Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Campari Presents the James Beard Awards Chef’s Night Out 2012

Recently we attended Chef’s Night Out, a Campari-sponsored evening of tasty cocktails and tempting nibbles, which acts as a prelude before the final day of the James Beard Foundation Awards at which chefs and restaurants are rewarded for their excellence. Check out the slide show below, as well as a few Campari recipes that are perfect as the temperature starts to rise.

Bar chef Tad Carducci hit us up with some Plymouth Gin Negronis upon entering, and he shared with us a few tips when making Negronis with this one-of-a-kind slightly lighter gin: use a big ice cube for slow dilution, and bump up the proportion of gin to the amount of Campari and sweet vermouth (Negronis are typically 1:1:1) for a more balanced experience. As the ice slowly melted, we commented on how smooth this Negroni was, a little atypical for such a boldly flavored cocktail, but delicious.

Plymouth Gin Negroni
(adapted by Tad Carducci)

1 1/2 ounces Plymouth gin
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth
orange peel, as garnish

Stir in ice and strain into a glass with one large ice cube. (We’re sure Tad wouldn’t mind if you substituted two or three regular ice cubes if that is all that’s available :) Garnish with a swath of orange peel.

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We then moseyed down the corridor through the Chelsea Market, deciding which bites to pair with our Negroni. We stumbled upon some folks serving up Dehesa Cordobesa 100% acorn-fed Ibérica ham. It melted on our tongues like butter. You can actually taste the nuttiness of the acorns. Behind them, Dickson’s Farmstand Meats was serving up the best deviled ham you never thought you needed to have, along with some lardon spread and some of the savoriest red chili–braised beef, with a finishing topper of cilantro leaf that contrasted nicely with the spiciness of the braise.

While in the Campari Red Lounge, we saw one of our favorite bartenders, Damon Dyer, who runs the bar program at The Rum House, pouring some simple Campari and tonics for those who needed a quick jolt of bittersweet bliss. That encounter was followed by a chat with another one of our favorite people behind the stick, Death & Co.’s Joaquin Simo, always friendly and always informative. He was offering Negroni Sbagliatos, equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth, and sparkling wine (sbagliato means incorrect). What a delight. This should be the opening drink at your next cocktail party. Make sure to have some strong cheeses on hand to pair with this effervescent, bittersweet libation.

Negroni Sbagliato
(adapted by Joaquin Simo)

1 1/2 ounces Campari
1 1/2 ounces Cinzano sweet vermouth
1 1/2 ounces Mionetto prosecco

Stir Campari and sweet vermouth in ice. Strain into champagne flute. Top with prosecco.

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It was also a pleasure to see writers Bruce Watson and Laren Spirer, chatting it up with bartender Pamela Wiznitzer of the recently opened Bishops & Barons on East 14th Street. We all realized that we hadn’t yet experienced dessert, so we went in search for some sweetness to bring wider Campari-laced grins to our beaming faces.

Jane Danger, from Jane’s Sweet Buns, offered three bite-sized desserts that all had Campari as an ingredient. As we stood around her table, we debated with other pastry lovers what our favorite was: The shortbread cookie topped with Campari lemon rose buttercream? The strawberry sticky bun with rhubarb bitters? Or the bitter mai tai macaroon? Actually, they were all amazing.

Thanks to Bon Appétit and Hanna Lee Communications for letting us experience the versatility of Campari, and congratulations to all the 2012 James Beard Foundation Award Winners.

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Catdaddy Spiced Moonshine Puts Us in the Catbird Seat. Plus, Rediscovering the Kitty Carlisle Cocktail

The Catbird Seat Cocktail, made with Catdaddy Spiced Moonshine, is a close relative of the Sidecar.
A few years back, we were approached by Piedmont Distillers to come up with a bunch of cocktails featuring their unique brand of moonshine. Dubbed Catdaddy, this 80-proof tipple appealed to our decadent side: it’s sweet and spicy—very southern—and teems with the flavors of vanilla, with whiffs of cinnamon and nutmeg, like frosting on a cake, or better yet, icing on a sticky bun (we did say it was sweet, after all). We had two goals: Our first was to come up with some cocktails to pair with courses for a New Orleans luncheon; our second was to create additional cocktails that would be able to stand on their own.

One such cocktail that fell into the latter category was our Catdaddy version of the famous Sidecar. If you’ve never had a Sidecar, you simply must. It’s a perfect blend of cognac (or brandy), lemon juice, and triple sec, plus a sugared rim for some textural sweetness and a lemon twist for the added citrus oil and aroma. For our version, we swapped out the triple sec for Catdaddy and ditched the lemon twist. And instead of a traditional white-sugar rim, we opted for darker, sexier demerara sugar, like we do in our Sidecar recipe. It adds deeper nuances of sweetness, almost like brown sugar or molasses would.

In naming the new drink, we wished to keep with the vehicular nomenclature of the Sidecar, along with evoking “Catdaddy,” so we racked our brains to find a befitting name—a name that would make you feel a little special while sipping on it, as if you were the main attraction of a parade. Perhaps a parade charging down Bourbon Street, with you waving to all the parade-goers from your enviable position in the high back seat of an old luxury auto. The name Catbird Seat popped into Paul’s head. It’s from a James Thurber story called “The Catbird Seat,” and seemed utterly befitting for several reasons. In said story, one of the characters, Mrs. Barrows, spouts cryptic phrases, such as “Are you in the catbird seat?” at the lead character Mr. Martin, who subsequently learns they are of Southern origin. The phrase, which is synonymous with “sitting pretty,” was then used by P.G. Wodehouse in a novel he wrote called—get ready for it—Cocktail Time. Too perfect.

Whenever we imbibe a Catbird Seat, we feel pretty special, because cognac, no matter what brand you use, seems to elevate a cocktail to a lofty level. (It’s French, after all.) And Catdaddy is pretty darn special too, especially since it’s gone through a makeover: Piedmont Distillers now only uses natural ingredients in the flavoring process, and has changed the name of the product from Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine to Catdaddy Spiced Moonshine, but you can just call it Catdaddy, plain and simple.

Catbird Seat
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 ounces cognac or brandy
1 1/2 ounces Catdaddy Spiced Moonshine
1/2 ounce lemon juice
demerara sugar, for rimming

Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe, rimmed (or half-rimmed) with demerara sugar.

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A Kitty Carlisle cocktail.
We tried some of the new version of Catdaddy just the other night at The Way Station, an old-school Steampunk-themed bar in our neighborhood in Brooklyn, where our friend, the sultry burlesque chanteuse Rosie 151 performs with the outstanding Red Hook Ramblers the first Thursday of every month. We were honored by Rosie and proprietor Anders Heidel, who featured our very own Kitty Carlisle cocktail, one of the creations we came up with for that New Orleans luncheon. Ah, the Kitty Carlisle. Named after the New Orleans–born legend, this sweet-and-sour sipper is a blend of equal parts Catdaddy, bourbon, crème de cacao, and lemon juice. Imbibing some took us right back to New Orleans, especially with the strains of dixieland jazz and the naughty serenading of Rosie’s lyrical double entendre whipping the crowd into a frenzy of southern decadence. And if that wasn’t all, free shots of Catdaddy were passed out by one Foxy Vermouth so everyone could get a taste of the new all-natural recipe. Let’s hope they keep it on the menu the next time Rosie performs with the Red Hook Ramblers so you too can get a taste of southern hospitality, burlesque style.

Come to think of it, we’d love for the Kitty Carlisle to become a new New Orleans cocktail, much like the Sazerac, the Absinthe Suisse, or the Vieux Carré. Make one and let us know what you think.

Kitty Carlisle
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

3/4 ounce Catdaddy Spiced Moonshine
3/4 ounce bourbon
3/4 ounce white crème de cacao
3/4 ounce lemon juice

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

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Food Pairing Ideas
If you’d like to pair some grub with either of these cocktails, we recommend pork barbecue or anything with andouille sausage. We make pierogi that combines the spiciness of andouille with the sweetness of prunes (and a little Catdaddy thrown in for good measure). You’ll be booking your tickets for New Orleans after just a few sips and nibbles.