my signature cocktail: The Doozy

January 8, 2011 § 3 Comments

Learning more about cocktails was a fun first project and it’s been great to see how much it’s possible to learn in one week.

The greatest resource has been the local bartenders I talked with.  Asking a (good) bartender to help create something that fits you is like going into a salon and telling them to do whatever they think would look good with your hair.  They love it and it was fun to get to know people through exploring different flavor profiles.

Thanks to Noah, Dan, Bryan and Adam for their help!

So after much exploration and lots of cocktails, here is my signature cocktail! I’m calling it the Doozy. It’s more potent than it appears. It’s a great alternative to jack & gingers as well as lemon drop martinis.  I think it’s a pretty refreshing drink all in all.

2 oz. rye whiskey (most bartenders agree Rittenhouse is the way to go – Leopold Brothers also has a new maryland rye whiskey out)
1 0z. domaine de canton
1 0z. ginger simple syrup
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 T minced ginger
5 dashes orange bitters
1 egg white
lemon zest
ginger slice garnish

fill cocktail glass with ice.  muddle orange bitters with minced ginger in shaker glass. add whiskey, domaine de canton, ginger simple syrup, lemon juice and egg white to shaker.  shake for 10 seconds.  add ice from glass to shaker and shake an additional 10-20 seconds.  egg whites need to be shaken thoroughly.  strain into cold glass.  squeeze lemon zest on top and add ginger slice as garnish.

the beautiful glass is compliments of my husband, John.

great cocktails need good looking glassware

January 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

The martini glass has long been the predominant cocktail glass you can buy.  In looking for glassware beyond the martini glasses, it’s tough to find great cocktail glassware.

Mixing glasses are few and far between, but I found the one pictured on the far left on the Cocktail Kingdom website, made by Yarai.  Where the Americans have been lazy about keeping up, the Japanese have made beautiful, sturdy mixing glasses.  In talking with a lot of bartenders this seems to be a well-liked mixing glass.

Finding variety in terms of cocktail glasses was even harder, but this is where the fun local aspect of this project comes in.  Any trip to a local antique shop or flea market will yield a variety of unique glasses.  Some in the photo above were  hand-me-downs from relatives.  One we picked up on our honeymoon at a flea market in Epernay, France.  The rest I picked up at a local flea market called the Front Range Mercantile. The prices ranged from $.50 – $12.

I’m excited as John has informed me he found some nice vintage glasses for me on his trip to Ann Arbor for work.  I will have to reward him with some of the delicious cocktails I’ve been learning to make!

Adding a mix of vintage cocktail glasses really makes a difference to your bar.

Egg whites make for great cocktails

January 6, 2011 § 1 Comment

Other than eggnog, most people don’t really think about drinking egg concoctions. I’ve had some amazing cocktails recently that showed the power of the egg white.

Egg whites add a wonderful consistency and foaminess to a cocktail that can make many drinks much more interesting.

drinks that contain the egg yolk often have “gold” in their name and those with egg white “silver”.

Another benefit of the egg white is that it must be shaken pretty heavily to get the right consistency, so for those new year resolutions of staying fit, this drink actually works in your favor. 😉

Silver Gin Fizz:
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 sugar cube
1 egg white
2 oz gin
chilled soda water

fill highball glass with ice while you mix drink. shake juice, sugar, egg and gin without ice. then add ice from glass and shake it some more. probably a good 20-30 seconds in all. once you’re worn out, strain into glass, top the frothy mix with a few ounces of cold soda water.

Egg whites may turn a lot of people off, but if you’re buying eggs from a reputable place, you should be fine.  It’s really worth it!

The Magnificent Leopold Boys

January 5, 2011 § 1 Comment

Today was a perfect example of what I hope to learn from this project. The Bitter Bar folks were nice enough to let me tag along on a tour of the Leopold Brothers (“international major award winning”) batch distillery in Denver.  Todd, half of the Leopold brothers duo, humbly acknowledges that their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed, but like all truly great artisans, you can tell his real passion lies in the art and science of making amazing spirits.

After working with so many big companies, it was inspiring for me to see such a passionate, hands-on approach.  Not only do they have the know-how to get the science side of the equation right, they honor the art that goes beyond efficiencies to master quality. This is seen from their relentless pursuit of sourcing the right ingredients to the refinement of their mashing and fermentation process. They may not be as efficient as the big boys but their spirits are damn good.

I have to say I’m learning to really like whiskey. There’s something in learning how a product is lovingly made that can give you a whole new appreciation for it. Thanks to Todd for 2 great hours of learning (yes, he’s fun to listen to for 2 hours).

So onto some of the highlights of what I tasted:

Whiskeys: I really liked the Maryland style rye whiskey – being a kid in Pennsylvania it reminded me of a lot of the flavors I had being around my grandparents, although more subtle. They also make a pre-prohibition style whiskey that shows the uniqueness of their pot distillation approach. The apple whiskey was so delicious and is perfect for a nice, crisp Fall day.

The Silver Tree Vodka has a nice smoothness to it.  I really enjoyed the gin, which reflects the fact they distill all of the botanicals separately to maintain each flavor.

Out of their liqueurs, I leaned more towards the orange and three pins alpine herbal liqueurs. To me, these reflect their ability to improvise and experiment in a way that results in something familiar but totally on another level.

While we didn’t taste the absinthe (probably good since I was driving), I have a bottle at home and it is hands down the best I’ve had in the States, and arguably in Europe. It is a sophisticated absinthe.

What a great experience and one I hope is typical of what I find along the way.  I hope you can get your hands on some of their spirits and enjoy the fruits of an admirable family-owned company’s labor.

The Bitter Bar

January 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

Not only do I think it’s good to have a signature cocktail, but it’s almost more important to know the right bartender as well. The Bitter Bar is the place to go in Boulder and Noah’s my man.

Noah’s the kind of bartender who will take the time to figure out what kind of flavor profile you like, pull from his extensive knowledge of mixology and pour something that perfectly suits your mood.

This eve he patiently took time to talk me through rye whiskeys, bitters and other key ingredients.  In the process, he landed on a pretty fantastic drink.  He even gave me the honors of naming it, so this one goes out to all the Boston peeps:

The Boston Tea Toddy (tongue-in-cheek like any good cocktail name)

1 1/2 oz Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whiskey
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz rich simple syrup
5 drops Bittermens Boston Bittahs
Pekoe Evening in Missoula brewed tea
lemon slice
5 more drops Bittermens Boston Bittahs

steep the tea and heat up a toddy glass with hot water while you prepare the other ingredients.  combine rye whiskey, lemon juice, 1st 5 drops of bitters and simple syrup in a mixing glass. pour into warmed toddy glass. top it off with pekoe tea (~ 6oz.) and then garnish with lemon slice on top. add 2nd 5 drops of bitters.

* perfect for a cold afternoon curled up on the couch.


January 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Cocktails have veered on the sweet side the last few decades, sugary to the point of masking the wonderful flavors in the liquor.

When exploring cocktails, one of the most interesting components are bitters.  On their own, they taste a lot like medicine, not surprising people used to see them that way. In a cocktail, they not only enhance the flavors in the liquor, they create a nice aromatic quality.

Angostura bitters are probably the most commonly used, first compounded in Venezuela in 1824 as a cure for seasickness.

Orange bitters are also commonly used. Fee Brothers is a great place to look. I also love their packaging.

In addition to the old school bitters, there are artisinal makers popping up. A.B. Smeby Bittering Co. out of Brooklyn has gotten high marks for Diesel Bitters. I also tasted some of Urban Moonshine’s maple bitters from Vermont, thanks to Dan at Pinyon here in Boulder the other night. Still haven’t found any local producers here in Colorado. Anyone know of any? Might be a fun outcome of this to make my own!

One of I’ve enjoyed so far has been Peychaud’s, an old New Orleans staple and key component of the Sazerac cocktail, which is considered one of the first “branded” cocktails. give it a try:

1 cube sugar
1 1/2 oz rye whiskey
1/4 oz herbsaint (absinthe if available)
3 dashes peychaud’s bitters
lemon peel

coat a cold old-Fashioned glass with absinthe. in a mixing glass, crush sugar cube with peychaud’s bitters, add whiskey & stir.  pour into glass & garnish with a lemon peel.

Prohibition: the most bizarre event in American history

January 3, 2011 § 1 Comment

It’s hard to imagine anything else that’s happened in the U.S. that had the same impact on so many facets of society as Prohibition did. We all know the basic facts, but I’ve been reading Last Call and there were some interesting aspects I never knew I thought I’d share:

– the government voted to make a product illegal that accounted for more than 1/4 of its revenue and basically had to institute a permanent & sizable income tax to make up for lost revenue on alcohol to support the war effort (Southern states were some of the biggest proponents of this! Ha!)

– in reference to the picture above, the Sacrament became one of the numerous ways around the law. In LA, the congregation of Talmud Torah jumped from 180 to 1,000 in the first few months as it was legal to buy Kosher wine as part of the Sacrament. Faux rabbis and their “congregations” also began to spring up, many with Irish and Scottish last names. A fun new book for Michael Chabon.

– In reference to how Jay Gatsby made his money in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, drug stores also became huge distribution channels as it was legal to fill a medical prescription of liquor.  While Walgreens introduced the milk shake, it’s more likely that “medicinal whisky” helped the company expand from 20 to 525 stores in the 1920s.  Anyone who has lived in LA would be able to get a sense for this by witnessing the rapid growth in marijuana dispensaries.

– Bootlegging in its many forms was a common workaround and the aspect that was most interesting was the use of international waters. The waters off the coast became the “wet” extension to “dry” land. Islands became warehouses, cruises a fun evening out and thousands of small boats could get their supply legally beyond the 3 mile mark. And of course there was a cocktail invented to celebrate, the 3 Miler.  That is until the government pushed the legal barrier to “an hour’s steaming distance” at 12 miles.

This eve, I’ll be making the 12 Mile Limit, a cocktail that celebrated how ridiculous Prohibition actually was.

1 oz white rum
1/2 oz rye whiskey
1/2 oz brandy
1/2 oz grenadine (homemade)
1/2 oz lemon juice

combine ingredients in shaker over ice, shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

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