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Month: January 2017

The Sanguine Impostor featuring Fabrizia Blood Orange Liqueur

The Sanguine Impostor featuring Fabrizia Blood Orange Liqueur

When the folks at Fabrizia Spirits reached out to me to try their products and come up with some recipes, I was very excited! I received 2 limoncellos, one cream-based and one regular, and a blood orange liqueur that I decided to focus on first. As soon as I opened the bottle I could smell the delicate, yet distinctive, blood orange aroma that carried right through to the spirit’s flavor without being overly sweet at all. It would work beautifully on its own served chilled, in a spritzer with prosecco and club soda, or as a replacement for Cointreau in a Cosmopolitan. My first inclination when creating today’s cocktail was to go with a lighter base spirit like gin or vodka, but I quickly changed my mind when I considered how much I love the combination of blood oranges and darker spirits. I didn’t want to go too dark, however, because the Fabrizia has such a subtle flavor that could easily be overpowered. As an alternative I decided on Laird’s Applejack, which provides all the warm flavors of a bourbon without quite as much of a bite, along with a very distinct apple flavor. Since the Fabrizia is on the sweeter side, I knew I needed to add a bitter component to the drink and an Amaro seemed like the perfect direction to go in. I chose the Amaro Nonino because it has such strong bittersweet orange flavors, along with some floral notes that were a perfect match for the Fabrizia. To echo these floral notes and introduce an herbal element, I reached for Dolin Genepy, whose flavor profile falls right in between the sweet warmth of yellow Chartreuse, and the sharper botanicals of green Chartreuse. Finally, I seem to always need to add in some bitters when I have a number of very different ingredients going into a cocktail. It’s the last touch for me that brings everything together, and I’ve discovered that DRAM Apothecary bitters work better for me than any other, as you all well know by now! After trying several of them, I landed on their Palo Santo flavor for this drink. It had just enough spice to complement the Nonino and the Genepy, along with vanilla and woodsmoke to highlight the Applejack. I called this cocktail The Sanguine Impostor because it could pose as just about any other drink in terms of its looks, but is unmistakably blood orange the minute you taste it!

The Sanguine Impostor

1½ oz Laird’s Applejack
1 oz Amaro Nonino
1 oz Fabrizia Blood Orange liqueur
½ oz Dolin Genepy des Alpes
2 dashes DRAM Apothecary Palo Santo bitters (or your favorite aromatic bitters)

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass. Fill ⅔ full with ice and stir 30 seconds or until well chilled. Strain into an old-fashioned glass over 1 large cube. Garnish with a blood orange twist. Enjoy!

Fabrizia Spirits are available online and from a number of local retailers. There is a “Where to Buy” tab on their website that will provide you with more details.

Monday Classics: The Vieux Carré Cocktail

Monday Classics: The Vieux Carré Cocktail

I’ve never had the opportunity to go to New Orleans, although it’s on my list of places that I’d really love to visit. I’m drawn to it for a number of reasons: the history and culture, the fact that it’s the birthplace of jazz music, the incredible food (including beignets, of course) and, most importantly, because it inspired 3 classic cocktails. And let’s not forget that it’s also the setting for several of Anne Rice’s novels, including Interview with the Vampire and The Witching Hour.  I could go on about that forever – let’s get back to the cocktails! The first is called The Vieux Carré, which I’m covering today, and the others are La Louisiane and the Sazerac, which I’ll feature over the next 2 Mondays.

One of the places where I would love to have a cocktail in New Orleans is the Hotel Monteleone, located in the French Quarter, but a few blocks away from the craziness of Bourbon Street. I’m intrigued by the hotel’s history, and by the fact that quite a few notable literary figures, including William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams, spent so much time there. I’m also obsessed with the circular bar at the Hotel Monteleone that’s actually a 25-seat carousel, rotating completely every 15 minutes and providing a perfect place for people watching on Royal Street. It is appropriately named the Carousel Bar. The history of The Vieux Carré cocktail goes back to 1938 when Walter Bergeron, a bartender at the hotel’s original Swan Bar, created the drink and named it after the Vieux Carré, or “Old Square,” which is the official name for the French Quarter. The original recipe for the cocktail calls for 4 different spirits, as well as Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters. The Hotel Monteleone describes the ingredients of the cocktail as being “a tribute to the different ethnic groups of the city: the Benedictine and cognac to the French influence, the rye as a tribute to the American influence, the sweet vermouth to the Italian, and the bitters as a tribute to the Caribbean.”

The Vieux Carré is quite the boozy cocktail that many people, myself included, might be  reluctant to try at first. Once you muster up the courage to take that first sip, however, an amazing thing happens. The sweetness of the vermouth, the cognac, and the Benedictine really temper the bite that Rye whiskey can have, making this drink extremely smooth and surprisingly enjoyable. I tasted it first without the bitters, as I do with most cocktails so I can understand their impact. I found that they add just the right amount of spice back in; without them you’ll find yourself with a drink that’s right on the edge of becoming too sweet and cloying especially as it warms up. This is a cocktail that’s meant to be sipped, so a large ice cube works perfectly here. Finish it up with a lemon twist and you can pretend you’re at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, post-Prohibition, chatting it up at the bar with William Faulkner…

Vieux Carré (adapted from Death & Co. Modern Classic Cocktails)

1 oz Rye (I used Dad’s Hat, a local Philadelphia spirit)
1 oz Cognac (Pierre Ferrand Ambre)
1 oz Sweet Vermouth (Carpano Antica)
1 tsp Benedictine
1 dash Scrappy’s aromatic bitters
1 dash Scrappy’s Orleans bitters

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass. Fill ⅔ full with ice and stir 30 seconds or until well chilled. Strain into an old-fashioned glass over 1 large cube. Garnish with a lemon twist. Enjoy!

Friday Musings: A Shot to the Heart

Friday Musings: A Shot to the Heart

There are many things I’ve learned since becoming a cocktail blogger. I’ve learned that the world of spirits, liqueurs, bitters, and mixers is a huge one, with an infinite number of directions to go in. I’ve learned that bartenders love to talk about what they do, especially if you are a person who recognizes how much art there is in making a truly great drink. I’ve learned that the same is true of distillers, and I’ve gained tremendous respect and appreciation for local craft spirits. I’ve learned that spending a night sitting at a great bar really can make you forget your troubles, not because of the alcohol involved, but because of the people you’re there with and the connection you share. I’ve learned that there are times when tequila can make you see things more clearly, that DRAM Apothecary bitters are perfection in a bottle, that I really don’t like cherries as a garnish, and that making the perfect drink for someone brings me an amazing sense of joy. I was surprised to learn that seeing my 1000th follower pop up on Instagram would make me cry, and even more surprised to watch my blog’s numbers climb slowly and steadily each week.

The fact of the matter is that I believe that the universe gives us exactly what we need at exactly the right time. When last summer swung an emotional baseball bat at my head, it was this blog that got me upright again. It was the shot to the heart that I needed, but it couldn’t exist without all of you who actually read what I write every day. I am so incredibly grateful. And I am mildly amused to know that I accompany so many of you to the bathroom each morning! I’ve centered today’s cocktail around an ingredient that never fails to get the heart going: espresso! I’m using it in this drink as a reduced simple syrup instead of going with a coffee liqueur, most of which I really don’t like. I’ve combined it with tequila (for clarity, of course), yellow Chartreuse because it’s like sunshine and warmth, sweet Vermouth for its spicy bitterness, and 2 different types of bitters: DRAM Citrus Medica to brighten everything up, and Bittermens Xocolatl Mole to bring  in some chocolate flavor. The egg white (or vegan substitute) in the drink is completely optional; I tasted it without it and liked it just as much. You decide! If you go with the egg white then you can dust the top with some cocoa powder. If not, then I’d use an orange peel as my garnish.

A Shot to the Heart

2 oz Gran Centenario Tequila Blanco
½ oz Sweet Vermouth*
½ oz Yellow Chartreuse
½ oz espresso reduction syrup**
1 dash Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters (or Fee Brothers Aztec chocolate)
1 dash DRAM Citrus Medica bitters (or orange bitters)
1 oz egg white (or more) or vegan equivalent, like chick pea liquid (optional)

If you are using the egg white, then combine all the ingredients in a shaker tin without ice. Shake vigorously to get the egg white to foam, add the ice and then shake again. Strain into a cocktail, Martini, or Nick & Nora glass. Enjoy!

*Make 1 cup of very strong espresso. Add ¾ of a cup of sugar and heat very gently in a pot until the mixtures thickens and forms a syrup. It should take about 10-12 minutes. Store in a Mason jar in the fridge for about 2-3 weeks.

**Following the Death & Co. lead, I used equal parts of Dolin Rouge and Punt E Mes.

Have a great weekend everyone! See you all on Monday.

Thursday Barlogue: Aldine Restaurant, Philadelphia

Thursday Barlogue: Aldine Restaurant, Philadelphia

While I love a modern, innovative drink that surprises me with wild ingredients, there’s something about a classic cocktail that truly speaks to my heart. For starters, I’m drawn to the idea that some of these recipes have been around since before Prohibition, and remain largely unchanged. I also like thinking that I’m drinking a cocktail that my parents might also have enjoyed while sitting at their favorite bar many years ago. Imagine how happy I was to learn that the drink menu at Aldine Restaurant, a very cool second story walk-up on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, is comprised almost exclusively of classic cocktails. We had dinner there a few weeks ago, and I recently stopped back in to talk with Zeq Rudy who is responsible for Aldine‘s bar program.

Since Aldine is a restaurant whose food menu focuses on small plates made with local and in-house ingredients, it’s not surprising to learn that the cocktail menu follows the same philosophy. As Rudy explained to me, the drinks on Aldine’s menu may be based on recipes that have been around forever, but the spirits used in those drinks are being produced by distillers local to the Philadelphia area, many of whom have been in the business for just a few years. Additionally, a number of the secondary ingredients used in Aldine‘s cocktails are made by Rudy himself. He currently has on hand sweet and dry vermouths, a lillet blanc, and an amaretto, all of which are homemade. Rudy described the thought process at Aldine as being a constant learning experience for everyone involved. If only local ingredients are to be used, then both the kitchen and bar need to learn what those ingredients can do and what brings out the best in them. That experience is then passed down to the guests and we’re also given the opportunity to learn. For example, I had the chance to try 2 drinks made with the homemade lillet: a French 75, pictured above, and a Vesper, below. Both were excellent! Rudy makes his lillet with wormwood, so it has the bitter quinine element that was called for in the original recipe for a Vesper. It gave both cocktails a profoundly different taste, as did the local spirits.

Rudy’s own personal philosophy as a bartender revolves around making guests feel comfortable about their drink options. He feels as though the classic cocktail selection helps to achieve that comfort level, but he’s willing to make just about anything a guest might ask for. He particularly enjoys working with the person who has no idea what they might want. By asking them a series of questions he can usually determine what drink will be best for them, and it’s obvious that he finds the process to be very rewarding. His drink menu also includes a Cosmopolitan, but it’s made with Boardroom fresh cranberry vodka (rather than cranberry juice) and 3 seasonal cocktails: a sour, a margarita, and a rum punch. I chose a Sazerac as my final cocktail of the night because after Rudy explained how it was made, I simply couldn’t pass it up. The only ingredient that actually gets poured into the glass is the rye whiskey. The remaining components, which include Peychaud’s bitters, simple syrup, absinthe, and filtered water, are all frozen in an ice cube which melts as you sip the drink. The flavors unfold slowly, beginning with the rye and ending with the absinthe. It was truly innovative!

In addition to the classic cocktails, there is an interesting and comprehensive wine list that consists of roughly 25 wines from all over the world, many of which are available by the glass. There are also a number of locally brewed beers available, as well as house-made sodas. The food at Aldine is equally outstanding. The first time I was there, we were a party of 4 so that gave us the opportunity to try everything on the menu. There wasn’t a single dish that disappointed us. When I stopped back in to gather information for this barlogue, it happened to be Restaurant Week. I had dinner at the bar alone where I felt completely comfortable, and my 3-course meal was absolute perfection. I look forward to returning again very soon!

Aldine Restaurant     1901 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA    2nd floor    (215) 454-6529

Love’s Bitter Revenge: Lillet Rouge steps into the spotlight

Love’s Bitter Revenge: Lillet Rouge steps into the spotlight

Lillet Blanc had its moment to shine yesterday in my Overdraft Protection cocktail where I used it in much the same way as I would a white vermouth.  Today I’m going to do something very similar with its lesser known sibling Lillet Rouge. Flavored by the Bordeaux grapes Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and fortified with orange liqueur and a bit of quinine, Lillet Rouge is excellent on its own, chilled with an orange slice. It was introduced to the world in 1962 by Pierre Lillet, who hoped it would enjoy the same fame as Lillet Blanc, which had rocketed to stardom because of its role in James Bond’s cocktail the Vesper. Unfortunately, that type of celebrity endorsement never quite happened for Lillet Rouge, and it has remained an ingredient that doesn’t get used as often as it should. Low in alcohol and mildly bitter, Lillet Rouge brings a pleasant fruitiness to cocktails, as well as a beautiful red color. Because its bitter flavor is so gentle, using Lillet Rouge in a cocktail allows you to bring in other spirits to fill the bitterness role, which might otherwise compete with something bigger like a red vermouth. With the resurgence of craft cocktails, many industry and home bartenders are finally rediscovering Lillet Rouge and gaining respect for its versatility as a drink ingredient. I’ve also used it here on the blog in Up in Arms, the Post Election Sour, and Mercury Goes Direct.

Today’s cocktail is one that I’m hoping to serve for a Valentine’s Day event at Gorshin Trading Post in Haddonfield. It’s called Love’s Bitter Revenge. Call me a cynic, what can I say? To create this drink, I paired Lillet Rouge with Bluecoat, which happens to be locally produced here in Philadelphia and is one of my favorite gins. I specifically chose Bluecoat because its a juicy gin, with great citrus flavors and incredible balance. To that I added Cara Cara orange juice, which tends to be sweeter than regular and has more of a red color. Blood orange would work well here too. Since I needed a bitter component to balance the drink and to go along with its name, I decided to use Cynar, one of the Italian Amari that I like best, and a dash of DRAM Apothecary’s black bitters. I use these bitters fairly often in place of Angostura or aromatic bitters because there’s so much depth to their flavor that comes from things like black tea, black walnuts, and black pepper. For my garnish… what else but a broken heart??

Love’s Bitter Revenge

1½ oz Bluecoat Gin (or your favorite citrusy gin)
1 oz Lillet Rouge
½ oz Cynar
1 oz Cara Cara orange juice (substitute Blood orange or regular)
1 – 2 dashes DRAM Apothecary black bitters

Add all the ingredients to the bottom half of a shaker tin with ice and shake vigorously for 20 seconds or until well-chilled. Double strain into a Nick & Nora glass and garnish with an orange heart (or orange strip). Enjoy!