Stir until chilled. Express grapefruit peel over the drink and rim the glass with the outside part of the peel. Discard or add to drink.

Tiare Olsen, who muses about spirits, and especially tiki drinks, on her blog A Mountain of Crushed Ice, gave us her list of things she’s most looking forward to:
Its first and foremost about three things for me:
  1. The people — meeting my friends and making new friends;
  2. New Orleans — love that city!;
  3. Party and having a good time (that includes great cocktails and the best food in the world).
As a codicil, she added, “Then of course, interesting sessions.”

Sarah LeRoy of Piedmont Distillers, the makers of Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon, Catdaddy, and Lightning Lemonade, was excited about the visibility of Piedmont’s products at this year’s Tales:
Of course, I think the Piedmont Distillers Tasting Room is a must attend event. After months of Catdaddy recipe creations by mixologists from across the country, we’ll have King Cocktail himself Dale DeGroff, editors from Mutineer Magazine, Paul Tuennerman (aka Mr. Cocktail), and Joe Michalek (Piedmont Distillers Founder) judging the top 3 recipes from the Catdaddy Bar Chef Challenge. They’ll pick the winner of the Golden Mason Jar trophy. But it’s not just the “experts” who will have their voices heard – everyone who comes to the Tasting Room will get to vote on their favorite cocktail too.
The Tasting Room is on Thursday, July 22, from 4:30–6:00pm, so it’s a great way to kick off your evening before you head out to the Spirited Dinners. Sarah and the gang will be in the Royal Room on the bottom floor of the Monteleone (near the parking deck entrance). Be sure to tell them Steve and Paul sent you their way!

Danny Ronen, spirits writer, rep, barman, and all around great guy, responded by saying:
Strangely, the things I’m actually most excited about are all not part of Tales itself:
  • Volunteering with some friends before Tales begins;
  • Exploring NOLA: the Garden District, Uptown, 9th Ward;
  • BBQ in a local park; and
  • Seeing friends and colleagues from around the world — that means YOU kids!
That’s so sweet of Danny to refer to us as kids. He’s either delusional or knows that flattery will get him everywhere.

Libation Girl Carmen Operetta, who’s always on the lookout for the latest trends in cocktailing on her Libation Diaries blog, gushed about how much she loves Tales:
I’m so excited to return this year! Last year was my first and words can’t describe how fantastic it turned out! This year I’m interested in attending the Dita Von Teese+Cointreau burlesque show!!

Also, I will actually have the time to visit the Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC) and eat more of the native cuisine (maybe not the seafood) and do a little shopping.

There will be so many interesting events, seminars, and dinners to attend this year; therefore I’m getting prepared now to get hopefully the full experience of TOTC!
Kara Newman, food/wine/spirits writer, is excited about the following seminars she will be attending:

  • Art of the Aperitif (after reading Paul Clarke’s SF Chronicle article on this topic, I’m curious about quinquinas!);
  • From Convicts to Cocktailians: The Release of Australian Flavour (because I love armchair travel, and I’ve never been to Australia);
  • The Smooth & Creamy History of the Fern Bar (Martin Cate is always entertaining . . . and this topic sounds delightfully recherche!)
But Kara is especially jazzed about signing copies of her first book, Spice & Ice.
I presented a panel on spicy cocktails with the same title at Tales two years ago, so this feels like coming full circle! Some of the same bartenders who were on that panel (Adam Seger and Danny Valdez), and the drinks they presented at Tales, are in the book too. It might sound sentimental, but it just feels right to be bringing the book here.
Kathy Casey, the talent behind Kathy Casey Food Studios and The Liquid Kitchen, and many other food and cocktail adventures, is very excited about her seminar Creative Cocktails and the Power of Brainstorming. And of course, she and her crew can’t wait to see old friends again, and make some new ones.

Francine Cohen, editor of Inside F&B, has the following to say:
I can hardly wait to return to New Orleans for Tales! Picking my favorite things would be like picking my favorite spirit – impossible since there’s so much that is good.
We may no longer have the constant buzzing of the vuvuzelas in our ears now that the World Cup has ended but it will be replaced by an even livelier buzz – the happy sounds of new and old friends greeting one another and the constant spirited chatter that fills the halls of the Monteleone, envelops the Carousel Bar, permeates Old Absinthe house, and wafts across the pool.
This year’s Pro Series seminar lineup is even more exciting to me than it has ever been as there’s a lot of attention focused on the business of the bar business with presentations on consulting, intellectual property, wisely crafting deals, effective operations, and more. As the industry talent grows from bartenders to bartender/businessmen this kind of information is invaluable.
I’m also looking forward to supporting the Cointreau Apprentice Program and poking my nose around behind the scenes and reporting on the goings-on in so everyone knows (even if they’re in a bit of an alcohol induced haze) just what it takes to put together such a great time.
And lastly, I’m jazzed about all the fun evening events from the Beefeater Welcome Reception to the Diageo Happy Hour to the Bombay Spirited Dinner to the Cowboy Mouth and Rebirth Brass Band concert DonQ organized to benefit the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s efforts to clean up and restore the Gulf Coast area impacted by the oil spill, to the Spirited Awards and the Bartender’s Breakfast.
I’m exhilarated and exhausted already just thinking about it!
Thuhuong Tran, a New Orleans native who we met at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, and who watched us pour some Catdaddy cocktails at last year’s Tales tweeted, “I am most excited about trying all the different spirits and liqueurs and seeing all the peeps I’ve met in the past!”

And someone from responded that he or she was “excited about Tales of the Cocktail in general! The Spirited Dinners series sounds like an amazing way to experience NOLA.”

We also received a nice note from Dinah Sanders and Joe Gratz. They write on their blog, and apologize that they will not be able to attend Tales this year. They included in their note:
Alas — a bit sorry not to be infusing our cash into the wounded New Orleans economy as well as missing the cocktail nerdy fun.
Tickets to the events mentioned can be purchased here.

[Buzz note: Words cannot describe how horrible the Gulf oil disaster is; our hearts go out to all who are dealing with this fiasco on a daily basis.]