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Category: Shaken, Stirred, Muddled…

Let’s talk about Paris. The Strawberry Daiquiri meets the French 75.

Let’s talk about Paris. The Strawberry Daiquiri meets the French 75.

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Around this time last year my daughter and I were just starting to talk about a trip to Paris. I wanted to come up with a cocktail that we could drink as we sat down to begin making specific plans. Her only requirements were that it should have strawberries and St. Germain in it. I had recently had an abominable Strawberry Daiquiri made from a mix and remembered thinking “there has to be a way to come up with a respectable version of this drink.” I thought about making a French 75 and adding strawberries to it, but I didn’t have any Champagne in the house and I couldn’t get that Daiquiri out of my head. So what I decided on was a sort of a blend between the two drinks with the addition of strawberries and St. Germain. The color remained true to what we typically see in a frozen Daiquiri made from a mix, but the taste was something altogether different.

Let’s Talk About Paris

2 oz white rum*
1/2 oz St. Germain
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 simple syrup**
1 ripe strawberry
Pinch of salt***

Gently muddle together the strawberries and the simple syrup in the bottom of a shaker tin. Add the remaining ingredients to the shaker and add 1 large and 2 small cubes of ice. (If you don’t have the large format cubes on hand then fill the shaker about 2/3 full with ice). Shake for about 15 seconds or until very cold. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a strawberry slice. Enjoy!

*I used Petty’s Island Rum from our local Cooper River Distillers.

**Simple syrup is very easy to make at home. Combine equal amounts of regular sugar and water in a pot and heat until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture turns completely clear. Store in a mason jar in the refrigerator for about a month.

***The salt helps to brighten the flavor of the citrus in much the same way that it does in cooking.

Cocktail coupe glass made by Schott Zwiesel.

Follow up with me tomorrow when we’ll take a look at the Whiskey Sour, a classic shaken drink!

 

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Let’s Shake Things Up!

Let’s Shake Things Up!

 

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Happy Monday! So far we’ve talked about drinks that are built and drinks that are stirred, two methods of making cocktails that yield a clear finished product with very little texture at all. If we take a look at the drink above we immediately see that it’s neither clear nor smooth. That’s because this is a shaken drink, and the whole purpose of preparing it this way is to emulsify the ingredients and infuse the cocktail with texture in the form of air bubbles. This cocktail also contains both citrus juice and egg whites, two ingredients that require shaking in order to be properly incorporated. As soon as you see either of them in a recipe you know you’ll be taking your shaker out! So let’s get down to the details.

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We start by measuring and pouring our ingredients into a cocktail shaker. What you see pictured above is the smaller half of a Boston shaker. It measures 16 oz. and the larger half measures 28 oz. I always build the drink in the smaller half and then add my ice. In terms of which ice to use, I found the information in Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold to be truly helpful. He painstakingly conducted experiments to see what effect different sized ice cubes had on shaken cocktails and concluded that the best combination is one large cube and 2 small. To be honest, I really didn’t believe this at first. What difference could it possibly make? So I followed Arnold’s suggestion and did the experiment at home. Just as he predicted the cocktail with the large and small cubes had the best texture by a long shot.

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Once we’ve added all our ingredients, the next step is to seal the shaker. To do this I place the larger half on top of the smaller half and give it a good whack with my palm. The pressure inside the shaker from the changing temperature builds up and helps to seal the two tins together. To get ready to shake I invert the tins (so that the smaller one is on the top and the larger one is on the bottom) and I point the bottom half away from me at an angle. The reason for this is so that if the tins were to separate the drink would end up all over me, not my guest. Now I’m ready to shake – this is the best part! Rather than shaking in a back and forth motion, I like the recommendation from Death & Co. to think of moving the shaker in a fast arc so that the ice cubes are spinning around inside, rather than slamming back and forth. This means less breakage and less chance of too much dilution. I shake the drink for a  good 10 -15 seconds; I want it to get very cold. I shake for less time if I’m making a drink like a Cucumber Collins that will be served over ice. There is also something called a dry shake that’s used when there are egg whites in the drink. You seal the tins and shake vigorously with no ice to get the egg whites nice and foamy, then add your ice and shake again to chill. After I’m finished shaking, I separate the tins by holding them in my right hand and giving another good whack with my left palm right about where the two tins are joined together. Alternatively (and I like this better) I squeeze the larger tin in that same approximate spot and push against the smaller one until the seal breaks.

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Before I actually pour my drink, I place my larger half of the shaker into the smaller half (you can see that above). It’s just a good habit to get into and it helps to keep your work area neat. I double strain my drink into a chilled cocktail glass using a Hawthorne strainer and a mesh strainer. This is to be sure to keep small pieces of ice out of the finished drink. We’re now ready to garnish and serve! As with the building and stirring techniques we’ve already covered, try to develop a regular pattern when shaking your cocktails. This creates consistency and that’s the hallmark of a great bartender!

Check back tomorrow and Wednesday for recipes!

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The Negroni: Elegance in a glass.

The Negroni: Elegance in a glass.

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I simply would not want to live in a world without Campari in it. I know that’s a pretty bold statement, but to me there is nothing that embodies elegance in a glass quite the way a Negroni does. But I’m a person who loves bitterness in cocktails and Campari’s biting orange flavor definitely fits into that category. Technically speaking, Campari is considered to be an apertivo, or a substance that you drink before a meal to prepare your digestive system for what’s coming. It is also one of the Italian Amari, a group of versatile herbal liqueurs that are currently among the rising stars of the cocktail world. The origin of the Negroni itself dates back to to 1919 when a Count Camillo Negroni was rumoured to be drinking Americanos in a bar in Florence. Americanos are made with sweet vermouth, Campari, and club soda. Desiring a stronger drink, he asked the bartender to replace the club with gin and so the Negroni was born. A happy day for me! The recipe below calls for equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. This is traditional and it’s the one that I use, but many bartenders bump the gin up to 1.5 ounces. Try it both ways (side by side if you can) and see which you prefer. You’ll want a less botanical gin here so go with something like Bluecoat (my favorite and distilled here in Philadelphia), Tanqueray or Beefeater. As far as sweet vermouth goes, I prefer Carpano Antica Formula and Dolin Rouge, but again try each one and you decide. And finally, the Negroni is a drink that is best served very cold. It tends to fall apart as it warms up and so I love it over ice, preferably one large cube.

1 oz Bluecoat gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz Carpano Antica or Dolin Rouge
1 orange peel for garnishing

Place all the ingredients except the orange peel in your mixing glass (or shaker tin). Add ice (medium cubes) until the glass (or tin) is 2/3 full. Remember that too much ice will make it hard to stir and too little will not chill the drink enough. Stir with a long handled bar spoon for 15-20 seconds or until very cold. Strain using a Julep strainer and pour into an Old-Fashioned or bucket glass with one large ice cube in it. Express the oils from the orange peel across the top of the drink by squeezing the peel with the skin side out and the white pith side towards you. Drop the peel in the drink. This is a beautiful cocktail! Take a moment to admire it and then get ready for a taste like nothing else!

Check back with me tomorrow for the Thursday Barlogue when I’ll be covering Charlie was a sinner in Philadelphia!

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The Manhatten: Finding the perfect balance, part 2.

The Manhatten: Finding the perfect balance, part 2.

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The Manhatten is very much like the Old-Fashioned in the sense that it seems as though it should be one of the simplest drinks in the world to prepare. It’s only made with three ingredients – what could possibly go wrong? Let’s just throw them in a mixing glass, stir ’em up, and pour! Right? Wrong! I think you’re all getting to know me better than that! The trick is in finding the right balance between the ingredients that make up the Manhatten, and also in understanding and respecting the role that each ingredient has to play. Only then can you create the drink in the way in which it was intended to be made, and, as a bonus, you can even reach a little farther and begin to come up with your own variations. So let’s consider what’s actually in a Manhatten. First we have rye whiskey, which is going to be drier (or less sweet) than the bourbon we used in last week’s Old-Fashioned. I also find that rye has a distinct spiciness to it and that’s what makes it work so well with the sweet vermouth. These two elements bring the drink into balance, but we still need one more ingredient to tie it all together and that’s where the bitters come in. There’s a great exercise in the new Death & Co Modern Classic Cocktails book that has you make three different Manhattens. In the first one, you use considerably less vermouth. In the second variation, you leave out the bitters. Finally, you follow the recipe just as it is. Tasting the drinks side by side really illustrates the importance of each component. Give it a try! It’s a little like being back in high school chemistry.

2.5 oz rye whiskey*
3/4 oz sweet vermouth**
2 dashes Angostura or other aromatic bitters***
1 Italian Amarena cherry for garnishing****

Place all the ingredients in the larger half of a shaker tin or in a very pretty mixing glass (if you have that special someone sitting in front of you). Add ice to the shaker (or glass) until its about 2/3 full. Too much ice will make it hard for you to stir; too little will not chill the drink. Stir the drink with a long handled bar spoon for a good 15-20 seconds. When the drink is chilled, strain it using a Julep strainer, and pour it into a chilled cocktail glass. Drop the cherry into the glass and serve.

*I used Bulleit rye for my Manhatten. Redemption is also a good choice if you don’t have a favorite.

**Two options here: Carpano Antica Formula (sweeter) or Punt e Mes (a bit more complex and bitter). I love the Punt e Mes.

***Try Fee Brothers, Scrappy’s, Bittermilk, Hella Bitters or any other hand-crafted bitters.

****Available locally in the cheese department of Whole Foods.

Cocktail coupe glass made by Schott Zwiesel.

As you can see there are lots of options here. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you come up with which combination of ingredients you like best. Enjoy!

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Let’s Stir Things Up!

Let’s Stir Things Up!

 

manhattencloseup2Happy Monday! Last week we talked about how a built drink is made right in the glass in which you plan to serve it. This week we’re focusing on stirred drinks, which are prepared in a separate mixing vessel and then strained into a glass. They are very similar in many ways, but there are differences too. Stirred drinks are smooth, with very little texture (think no air bubbles here). They are also very clear with almost no cloudiness at all. You should be able to see right through them in the glass. These same two things are true of built drinks. For me there are three main differences between the two ways of making cocktails, the first being the ingredients involved. When a drink recipe calls for more than one form of alcohol (and no citrus), then I know I’m going to make it as a stirred drink. In a Manhatten, for example, I need to incorporate rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters together. I want to make sure they’re well-combined, so it makes sense to be stirring them in something larger. Along these same lines, if a drink is going to be served up (with no ice) in a cocktail glass, then we know for sure we’re not mixing directly in that glass. It would be impossible! The final factor for me is temperature. If you’re a person who likes Negronis (I happen to love them) then you know that you like them to be very cold. There’s no way to achieve that temperature by stirring directly in a glass. You need a lot more ice and a lot more time to sir.

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When I make a stirred drink I add my ingredients to the mixing glass and pour in some ice. If I have a choice I like to use medium sized cubes here, nothing too small because they will melt too quickly and overdilute the drink. I use a mixing glass when I’m making a drink in front of someone that I want to impress because it makes a nicer presentation. When I’m making a drink for my husband (sorry Joe, humor is important in blog posts) I go with one half of a shaker tin. Metal gets cold a lot more quickly than glass so it brings the temperature of the drink down faster. Your choice here – either will work. Once the ingredients and the ice are in the glass (or tin) I use a long handled bar spoon to stir and stir and stir (about 15-20 seconds for me). I try to stir for the same amount of time whenever I prepare a drink this way so that my drinks are consistently at the same temperature. I also try to stir smoothly (easier said than done for a home bartender!) so that I don’t get a lot of air into the drink and cloud it up. Finally, once the drink is ready, I strain it into a glass using a julep strainer and add my garnishes.

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Check back with me tomorrow and we’ll make a Manhatten together!

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