Wednesday Beer Cocktails: Seeking Clarity
Alas, our Wednesday Shakespeare series has come to an end and it’s time to trade in thoughts of the bard for thoughts of beer. In cocktails, of course. Somehow I think Shakespeare would be quite happy with this transition and might even volunteer to be a taste tester for us. I will confess right from the outset that I don’t use beer in cocktails very much, so this will definitely be a learning process for me that I’m happy to share with all of you. I’m actually very excited since I really do enjoy drinking beer, especially while I’m cooking. My family can attest to that. As I began to do some research about the idea of beer cocktails, I didn’t find any definitive recipes that insisted on a specific structure, like the way a sour is made from a base spirit plus sour and sweet components in a certain ratio, or a Negroni is made from ingredients measured in equal parts. This was wonderful news for me because it meant that I could take things in whatever direction I wanted them to go and come up with my own ground rules for this series. So what are the things that I’m going to insist upon? First off, I want to support craft breweries that are local to the Philadelphia area as much as I possibly can. Secondly, I’d like to do the same thing with any additional spirits that I use in my cocktails. Thirdly, I’ll either be using the beer as a main ingredient like in today’s recipe, or I’ll be using a lesser or equal amount of it in place of something like bitters. And finally, I’ll be pouring my cocktails into smaller format glasses. I’ve already learned from this first drink that beer cocktails can get a bit boozy, and scaling them up to fit into traditional beer glasses results in a cocktail that’s just too big and too alcoholic to drink comfortably. Other than these four things, the sky is the limit and I’m looking forward to having fun over the next nine weeks!
For today’s cocktail, I wanted to start with a beer that I really loved. Not all that long ago I was sitting at a bar looking over the beer list and two magical words jumped out at me: Palo Santo. Now, as many of you know who read what I write regularly, I use a lot of DRAM Apothecary bitters in my drinks. DRAM makes a flavor called Palo Santo that’s made from the wood of the same name that’s known for its cleansing and healing properties. In that regard, it’s very much like sage and wormwood; it energizes us and it helps us see things more clearly. You can imagine my reaction then when I saw that Spellbound Brewing (located in nearby Mt. Holly, NJ) had a Porter that was aged on Palo Santo wood. Since the bitters and the beer were a natural match for one another, the next step was to decide on a base spirit. I experimented with bourbon but found it to be too sweet for the malty, slightly bitter Porter, so I switched over to Standard Wormwood Rye instead. The Porter has some chocolate and vanilla notes, a bit of a smoky flavor from the wood, as well as something green that the brewery’s tasting notes identify as mint. The Standard Wormwood also has smokiness, vanilla, and a hint of herbal astringency. It turned out to be the perfect base for the Porter and it also worked for me philosophically, since palo santo wood and wormwood are both agents of clarity. To play up the vanilla notes and bring in a touch of sweetness, I infused some maple syrup with split vanilla beans and added in just a small amount. I topped the drink with the Porter, but I didn’t use a whopping amount, choosing instead to only double the amount of the rye. That allowed me to serve the cocktail in a port style glass. Mint was a natural garnish, but when I tasted the finished cocktail I also though it needed just a bit of brightness and acidity so I expressed an orange peel over it and used it as a garnish as well. I felt as though the result was a well balanced cocktail that allowed all of the components to have presence, to compliment one another, and to be rise above being just a more alcoholic glass of beer. And it was truly delicious! Cheers everyone. Happy Wednesday!
Spellbound Brewing is located at 10 Lippincott Lane, Suite 12, Mt. Holly NJ. If you happen to be in Brooklyn, Standard Wormwood is at 630 Flushing Ave, Brooklyn, NY. Both the brewery and the distillery have websites with more information about their products, tours, and hours. DRAM bitters can be found on their website or through Amazon.
2 oz Standard Wormwood Rye Whiskey
¼ oz vanilla infused maple syrup*
2 dashes DRAM Palo Santo bitters
4 oz Spellbound Palo Santo Porter
Mint leaves for muddling
Gently muddle the mint leaves and the maple syrup in the bottom of a shaker tin. Add everything else, except the Porter, along with some ice. Shake vigorously until cold and strain into a smaller stemmed glass. (I used a port glass). Top with the Porter and garnish with a mint sprig and an orange peel that you’ve expressed over the drink. Enjoy!
*Add a split vanilla bean to 1 cup of maple syrup and allow to infuse 12 – 24 hours. If you’re in a time crunch you can add a dash of vanilla bean paste to the drink instead. Taste it for flavor. You want there to be a good amount of vanilla.