Entries in Category Vittles and Libations

Sunshine Through the Tall Grass: an Original Cocktail for Summer

Perfect for a picnic!

Although I haven't blogged about any cocktail since last July, I haven't abandoned the lab; in fact, I'm finally ready for a first: publishing an original! I've been playing with this one for months but as it's obviously a summer drink, I'm releasing it only now, when you need it the most. Herbal, bright, cold, and not so boozy you wouldn't want a few before five o'clock, Sunshine Through the Tall Grass is just right for hot weather, long days, and meals outside. Here's what you do:

  • 1 1/2 oz. gin. I used The Botanist for this, but I'm not too particular.
  • 1/2 oz. Chartreuse
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • 2–3 oz. ginger beer; I recommend Fever Tree.
  • Tarragon and lemon wheel to garnish

Fill a rocks glass with crushed ice. Place a generous bunch of tarragon leaves on the palm of one hand and slap it hard with the other. Then plant this bunch in the ice, artfully, along one side of the glass. Add gin, Chartreuse and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker full of ice cubes. Shake vigorously and strain into the glass. Top off with something like 2 to 3 oz. of ginger beer, depending on the size of your glass, how full of ice you had it, and how sweet you want this drink to be. Place a lemon wheel on the rim behind the tarragon for a sunset-through-the-grass effect.

Go ahead and try this while the weather's warm. I'd love to hear about your results and about any variations you try!

Victorian Foodies Loved Poultry

In The Modern Housewife, a sort of cookbook-novel published in 1850 by Alexis Soyer (the Gordon Ramsay or Alton Brown of his day), you can find a list enumerating the various foods that a celebrity chef of the 19th century might consume in 70 years of feasting and idling. In the midst of the sort of numbers that sound reasonable to modern ears—4 1/2 tons of bread, 21000 eggs, 250 melons, etc.—is the following:

in poultry, 1,200 fowls, 300 turkeys, 150 geese, 400 ducklings, 263 pigeons; 1,400 partridges, pheasants, and grouse; 600 woodcocks and snipes; 600 wild ducks, widgeon, and teal; 450 plovers, ruffes, and reeves; 800 quails, ortolans, and dotterels, and a few guillemĂ´ts and other foreign birds […] 120 Guinea fowl, 10 peacocks, and 360 wild fowl.

What an extraordinary variety of birds were available to this heroic character! I'd like to think of myself as an adventurous eater but aside from the enormous numbers of chicken and turkey typical for a 21st century American and what I imagine is an above-average amount of duck, I can count probably less than 10 quail, one or at most two pigeons, one goose, and one pheasant—certainly no plovers or peacocks (!) or those intriguing “foreign birds”.

This list has me curious! For the sake of my soul I'll leave the poor Ortolans alone but it may be time to seek out some alternative sources of poultry.

A Cocktail for Hemingway's Birthday: The Daiquiri

Today, July 21st, we honor the birthday of Ernest Hemingway, a man that did more for cocktail culture, simply by drinking, than almost any career barman can claim for a lifetime in his trade. But what will we drink? The choice of Hemingway cocktails is wide, of course: Death in the Afternoon, Death in the Gulf Stream (he's a dangerous man to drink with), Green Isaac's Special, the long list of standards that appear in his books. But probably the most characteristic classic out of the vast Hemingway drinking-lore is the simple Daiquiri.

Saint Patrick's Day Cocktail: the Emerald

Although famous for drinking generally, Ireland isn't exactly well-known for its contributions to cocktail culture. The country produces maybe three potential ingredients of note: Guinness, Bailey's, and Irish Whiskey; but the combination of all three in the form of an Irish Car Bomb manages to also mix in a threat of violence (to your head at least) and offers the sort of unpleasant novelty drinking that we're not about here.

One of America's two main contributions to the celebration of Saint Patrick's day* is the adulteration of domestic lager with green food-coloring, which is quite a bit worse.

But for a more sophisticated way to enjoy something Irish this Friday, try the Emerald:

  • 2 oz. Irish whiskey (I used Jameson's because it was handy, and because I visited the former distillery last summer)
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth (the remains of February's Carpano Antica, still fine after a month in the fridge)
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Just like last month, stir all ingredients in a mixing glass or shaker with ice, but do NOT shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of lemon. Cocktail fans will recognize that this drink is a Manhattan with Irish whiskey and orange bitters in place of rye and Angostura.

Sláinte!

* The other is corned beef.

Valentine's Day Cocktail: the Boulevardier

This month's drink is a variation on the classic Negroni, with whiskey in the place of gin to make it even more suitable for winter. It's a good cocktail to make on Valentine's Day: sophisticated, sexy, and, well, red. Here's what you'll need:

  • 1 oz. whiskey
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth

Stir all ingredients in a “mixing glass” or a shaker with ice, but do NOT shake it. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass—I keep them in the freezer, but you can fill a glass with some ice and water while you build the drink to get it cold quickly. Garnish with a twist of lemon or orange.

This month I used some Redemption Rye because it's good and reasonably priced and, whether they realize it or not, so many people have the dangerous practice of treating Saint Valentine's Day as an opportunity for redemption, don't they? Using bourbon instead would be perfectly traditional as well, and might result in a sweeter or richer-tasting drink, while rye will tend to emphasize the herbal character of the Campari and vermouth.

Some variations:

  • Use bourbon instead of rye
  • Increase the whiskey to 1.5 oz. This will further deemphasize the bitterness of this drink.
  • If you really don't like Campari, and many people don't, try Aperol instead. It might help you get into this class of cocktails.

Enjoy!

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