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Monday Classics: La Louisiane

Monday Classics: La Louisiane

I absolutely love anything that’s a secret. I’m always on the lookout for a new speakeasy to visit and I’m a huge fan of movies like National Treasure and the entire Indiana Jones series, so when Saveur Magazine called the La Louisiane the “secret cocktail of New Orleans,” I was pretty much smitten. I would love to say that I picture myself drinking this cocktail at the bar and hotel of the same name (where the drink was created), situated right around the corner from the Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar, but it closed back in the 1930s. The La Louisiane cocktail disappeared not long after that, despite the fact that its recipe appeared in Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em by Stanley Clisby Arthur in 1937. It goes to show you that drinks are more than just their recipe, especially those that are born in bars. They are about the atmosphere of the bar and bartenders who work there, and the patrons that made these particular cocktails popular by sitting and drinking them long into many nights.

The first thing you’ll notice when you look at the La Louisianes recipe is just how similar it is to last Monday’s Vieux Carré. It pays the same homage to the melting pot that was New Orleans at that time, using ingredients from American, French, Italian, and Caribbean cultures. Once again we have a big, boozy cocktail with rye whiskey as the base spirit, its bite tempered by the addition of Bénédictine and sweet vermouth. There’s no cognac in the La Louisiane and it’s served up rather than on the rocks, but there are some Peychaud’s bitters and Absinthe, both of which bring distinct anise notes to the drink. Once again I was amazed by how smooth and easy this cocktail was, and I’m happy to have a drink filed away in my memory now that uses Absinthe. The La Louisiane is currently re-emerging in many bars in New Orleans itself, as well as all over the world, although I’ve yet to see one listed on a cocktail menu here in the Philadelphia area. I’m definitely keeping my eyes open! In the meantime, this is a cocktail that you can easily ask for even if you don’t see it on a drink list. The ingredients are readily available and most bartenders should know how to make one. If not, just grab your cell phone and pull up this Thirsty Camel blog post… Report back to me, please!

La Louisiane

2 ounces Old Overholt rye whiskey
¾ ounce Bénédictine
¾ ounce sweet vermouth (half Dolin Rouge and half Punt e Mes)
3 dashes Pernot Absinthe
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters (I substituted Scrappy’s Orleans bitters)

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Fill ⅔ full with ice and stir 30 seconds or until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with three brandied cherries. Enjoy!

As with any classic cocktail recipes, this one started out with equal parts of all the spirits, resulting in a drink that was too sweet and off balance. Bumping up the rye and reducing the vermouth and the Bénédictine corrects this problem.

Friday Musings: On this day…

Friday Musings: On this day…

Facebook has a feature called “On This Day” that shows you memories that you posted last year, or the previous year, or maybe even 5 years ago. Now this is a lovely thought if the memory is a happy one. We get all warm and fuzzy and maybe even shed a tear or two at what a wonderful day it was. But what happens when a picture pops up of some ex-boyfriend or girlfriend that you were just saying you were beginning to get over. Not any more. There they are smiling at you or, worse yet, there the two of you are smiling at one another. Or maybe it’s a group shot from one of those nights when Creedence Clearwater Revival was in your head telling you that you should have stayed home. Suddenly those one or two tears turn into an all out sob session. Thank you, Facebook.

When I log on today I know just what picture is going to pop up. It will be of a bottle of wine from a restaurant in New York called Ai Fiori. It was a Vosne-Romanée from Burgundy, a 1er Cru that I’d been given the task of choosing and I did so happily. I was so excited to taste this wine that I could hardly contain myself. And it was wonderful! (You have to remember that this Thirsty Camel was once a wine educator in a former life. I still get excited about these kinds of things.) It had been one of those perfect days; I’d come up on the train, it was Christmas time in New York City, I was with friends, and I was wearing red heels because I thought they were festive and fabulous. We stopped at a place on the way to Ai Fiori called The Monkey Bar on E. 54th St. It was early and very quiet, just before the happy hour rush. We ordered some appetizers and a cocktail called The Savoy Graydon that was made with vodka, green Chartreuse, sweet vermouth, agave syrup, and lemon. It’s actually a very simple combination of ingredients that truly exemplifies the statement “the whole is more than just the sum of its parts.” Sometimes, and this is especially true of cocktails, the parts can be something other than just physical elements. The Savoy Graydon was magical for me because of where I was, who I was with, and the way I was feeling. (And I know those red shoes helped too.)

By the time we left the bar several cocktails later, it was packed. We all went on to have dinner and that amazing bottle of wine, stayed over, and came home the next day on the train. Two weeks later I made Savoy Graydons on Christmas Eve, and several more times throughout this past year. Every time I’ve had this cocktail, including yesterday when I photographed it for this post, I’ve been brought back to that perfect day in New York. Circumstances are very different; in fact nothing is the same, but my memory fills in the gaps and infuses the drink, if you will, with those magical components of time and place and people. Just for a moment I’m sitting back at The Monkey Bar, on a December day full of promise. And for that, I am grateful.

The Savoy Graydon (from The Monkey Bar 60 E. 54th St. NYC)

1½ oz Stateside vodka
1 oz Punt E Mes sweet vermouth
½ oz Green Chartreuse
1/2 oz agave nectar (diluted 2 parts water, 1 part agave)
¾ oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 oz Q club soda
Long lemon peel strip for garnishing

Add all the ingredients (except for the lemon peel strip) to the bottom half of a shaker tin. Add your ice (1 large cube and 2 small if you have them on hand). Shake for 15-20 seconds until cold. Strain using a Hawthorne strainer and then pour over ice into a Collins glass. Garnish with the lemon strip. Make a toast to your perfect day and enjoy!

Don’t forget to stop by Gorshin Trading Post in Haddonfield for some cocktails tonight!!

And this one’s for the whiskey lovers…

And this one’s for the whiskey lovers…

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The third and final cocktail in my lineup for this Friday’s event at Gorshin’s Trading Post in Haddonfield had to be a whiskey drink. After all, I’d already covered my other bases with a somewhat sour cocktail that features a vinegar shrub, and a decidedly sweet drink that is like a liquid candy cane. It would be terribly remiss of me not to show my whiskey fans some love with a holiday cocktail made just for them!

I knew that I wanted a riff on an Old-fashioned that had a flavor profile that immediately made me think of Christmas. That could be summed up in one word for me: Chai! I tried several different variations of a Chai simple syrup (all using different sweeteners) before I landed on the one that wanted to use. Regular white sugar didn’t have quite enough depth for me, and honey and agave seemed too syrupy, so I decided on turbinado sugar, also known as Sugar in the Raw. I had my sweetener; now I just needed to come up with the bitters part of the equation. I normally use just aromatic bitters in an Old-fashioned, but I knew that there would have to be more in this drink so I chose to add a dash of orange and a dash of cardamom to complement and enhance the chai spice flavors. That gave me exactly what I was looking for. I stuck with the traditional orange peel garnish and also added star anise. It’s one of the Chai spices and it’s always visually appealing in cocktail. With all that being said, when I actually tasted the drink it wasn’t quite right. It needed more snap, more of something that would take the spice flavor to the next level but not overwhelm the bourbon. After some trial and error, Ancho Reyes chili liqueur was the answer. It added just the thing that was missing, and when I tasted it again I knew I had the cocktail exactly where I wanted it to be!

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Holiday Spiced Old-fashioned

2 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
¾ oz Ancho Reyes chili liqueur
¼ oz Chai simple syrup*
1 dash aromatic bitters
1 dash cardamom bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Orange peel and star anise for garnishing

Combine all the ingredients except the garnishes in a mixing glass and fill 2/3 full with ice. Stir using a long-handled bar spoon until very cold (about 45 seconds). Strain using a julep strainer and pour into an old-fashioned glass, preferably over 1 large cube. Express the orange peel over the drink. Garnish and enjoy!

*To make the chai simple syrup steep 3 chai tea bags in 1/2 cup boiling water for 5 minutes. Add 1/3 cup turbinado sugar and stir until it dissolves. Let cool before using. The syrup will stay in the fridge for about a month.

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To all you sweet lovers out there… this one’s for you!

To all you sweet lovers out there… this one’s for you!

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Yesterday’s cocktail, the Old Time Holiday Shrub, focused on sour in a big way by featuring a drinking vinegar as one of its main components. Today I thought it would be best to give equal time to all my non-sour-loving readers by going with something that’s quite a bit sweeter. The Candy Cane Martini seemed like the perfect choice. Made in true martini fashion, it’s a clear and strong cocktail that brings together 3 different spirits and has a simple garnish. The vodka provides the backbone in this drink and while the recipe calls for a vanilla-flavored version, you can certainly go with one that is non-flavored if you want to tone down some of the sweetness. If you choose to follow the recipe exactly then I would go with the Absolut since it’s vanilla flavors are naturally sourced and no additional sugar has been added in. The second ingredient in this cocktail is crème de cacao, which is a liqueur made from the cacao bean that has a subtle chocolate flavor with just a hint of vanilla too. There are two versions, light and dark; the light version is the one used in this drink. The third and final ingredient is peppermint schnapps, a clear liqueur with a flavor a lot like crème de menthe, but with a much less syrupy consistency.

Now, those of you who were recoiling yesterday from the idea of drinking anything vinegar based are probably smiling from ear to ear right now. And I’m equally sure that the sour lovers are about ready to hit the sugar overload button! Don’t panic yet. While there is quite a bit of sweetness in this cocktail, it’s not without its merits. First of all, it’s fun, very Christmasy, and it tastes like a candy cane! Secondly, the peppermint has a stomach settling quality to it that makes this drink work as an after dinner digestivo of sorts. Finally, it’s very pretty and festive to look at with its peppermint candy garnish. It was a huge hit when I served it last Christmas. If I still haven’t convinced you then there are ways to tone down the sugar. You can start by choosing to go with regular vodka instead of vanilla vodka, as I mentioned earlier. Even though the Absolut has no sugar added, the vanilla flavor will enhance the sweetness of the other 2 liqueurs. You can also opt for a berry and mint leaf garnish instead of the peppermint candy, which will add more sugar as it dissolves in the drink. Finally, this is a cocktail that needs to be served very cold. It’s sweetness will be magnified the warmer it gets so go for a chilled martini glass that’s on the smaller side. That’s how ALL martinis should be served. Oversized glasses mean that you will either end up drinking a warm martini or drinking a cold one way too quickly. Neither scenario is good. I’ll be serving this Candy Cane Martini at Gorshin’s Trading Post this Friday night. Stop by and give it a try!

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Candy Cane Martini (originally from Coastal Living, reposted by myrecipes.com)

1¼ oz Absolut vanilla vodka
1¼ oz white Crème de Cacao
¾ oz Peppermint Schnapps
Peppermint Starlight Candy for garnishing (or berry and mint leaf for less sweetness)

Combine all the ingredients except your garnish in a mixing glass and fill 2/3 full with ice. Stir using a long-handled bar spoon until very cold (about 45 seconds). Strain using a julep strainer and pour into a Martini glass. Garnish and enjoy!

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A shrub in a cocktail? How do I get it in the glass??

A shrub in a cocktail? How do I get it in the glass??

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Happy Repeal Day!! I have to be honest and say that the first time I saw a shrub listed as an ingredient in a cocktail, I really didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. I tried to pretend as if I knew… Oh sure shrubs, they’re awesome in cocktails, but really I was thinking whaaat??? Just a little bit of research told me everything I needed to know. The origin of shrubs goes back to colonial times when refrigeration was not available, and vinegar was used as a means of preserving fruit. Early Americans discovered that if they strained out the fruit and added a little cane syrup and some spices to what was left behind, they’d produce a drinking vinegar, also know as a shrub. They subsequently learned that they could then add a little soda water for a soft drink, or some alcohol to make a cocktail. Once I understood what shrubs were I was truly curious to try a drink made with one, but then I’m a person who loves the taste of vinegar. I know what you’re all thinking. Last Friday I told you about a bitter spirit that tasted like medicinal mud, and now I’m suggesting that you drink some vinegar! I was a bit skeptical too at first, but this is definitely worth exploring. When I finally got to have one, I was pleasantly surprised by how different and refreshing it was, but if you’re a person who loves sweet cocktails then those made with shrubs may be an acquired taste for you. After all, vinegar is distinctly sour, and that sourness does not disappear even after the addition of simple syrup and bitters, but I still encourage you to give them a try. Have I ever really steered you wrong?? Shrubs are also something that can be made at home, so if you’re a person who is into home canning or preserving this might be just the thing for you!

I’m preparing to pour cocktails this Friday night at Gorshin Trading Post in Haddonfield, so I’ve been doing some tasting to figure out which drinks I want to serve. I knew I wanted one of them to be a kind of a holiday shrub that used some of the products that are available to purchase right in the store. I decided on the McClary Bros. Michigan Saskatoon shrub and the Jack Rudy aromatic bitters. I went with my own homemade simple syrup made with black tea and rosemary to give the drink a deeper base, and to bring in an herbal quality that makes me think of Christmas. Finally, I needed a main spirit and I wanted it to be local so I chose Stateside Vodka, a super-pure product distilled right in nearby Kensington. This is an easy drink to mix up in a batch for a holiday party because it requires just a little bit of stirring over ice. Add a cranberry on a skewer and a rosemary sprig and you’re good to go!

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Old Time Holiday Shrub (recipe adapted from McClary Bros.)

3 oz. Stateside Vodka
2 oz. McClary Bros. drinking vinegar (Michigan Saskatoon or Michigan Cranberry)
1/2 oz Black tea and Rosemary simple syrup*
2 dashes Jack Rudy aromatic bitters
3 oz Q club soda
1 cranberry and a rosemary sprig for garnishing

Place all the ingredients except for the cranberry and rosemary into a mixing glass and fill 2/3 full with ice. Stir with a long-handled bar spoon until very cold. Strain using a julep strainer, and pour over ice into a Collins glass. Skewer the cranberry with a toothpick and garnish along with the rosemary sprig. Enjoy!

*To make the simple syrup, add equal parts black oolong tea and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add 2 rosemary sprigs to a mason jar, pour in the syrup, and seal. Let steep for a few hours until you can distinctly taste the rosemary. Discard the sprigs and the syrup will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.

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