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Monday Classics: Yule Mule

Monday Classics: Yule Mule

Many, many classic cocktails have a very muddled history where we find a multitude of bartenders, bar owners, and even authors claiming to have created their recipes. This is not the case with the Moscow Mule. The facts behind the story are almost completely unanimous and they go as follows. In the 1940s, John Hublein was the president of G.F. Heublein & Brothers, the company that made A-1 steak sauce. Hublein had purchased a small vodka label called Smirnoff back in the 30s in an effort to get

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Friday Musings: The Winter Solstice

Friday Musings: The Winter Solstice

 

Technically speaking the Winter Solstice is the day with the longest period of darkness and the shortest period of light, marking the beginning of the winter season for those of us who live in the Northern hemisphere. The good news is that everything gets better from here. What the Winter Solstice really celebrates is that despite the change in seasons, the days will actually start getting longer again. So in a sense we are turning from darkness back into light. In addition to the literal meaning, there is also a very symbolic interpretation of the Solstice as well. The long hours of darkness leading up to December 21st cause us to become reflective; our thoughts turn inward and our instincts become more intuitive. When the Solstice occurs (and it really only lasts for a moment) it allows us to consider that there may be things in our lives that we are ready to release. Are we holding on to a relationship or situation that no longer serves us, or leaves us feeling depleted and empty? The Solstice is the perfect time to let whatever it is go, and begin seeking people and experiences of substance that will ultimately bring us a sense of fulfillment rather than emptiness.

So how in the world could I come up with a cocktail that would measure up to all of this? My initial thought was that it needed to have an unusual combination of ingredients in it, and I knew just which bottle to reach for first. In addition to the amazing St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram that I told you about yesterday, I also got a bottle of something equally special called Rujero Singani from Bolivia. The Singani is made from Muscat of Alexandria grapes that are grown in the Andes mountains at high elevations. At this altitude, the physical composition of the grapes actually changes and they become incredibly floral and aromatic. This would be my base spirit and from here I’d do a riff on a Negroni. That meant that I needed a bitter element next, but I had to be careful not to overpower the Singani. I chose Suze because of its bright yellow coloring (fitting for the Solstice idea, I thought) and because its flavor is delicate enough to truly complement the Singani, rather than overwhelm it. The third component in a Negroni is sweet vermouth, and I decided immediately on Dolin Blanc, with its honey sweetness and hint of herbal bitterness. I tasted the cocktail at this point and something was still missing. I tried adding a number of the DRAM Apothecary bitters before landing on the Palo Santo. I was secretly hoping that this would be the one that would work because Palo Santo is a sacred or holy wood that is supposed to contain mystical properties that lead to enlightenment. Perfect, right? Finally I went with a bay leaf as my garnish because it symbolizes wisdom, especially that which comes from following your intuition. With the addition of the bitters and the bay leaf, all of the elements of this cocktail came together just as I hoped they would. The end result was truly magical.

A Winter Solstice

1 oz Rujero Singani
1 oz Suze Saveur d’Autrefois
1 oz Dolin Blanc
1 dash DRAM Palo Santo bitters

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill 2/3 full with ice. Stir with a long-handled bar spoon 30-45 seconds or until very cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass using a Julep strainer. Garnish with the bay leaf. Sip. Contemplate. Re-evaluate. Enjoy!

I wish you all peace and joy this holiday season. Thank you so much for reading. Merry Christmas!

Friday Musings: and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Friday Musings: and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Lately whenever someone asks me what I do, I find that I suffer from a bit of an identity crisis. I know that I write a blog about cocktails, I take pretty good photos, and I can make a decent drink… but what exactly should I called myself? A few weeks ago a man asked me if I was a writer and I mentioned the blog. His response was to tell me that didn’t count. Ok then, scratch that one off the list. I take pictures of drinks, but I’m not exactly a photographer, and cocktail enthusiast sounds like something you’d put on a dating website. So what’s left then? Well, there’s home bartender, the term I like the best, and amateur bartender which is probably the most accurate, but it never sounds very positive to me. I decided to look up the word amateur. The first meaning is “a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefits.” Well now that is certainly true at the moment! The second definition is “a person inexperienced or unskilled in a particular activity. See antonym: professional.” Ouch, that one actually hurts.

Since I spend a fair amount of time at the vegan bar and restaurant Charlie was a sinner. in Philadelphia, I certainly don’t need to look in the dictionary to know what a professional bartender looks like. As far as I’m concerned, the bartenders at Charlie are among the best in the city (as I’ve mentioned many times). I could sit for hours watching them work and watching their interaction with customers, particularly the ones who have no idea what they’d like to drink. A few simple questions later and that uncertain person has a cocktail in front of them that they’ll most likely end up loving. This past Saturday night I asked Michelle Martinez if she’d come up with a cocktail for me that I could write a Friday Musings post about. I had no real requirements other than that it be a Christmasy drink. I knew that Michelle would come up with something amazing and I was definitely not disappointed!

Michelle said she wanted to create a cocktail with a smoky/sweet taste that would be appealing to a wide range of people, something that can be a real challenge since not everyone likes smokiness in a drink. I happen to love it so I was excited to hear her describe the Scotch whisky and pear combination she’d come up with. The smoke in this cocktail comes from infusing the glass with actual burnt rosemary right before the drink is poured in. In addition to the Scotch and pear, there’s some orange liqueur that adds a bit more sweetness, lemon to keep that sweetness in check and brighten things up, orgeat that creates beautiful texture, and angostura bitters to balance everything out. The nutmeg and rosemary sprig give the drink a wintertime feel, so this is not exclusively a holiday drink. As soon as I took my first sip I thought of the third meaning of the word amateur which is “a person who admires something intensely, a devotee, a fan.” And so I know then how to describe what I do: I am a cocktail blogger (and yes I do consider that writing), I am a home bartender, and I am an amateur, especially in the sense that I have boundless admiration for professional bartenders like Michelle whose creativity never ceases to amaze me.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree   Michelle Martinez from Charlie was a sinner, Philadelphia, PA.

1½ oz Johnny Walker Red Scotch whisky
½ oz orange liqueur
1 oz pear purée
½ oz orgeat
½ oz lemon juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake all ingredients together with ice in a shaker tin. Strain into a cocktail glass that has been smoked with rosemary. Grate nutmeg on top and garnish with a rosemary sprig. Enjoy!

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

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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