The Intoxicologist

Monday, December 3, 2007

Stokes Grill & Bar in the Old Market - Review

While restaurants in Omaha expand at a rate faster than food can be consumed, opening up a new one does not seem like something worth working up an appetite. However, the opening of Stokes Grill & Bar at Howard and 12th Street in the Old Market is a welcome sight. The Old Market is where Omaha is often showcased to visitors from across the nation whether they are of a political, business, or vacationing nature.

A space once occupied by a used, refurbished and miscellaneous knick knacks store is now a polished upscale Southwest grill. Stokes sits on the corner across the street from Delice Bakery and Jobber’s Canyon. This addition to the Old Market not only brings new flavor, but extends the crowd a little further to enjoy more of what the Old Market has to offer.

Stokes Grill & Bar invitation only opening night got off on the right foot with a crowd that was standing room only at times. While the food menu was limited to select items for the night, it was also on the house. Camp Fire Girls were the beneficiaries of all drink purchases.

Opening nights for restaurants are often fraught with obstacles and unforeseen mishaps. Anything gone awry this night was hidden well from the patron. Staffing was at a maximum and everyone wore an eager to please smile.

There is traditional table seating available as well as comfy, low casual style dining near the far side of the bar. Appetizers and full dinner are available at the bar. The wooden bar is deep and flat with no lip on the edge, making it more comfortable for those choosing to dine at the bar.

Stokes Grill & Bar is no exception to the infusion trend these days. They too have several Signature Sangria infusion jars perched in ice on the bar. The cocktail menu claims “this refreshingly cold, fruity wine will set you right with the world.” If the Signature Sangria does not set you right with the world, maybe their award winning wine list will. From Chardonnay to Cabernet - Champagne to Port, Stokes wine list covers the complete wining and dining experience for the beginner to connoisseur.

Stokes carries a full cocktail menu of which the bartenders recommend the specialty margaritas. Maybe there was a good reason. I opted instead for the Metro Martini which is an Absolute Tangerine twist on the Cosmopolitan. While the experience to this point was outstanding, no place is perfect. In my opinion, the Metro Martini tastes a bit like orange Tang; faint color, thin, weak, and low on flavor and depth. Great places usually hire bartenders with knowledge up their sleeve, which is a bonus. Char, one of the fast working bartenders behind the cork Friday night, suggested her particular specialty: the Char-tini. This cocktail had deep color, rich layers of flavor, and was topped with champagne.

The food was equally as delicious. The Sharon’s Chicken Enchilada’s practically bulged from the tortillas and overflowed the plate. These chicken and cheese enchiladas with beans and rice will fill even the heartiest of appetites. The Los Alamos Pasta was exquisite. The sun-dried tomatoes punctuated the chicken and cream sauce perfectly. The food was such that a person could keep eating for the taste alone with hunger never being the issue.

All in all, Stokes Grill & Bar is a hearty restaurant with upbeat employees eager to serve their tasty meals and cocktails. It is a great place to eat dinner, have a drink at the bar, or nosh with friends in the cozier sections next to the bar at a more relaxed pace. Make a special trip to revisit the Old Market to see all that is new.

Weather the Holidays with Peppermint Snowballs

You have heard it before; “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…”

During the holidays there is plenty of stirring, shaking and even twisting going on; all in the form of drinks that is. The holidays invoke the festive spirit in even the most Grinch-like of us all. Cocktail parties are a tradition of the holiday season. What a perfect time to host a party for friends, family, or business acquaintances.

Hosting a party intensifies the anxiety level in many, yet a party is simply defined as a gathering of invited guests for conversation and refreshments. Refreshments can be as basic as cheese and crackers or bowl of peanuts. The choice is yours. Refreshments are merely a tool for alcohol absorption and buffer between guest conversations. What your guests will rave about are the cocktails you serve.

The Peppermint Snowball is a creamy concoction that will absolutely melt in your mouth. I am not particularly a chocolate lover, but this cocktail sent me tipping the bottle for just a bit more Godiva. Van Gogh captures the essence of flavor exquisitely in its entire line of vodkas. Do not be tempted to skimp on quality when it comes to the vodka in this recipe. In the Peppermint Snowball, the espresso is the first flavor to wash over the taste buds before the rush of peppermint takes over. It is in the final seconds after sipping that the Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur soothes the senses in complete indulgence.

Peppermint Snowball

1 oz Van Gogh Espresso Vodka
1 oz Peppermint Schnapps
1-1/2 oz Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur
Finely Crushed Candy Canes
Thin Chocolate Covered Peppermint Stick

Dip the rim of an old fashioned glass lightly in peppermint schnapps. Roll edge of the glass into the crushed candy canes. (Candy Canes may be finely crushed in a clean coffee grinder.) Fill the old fashioned glass two-thirds full of ice. Build cocktail in the order given. Gently stir with a ready made thin chocolate covered peppermint stick.

Cocktails made ahead of time are perfect for parties. There is more mingling time for the host and everything is pre-measured, so guests may self-serve without over pouring. Mix and serve your cocktail in a pitcher rather than punch bowl for ease of pouring and aesthetic value.

The Crazberi Cocktail is perfect for a pitcher, since it mixes well without having to stir frequently. The deep raspberry flavor and color of the Chambord along with the cranberry are an excellent combination in keeping with the holiday season. The Crazberi Cocktail is tart and sweet at the same time with enough depth of character to keep one sipping at a slow pace.

Crazberi Cocktail

1 oz Smirnoff Raspberry Vodka
1 oz Chambord
1 oz Cranberry Juice
3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice
3 Fresh Cranberries for Garnish

For single cocktail: Combine first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled one-third full with ice. Shake fifteen to twenty seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with three fresh cranberries skewered on a cocktail pick. For pitcher: Do not place ice in the pitcher. Multiply the recipe (times 20 for a 96 oz pitcher) and refrigerate at least two hours prior to your party. Serve the Crazberi Cocktail in old fashioned glasses filled two-thirds full of ice. Place pre-made cranberry skewers next to the pitcher for guest to serve themselves.

Do not forget wine and beer. Fun labels add to the festive spirit of the holiday season. World Market carries an exclusive holiday label wine, Electric Reindeer in Chardonnay, White Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and new this season; Sparkling Wine. These merry wines add entertainment and taste to your holiday celebration. As for holiday beer and ale, look for Rogue – Santa’s Private Reserve Ale, Bad Elf – Winter’s Ale, or Lump of Coal – Dark Holiday Stout to name a few. These ales and more may be found at many area liquor stores.

Start planning your holiday cocktail party before the season slips away and the new year is upon us. That is another party altogether!

Monday, November 5, 2007

De-Fizzing the Gansevoort

While flipping through a cocktail book the other evening a drink caught my eye; the Gansevoort Fizz. While this isn’t the first cocktail with an unusual name to have caused me pause, it was the description that had me salivating for more information. It seems this particular cocktail’s inspiration was a drink from the 1930’s with the unlikely combination of Drambuie and rum.

My fascination with Drambuie is that it is often overlooked in cocktail books and when it is referenced its most notable drink is the Rusty Nail. While the Rusty Nail is certainly not a drink to scoff at or take lightly, it is basically a “duo” drink. A duo drink is exactly what it sounds like; a drink that is usually one part base liquor and one part liqueur in varying ratios. The Rusty Nail can become quite a fascinating drink once the complexities of different scotches are taken into consideration. Every scotch has a character of its own. Some are lightly peated while others are heavily peated. Each would call for a completely different ratio of Drambuie to scotch in the duo mix. All this could be great fun for the scotch enthusiast, but I was searching for something a little different with the Drambuie. Surely there is something new and inspiring to do with this silky smooth liqueur that practically rolls off the back of the tongue begging the senses to take in more.

And there it was! It was staring me right in the face buried under years of Drambuie history in the family name. The Mackinnon. The Mackinnon was the inspiration cocktail for the Gansevoort Fizz. However, without the history of Drambuie, the Mackinnon cocktail lacks pizzazz.

Be it legend, lore or good old fashioned honest truth, Drambuie came to be through the hands of a prince after a bloody rebellion was quashed. Prince Charles Edward Stuart sailed to Scotland in 1745 to raise an army to restore the exiled kings of England, Scotland and Ireland to their rightful thrones. The Highland clans rose to the challenge and fought alongside their prince.

After nearly reaching their goal one hundred thirty miles from London, reinforcements failed to arrive. Though they were outnumbered and surrounded, the prince and his rebels continued the fight. It was at Culloden Moor that the rebellion was crushed and bathed in blood. The prince escaped capture and a steep price was put upon his head.

The prince was met with devotion from his Highland friends. Captain John Mackinnon of Strathaird gave the prince refuge, helping him to elude capture and safely return to France. In gratitude the prince bestowed upon Captain Mackinnon the recipe to his most prized elixir. Drambuie is the princely liqueur John Mackinnon brought to the world. Each bottle still honors the prince on its label with the words “REMEMBER THE GIFT OF THE PRINCE”

It wasn’t until I researched Drambuie further than cocktail books did I find that the contents of the bottle really is more complex than the off the cuff description of heather and honey. After all, a future king demanded particular things of the secret potion that nursed his soul.

Drambuie’s base liquor is scotch whiskey that has been infused with heather honey. This is what gives this liqueur its unique smooth flavor. There is also a hint of cloves in the Drambuie. It is believed that cloves have analgesic properties in addition to their spicy aroma. This would be a fitting addition to the prince’s mixture as he used it for medicinal purposes. It is also speculated that saffron is included in the Drambuie formula. Not only is the golden splendor of saffron appropriate for a prince, but it is also said that saffron may have sedative properties. Other than these few small components, all else regarding the recipe of Drambuie remains shrouded in mystery, kept secret by the Mackinnon family.

This brings us to the exciting part; pouring, tasting, tweaking, and creating. Have fun with the old cocktails. This is where new trends emerge.

The Mackinnon

2 oz Drambuie
1/2 oz white rum
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz lemon juice


Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake. Strain into a Collins glass with only 2 or 3 ice cubes in it. Top off with club soda.

The Drambuie is definitely the showcase piece in this drink for which it was so aptly named after the family who brought us the liqueur. While this makes a perfectly satisfying tall bubbly drink, I find it to be lacking a bit on the strength side. The soda overwhelms the drink a bit. From this came the Gansevoort Fizz created by David Wondrich.

Gansevoort Fizz

2 oz Bacardi 8 Rum
1 oz Drambuie
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2 - 3 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters


Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a chilled Collins glass without any ice. Top with 2 to 3 ounces of chilled club soda.

The Gansevoort Fizz has a much stronger rum flavor than the Mackinnon, yet is not overwhelming. The club soda still dilutes the drink a bit too much for what I’m really striving for, but there are real possibilities with this particular drink. The heavier ratio of rum to the sugar content of the liqueur evens out while still allowing the smoothness of the Drambuie to shine through. While the Drambuie does not figure front and center in the Gansevoort Fizz, it gives it just the brush of flavor the drink needs. Add in the simple dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters and this drink is a real keeper. What I really want though is something without the fizz. The fizz is taking too much shine off the bare bones of this drink. I want to really taste it.

Sometimes when looking for something particular, dare to go bare. In this case the bare is without the fizz. Since the club soda thins out both the Mackinnon and Gansevoort Fizz it makes sense to try them without the club soda. The question is of preference. The Mackinnon is a little on the sweeter side, since it highlights the Drambuie and carries a light rum as its secondary liquor. The Gansevoort Fizz has only a hint of sweetness balanced against the tartness of the fresh lemon while still allowing the Drambuie to shine through with the dark rum as its highlight. My personal favorite of the two is the Gansevoort Fizz without the fizz.

Gansevoort De-Fizzed

2 oz Bacardi 8 Rum
1 oz Drambuie
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2 – 3 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters


Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled two thirds full of ice. Shake. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. No club soda this time. Garnish with a lemon twist.

The Gansevoort De-Fizzed is my idea of a cocktail. It has an old fashioned flare about it without the outdated feel. Opting for a shaken and strained drink in a cocktail glass rather than a tall fizz gives this drink a modern twist while keeping the craft of bartending intact. The flavor is more intense instead of being blurred with bubbles. This cocktail flirts with the taste buds just enough to keep one coming back for sip after sip.

What I found in the Gansevoort Fizz and Mackinnon is that old cocktails can stimulate an idea and from that idea, creativity finds a new path. The Gansevoort Fizz was exactly the catalyst it took to rekindle my interest in this legendary liqueur. Pick up an old cocktail book and start browsing. Turn something old into something new. Enjoy!

An excellent book for your cocktail studies is The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan which was referenced for parts of this article. Check out the Drambuie website for more history about the liqueur and Mackinnon family at www.drambuie.com.

Godiva Liqueurs - A Date with the Sax

November 6th is Saxophone Day. While it is not recognized as a national holiday, the saxophone player in this household will be tooting his horn proudly to know his musical instrument holds center stage for at least one day out of the year.

Adolphe Sax, a Belgian, invented the saxophone. It is the only woodwind that was never actually made of wood. It is a beautiful brass instrument originally intended to fill the middle range tones between the clarinet and trumpet. Although the saxophone came into existence in 1845 and was used primarily in military bands, it was not until the 1920’s that the saxophone gained its greatest popularity due to the rise of jazz music.

While it is true the saxophone was actually completed in Paris, its inspiration began in Belgium. The first things that come to my mind when thinking of Belgium are beer and chocolate.

Belgium has well over five hundred varieties of beer as well as the largest brewery in the world when measured by volume. The brewery is Inbev. You can find them at
www.inbev.com.

What most women may know Belgium for is their chocolate; Godiva or Guylian to be specific. These are two of Belgiums most widely known brands of chocolates. While chocolate is well within reach in a candy wrapper or bowl near you, it has only been in the past couple of years that it has gained popularity on the cocktail scene. Godiva has been partially responsible for the rise in this trend by putting a quality name behind the product that gets shaken behind the bar.

Godiva has come out with a line of liqueurs that are absolutely exquisite. If you are a chocolate lover, these are liqueurs you should not miss. They offer Original Chocolate, White Chocolate, Mocha, and Milk Chocolate liqueurs. Their liqueurs are every bit as smooth and silky as their fine chocolates and equally as rich. If you are a supreme chocolate lover, try the liqueurs on the rocks. If you love your chocolate in truffles or with nuts and lots of yummy tidbits added in, go for a cocktail. Try the white or milk chocolate in your coffee in lieu of cream and sugar to change the tempo of your weekend brew. Below is a cocktail I came up with while dabbling with the Original Chocolate liqueur. On the surface it does not appear to have much Godiva in it at all. What you will find with the Godiva liqueurs is that a little goes a long way when it comes to flavor.

Chocolate Café Noir Cocktail

1-1/2 oz Van Gogh Espresso Vodka
1 oz Chambord
1/2 oz Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
1 oz half and half

Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Shake for 15 – 20 seconds. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with skewered raspberries.

The Godiva liqueurs are fascinating to play with when it comes to dessert cocktails. Dessert no longer has to be eaten with a fork or spoon. It can now be shaken or stirred and then sipped indulgently. So, liven up your next dessert with a Begium inspired cocktail and remember the man who helped put jazz on the musical map with his saxophone. Cheers!

Go to
www.godiva.com for more information about Godiva liqueurs and their own drink recipes.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Beyond the Punch Bowl

There is already so much to worry about when planning a party, the last thing one wants to fret about is what everyone will drink. It is impossible for a host or hostess to play bartender to a crowd and still be able to mingle at their own party. Party punch seems so out of date, though. Punch recipes usually lack the same character that the trendy and classic cocktails that we order at our local hot spots have. Why not adapt a classic cocktail into a pitcher drink? Instead of serving drinks in the cutesy punch cups, use the same barware the stylish cocktail lounges are using.

The country’s largest revolving cocktail lounge is in New Orleans. The bar is the cleverly named Club 360 on the 33rd floor of the World Trade Centre. This trendy rooftop bar has seating for 500 and slowly rotates giving its patrons a spectacular panoramic view of the city. Party goers enjoy light appetizers, dancing to the wee hours of the morning, and quality cocktails, one of which is the aptly named Hurricane. But this isn’t the original Hurricane of New Orleans lore. Club 360 has modified the Hurricane into a pitcher version to quench the thirst of the masses.

The original Hurricane was created at Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans out of necessity during World War II when rum was abundant and other liquors were in short supply. If a bar owner wanted to purchase a liquor, such as whiskey that was in high demand and short supply, liquor salesmen would require the purchase of up to fifty cases of rum in order to buy the one bottle of whiskey. The recipe for the Hurricane evolved due to an effort to keep the stockpile of rum flowing out of the bar. This would enable Pat O’Brien’s to continue to be able to purchase the short supply liquors that were in high demand. Ironically enough, the Hurricane was not named for the weather conditions New Orleans has to endure from time to time. The cocktail is served in a glass that mimics the shape of a hurricane lamp. The cocktail is named for the curvaceous glass.

Club 360’s Hurricane

24 oz Pineapple Juice
24 oz Orange Juice
8 oz Light Rum
8 oz Grenadine
8 oz Dark Rum, preferably Myers
Garnish: Orange Wheels and Maraschino Cherries

Combine all ingredients except garnishes in a large pitcher or container. Refrigerate until well chilled; at least 2 hours. Stir before serving. Fill old fashioned glasses with ice and fill with the Hurricane cocktail. Garnish with an orange wheel and cherry. (I have modified the directions slightly for ease of serving at a party in smaller portions. Club 360 serves their Hurricane in pint glasses with the dark rum saved as a splash on the top of the drink instead of mixed in with the rest of the ingredients.)

Hurricane

1 oz Dark Rum
1 oz Light Rum
1/2 oz Galliano
3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice
2 oz Passion Fruit Nectar or Passion Fruit Syrup
2 oz Fresh Orange Juice
2 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Simple Syrup
Dash of Angostura Bitters
Garnish: Orange Wheel, Lime Wheel, Pineapple Chunk

Combine all ingredients except the garnish in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a hurricane glass filled half full with ice. Spear the orange and lime wheels together making a curve on a cocktail pick followed by the pineapple chunk for the garnish.

Go beyond the punch bowl at your next party. You can modify your favorite cocktails into pitcher versions to the delight of your party guests in lieu of the dreaded sparkling punch. Serve it up in the traditional barware it was meant for and you’ll have a winner every time.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Fling with the Sling

What do the Raffles Hotel in Singapore and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas have in common? On the surface, it would appear not much. Closer examination may reveal the answer to your next drink order or cocktail party punch; the Singapore Sling or the Chinatown Sling.

While the Raffles Hotel is named after Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern day Singapore, in the world of bartending the Raffles Hotel is more widely known as the home of the Singapore Sling. It was in the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel where Ngiam Tong Boon is said to have invented the Singapore Sling sometime between 1910 and 1915. The recipe for this drink was such a secret that it was kept locked away in a safe along with Ngiam’s other recipe books. Somewhere along the way, however, the original recipe to the Singapore Sling was lost.

During the 1970’s management began restoring the Raffles Hotel to its original luster. One of the items they wanted to bring back to the Long Bar was the Singapore Sling, since it was so popular in the earlier days of the Raffles Hotel. It is presumed during this rebuilding time one of Ngiam’s nephews was contacted and a close version of the original recipe was concocted. Over time this recipe has been modified rather drastically from the original, but with much broader appeal. The modernized version of the Singapore Sling is still served at the original Raffles Hotel and Long Bar. The drink is also complimentary on all Singapore Airlines flights to all passengers. What a deal!

What does the Singapore Sling have to do with the MGM Grand in Las Vegas? There is no Long Bar at the MGM Grand, but there is Nob Hill. Nob Hill is a San Francisco styled eatery with fresh produce and poultry flown in daily from San Francisco to capture the authenticity of the Bay Area. While the food is no doubt fabulous with its world class chef, Michael Mina, my focus is on the bar area with one drink in particular they have created. It is the Chinatown Sling based on the Singapore Sling from the Raffles Hotel. The Chinatown drink is a pitcher version of the Singapore Sling making it a perfect rendition for your next cocktail party. What makes this version of the Singapore Sling special is it will take the work out of the individualized cocktail while leaving the zing in the Sling.

The Singapore Sling is a time consuming drink to put together with its many ingredients. The individual cocktail has nine ingredients in dashes and quarter measures combined in a cocktail shaker and then strained into a Collins glass with two garnishes. The Singapore Sling has an orange slice and cherry garnish; both rather nice and fitting for this drink. All the work and time that goes into this cocktail are not in vain. It does make a tasty, complex drink with an equally nice pink hue. It is a classic listed among the International Bartenders Association fifty greatest cocktails. The time involved in putting an individual Singapore Sling together and the flavor make it perfect for ordering at a cocktail lounge. Someone else does the work. You enjoy your drink and companion.

The Chinatown Sling has an amazing color to it as well, but for added drama the Cherry Heering is left out of the pitcher combination until the very end and added as a topper to the individual drink instead. This allows the Cherry Heering to settle within the liquid instead of integrate into the drink giving the Chinatown Sling a visual layered effect. Add to that the equally complex flavor your guests will experience when they finally taste it and this makes for an excellent party drink. What works in your favor here is the Chinatown Sling is a pitcher drink made ahead of time with six ingredients rather than nine. Instead of working making drinks for your guests, you will be sipping a refreshing Chinatown Sling with them. Seeing and tasting is believing. As for the garnish, for your cocktail party, flee from the routine just as Nob Hill in Las Vegas veers from the run of the mill. The Chinatown Sling garnish should be a tropical pineapple spear and a cherry. There is no need to peel the pineapple. Leaving the pineapple with the skin on and then cut in long spears gives the Chinatown Sling a spectacular tropical finish. The cherry gives an extra dollop of color to an already fabulous drink for you and your guest’s sipping pleasure.

Singapore Sling

1-1/2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
1/4 oz Cointreau
1/4 oz Benedictine
Dash of Angostura Bitters
2 Dashes Grenadine
1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
Club Soda (optional)
Garnish with Orange Slice and Cherry

Combine all ingredients except club soda and garnishes in a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full with ice. Shake. Strain into a Collins glass filled 1/2 – 2/3 full with ice. Top off with club soda. Garnish with the orange slice curved into a half moon on a cocktail pick and a cherry.

Chinatown Sling

16 oz Pineapple Juice
10 oz Rangpur Gin
4 oz Cointreau
4 oz Benedictine
1 Scant Teaspoon Angostura Bitters
2 oz Cherry Heering
Garnish with Pineapple Spears and Maraschino Cherries

Combine all ingredients except Cherry Heering and garnishes in a pitcher. Refrigerate until well chilled, approximately two hours. Stir. Fill old fashioned glasses with ice. Fill with Chinatown Sling mixture within half inch of top. Top each glass with 1/4 ounce of cherry liqueur. Garnish with pineapple spear and cherry.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cosmo with a Twist: Tweaking the Cocktail

Belonging to all the world; polished; sophisticated; worldly, all embracing. We could also add to that description – versatile and limitless, as in the possibilities of what can be done with the Cosmopolitan cocktail.

The Cosmopolitan or Cosmo came to be known by many during the glory day run of the HBO television series, Sex in the City from 1998 to 2004. It was the sophisticated pink cocktail of choice sipped by the character, Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker who in a campy sort of way even went so far as to order a Cosmo at a drive thru burger window in one episode.

Madonna is also given credit for helping the Cosmo “arrive” on the cocktail circuit. The paparazzi photographed a Cosmo in the hands of Madonna at the Rainbow room in 1996 and overnight the drink became a sensation the world over. Bartenders and restaurant managers from as far away as Germany and Australia called the Rainbow Room asking for the recipe. It was then that Dale DeGroff added the finishing touches of Cointreau and a flamed orange peel to the already existent recipe that has become the standard to which all others make their variations.

So where did the Cosmopolitan get its start? Between 1956 and 1970 Ocean Spray advertised a series of drink recipes in their brochures and even on their bottles of juice. One of these drink recipes was the Harpoon. The Harpoon was simply vodka, fresh lime, and a splash of cranberry juice. Later, that drink evolved into what we know as the Cape Codder or Cape Cod. It still has the same ingredients, but in much different proportions with more cranberry and only a splash of lime. One drink built on the next. What happened with the Cosmo is what likely happens with quite a few cocktails. A bartender here or there adds or takes away, gives a drink a twist here and a dash there, and pretty soon, one drink evolves into another drink. Harpoon…Cape Codder…Cosmopolitan.

In looking up the Cosmopolitan in several of my trusted cocktail books, not one of them had the exact same measurements as the next. This is not such an unusual find as you may have discovered in the bar books stocked on your own shelves. It is for this very reason that bartenders and drink enthusiasts alike begin tweaking cocktails to their liking. For the purposes of this experiment the basic Cosmopolitan recipe I’ve chosen comes from the Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff.

Cosmopolitan

1-1/2 oz Citron Vodka
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1 oz Cranberry Juice
Flamed Orange Peel for Garnish

Shake all ingredients except garnish in a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full with ice. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the flamed orange peel. Dale discusses the step by step process of how to flame an orange peel in his book the Craft of the Cocktail.

What a curious bartender does with a cocktail such as the Cosmo is play with it a bit, modifying it to his or her particular taste. Sometimes the perfect recipe happens immediately, but often this comes about with much trial and error; modifying and fine tuning until the cocktail is revamped exactly so.

Katie at Sullivan’s in downtown Omaha has transformed the Cosmo with the addition of Cassis. The Cassis liqueur gives the Cosmo a deeper, pink to light purple color instead of the usual light pink hue. The black currant gives it a flavor that is unique to the berry family. It has a slight edge to it that goes beyond the bitter, but is not too syrupy. The addition of the Cassis gives the cocktail a more full bodied flavor where the original Cosmo could be described as thinner in comparison. Since Cassis is more unfamiliar than other liqueurs, adding it to a Cosmopolitan is daring to say the least. Exploring something new with something virtually unknown is quite adventurous. I suggest you try the same. While Katie didn’t give me her exact recipe here is something you could try with the Cassis and the Cosmo…

Currant Cosmopolitan

1-1/2 oz Three Olives Citrus Vodka
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz Cassis
3/4 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
1 oz Cranberry Juice
Lemon Peel for Garnish

Combine all ingredients except garnish in cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with freshly twisted lemon peel.

Even I have had my bout with doctoring the classic Cosmo. My curiosity was piqued by a fresh bottle of PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur. Bartenders have held this bottle up asking “What are we supposed to do with this?” I’ve thought the same thing. The Cosmo seemed a likely candidate. The addition of the PAMA is rather simple, but the color works out rather nicely with a richer than pink color and something more than just cranberry and lime for flavor. The pomegranate also reminds me more of the season for which the pomegranate is known; winter.

Pomegranate Cosmo

1-1/2 oz Three Olives Pomegranate Vodka
1 oz PAMA
1/2 oz Cointreau
3/4 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
1/2 oz Cranberry Juice
Lime Peel for Garnish

Combine all ingredients except garnish in cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with freshly twisted lime peel.

Nomad Lounge in Omaha’s Old Market on the other hand has done something entirely different with their Cosmopolitan. Instead of adding a liqueur to the shaker, they’ve topped off the cocktail with Moet Champagne for an equally exotic twist to the Cosmo. The Moet gives the Cosmo a nice bubbly, light effect. For this version of the Cosmo to work, the basic recipe has to be played with a bit beforehand or the cocktail becomes too weak and thin once the champagne is added. The liqueur must be increased to give the cocktail more body and in turn the lime must be increased to balance the sweet to sour ratio. This is my version of Nomad’s champagne topped Cosmopolitan…

Celebration Cosmo

1-1/2 oz Three Olives Citrus Vodka
1 oz Cointreau
3/4 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
1 oz Cranberry Juice
Lemon Peel for Garnish
Champagne to Top Off

Combine vodka, Cointreau, lime juice and cranberry juice in a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Slowly pour champagne over top of cocktail; approximately 1 to 1-1/2 ounces. Garnish with a freshly twisted lemon peel.

Different creations? Yes. Equally adventurous? Again, yes. For something a little fun and a lot interesting, make each of these Cosmopolitans and try a few sips for comparison. Next, top each one with champagne and compare them again. They all create something different with the addition of the champagne. Who knows, you may find a new favorite in the mix.

Interesting to note; the Cosmopolitan is not a stand alone drink. It falls within a family of drinks referred to as the Sours or more specifically, New Orleans Sours. All drinks within the New Orleans Sours family build upon the same formula: base spirit, lemon or lime juice (sour), and an orange flavored liqueur (triple-sec). A couple of highly recognizable drinks within this family are the Margarita, Sidecar, Kamikaze, and the Beachcomber.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Shake Up Your Next Cocktail Experience

Sometimes we get in a rut when it comes to what we drink. I am as guilty as the next person. When I go out I end up choosing the same drink time and time again for two reasons. One is that my drink of choice will taste the same no matter what bar I am in if the bartender measures it correctly. The second is when scanning the drink lists from cocktail lounge to night club they all end up looking the same; Margarita, Cosmopolitan, and various flavored Martinis.

When I bartend it is a fairly common occurrence for people to ask me for suggestions as to what they should have to drink. The reason; everyone gets into a routine. Before it becomes boring they want a shot of something new, but they just don’t know what to try. With so many choices out there, it can leave a person with their head spinning before they’ve even had their first sip.

Experimentation is the key to keeping our taste buds happy and our spirit sated. A fun way to do this is right at home with a handful of friends and a couple of first-rate cocktail books. Invite a few friends to the house, make a few finger foods, pass around a cocktail book or two and you never know what may happen. You may come away with a new favorite or at the very least have tried something new. This is exactly what friends and I did this past weekend. The result: unexpected, pleasant surprises, new drinks, and ultimate fun.

Take for instance the unexpected, pleasant surprise. One of my guests arrived with something to share that I’d never heard of before. It was a home brewed Cretan Raki infused with mandarin. Raki is a Greek liqueur sometimes referred to as fire water due to its alcohol content ranging anywhere from 35 to 65 percent. Although it is produced commercially it is readily available as a home brew everywhere in Greece. For a point of reference on taste, Raki has been compared to Italian Grappa, although it is not exactly the same. Always eager to discover something new, I dared to give the fire water a try.

The color of the Raki was pale peach, most likely from the infusion of the mandarin. The aroma seemed very dry with little scent at all leading me to believe that while it was a classified as a liqueur it could be bitter and potent such as Campari. I took a small sip while holding my breath. It was unlike anything I expected. It was smooth, light, very sweet, and extremely pleasant. This unexpected surprise opened the door to some drink experimentation. But the new drinks did not stop there.

Two cocktail books I find myself referring to frequently are The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff and The Bartender’s Best Friend by Mardee Haidin Regan. Both are fantastic books for entirely different reasons. Dale’s book is colorful with stories behind quite a few old style cocktails along with current day recipes. Mardee’s book has hundreds of alphabetized recipes cross referenced by ingredient making it quick and easy to look anything up. These are the two I left out for my guests to browse through to take them off the path of the ordinary.

Everyone dared to try something new; recipes I have made up, new brands of liquors they had never tried before, and entirely new cocktails they chose out of a book. The laughter, friendship, food, and drink made the evening quite the success. All in all, it was ultimate fun.
Below are a couple of the recipes from the evening. Maybe you will dare to invite friends over, muddle through a cocktail book or two, and try something new.

Laura’s Peach
(Made especially for the gathering at the request of one of my guests and then tweaked to her liking once she arrived.)

1-1/2 oz Absolute Peach Vodka
1-1/2 oz Peachtree Peach Schnapps
3/4 oz Grapefruit Juice
Garnish: Pineapple Wedge

Place ingredients in a shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake and strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with skewered pineapple wedge.

Whiskey Cobbler

1 Pineapple Wedge (Without Skin)
1 Orange Slice
1 Lemon Wedge
3/4 oz Orange Curacao
1 oz water
2 oz Whiskey
Garnish: Pineapple Wedge, Orange Slice, Lemon Wedge)

Place pineapple wedge, orange slice, lemon wedge, orange curacao, and water in the bottom of a mixing glass. Muddle. Add whiskey and fill 2/3 full of ice. Shake thoroughly. Fill a double old fashioned glass 1/3 to 1/2 full with crushed ice. Strain contents of shaker into glass. Skewer the remaining pineapple wedge, orange slice and lemon wedge and garnish drink. This drink is just on the border between dry and sweet, so if you like, add 1/4 oz of bar syrup or up the Orange Curacao to a full ounce to give it just a little hint of sweetness.

Other drinks you’ll find on this site that we tried were the St~Germain Limon Blossom, Perfect Martini using The Tall Blond Vodka, Simply Perfect Margarita using El Tesoro Tequila, Caipirinha, and the Tequila Woo Woo using Milagro Silver.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Reviving the Zombie

White Witch, Vampire, Corpse Reviver, Viking, Grateful Dead, Purple People Eater. All are cocktails or shots that conjure up images of wickedly fun drinks for the Halloween season, but none of them have had the staying power or widespread recognition that the Zombie has year round. The notoriety of the cocktail may have something to do with the potency of the drink and how it received such an appropriate name.

Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gannt who later changed his name to Don invented the Zombie at his tiki themed restaurant, Don the Beachcomber, in the late 1930’s in Hollywood. The drink is a creation of several fruit juices, liqueurs and rums with the equivalent of seven and a half ounces of alcohol in a single drink. Don made this drink for a friend who had three of these smooth tasting, fruit filled drinks before heading out of town for a few days. Upon returning, he grumbled that the drinks had turned him into a zombie for the entire trip. Thus, the Zombie name was born. It wasn’t until the World’s Fair of 1939 that the Zombie gained widespread recognition. Interesting to note, the first television broadcast of a speech by an American president was also at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Coincidence??

With the prevelance of free pouring, the availability of concentrated juices and the need for quickness in serving the bar patron the original Zombie mutated into the thrown together, often harsh cocktail it has become at corner bars across the country. But, the original is such a well thought out drink. Its multi layers of flavors blend together so nicely that the heavily liquored Zombie masquerades as a smooth fruit cocktail that can pack a full punch and may sneak up on any unsuspecting drinker quite quickly.

No one is sure whether Don ever published his original recipe, but this one is as close as we may get to it. It doesn't have the full seven and a half ounces of liquor, but it will still pack a wallop.

Zombie

1/2 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
1/2 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1-1/2 oz Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
1-1/2 oz Fresh Passion Fruit Puree
1/4 oz Grenedine
1 oz Orange Curacao or Apricot Brandy
1 oz Dark Rum
1 oz Light Rum
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
1/2 oz Overproof Rum such as 151 - Optional
Sprig of Fresh Mint for Garnish
Seasonal Fruit for Garnish (or pineapple/orange/marischino cherry)

Combine all ingredients except garnishes into a shaker. Shake to mix. Fill a Zombie glass 1/2 to 2/3 full of ice. Fill with Zombie drink. A float of 1/2 oz overproof rum may also be added if desired. Garnish with fruit skewer. A Zombie has its own glass designation. It is a 10-12 ounce glass similar in shape to a Collins glass only taller.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Brazil's Cachaca & the Caipirinha

The Brazilians are really on to something and it isn’t just their tourism trade. It’s their distilled liquor, Cachaca. If there could possibly be a bridge liquor between rum and tequila, Cachaca must be it.

Cachaca (kuh-shah-suh) is only produced in Brazil and they only export 1% of it, mostly to Germany. This makes it slightly difficult to find in U.S. liquor stores, but hunting around for it will be well worth the trouble. The average Brazilian consumes three gallons of Cachaca yearly and for good reason; the unique taste. Unlike regular rum that is made from molasses, a by-product of sugarcane and aged in oak barrels, Cachaca is sugarcane juice that is distilled and fermented. This leaves a less sweet or dry tasting rum. What it also leaves is a slight twist on the rum flavor and aroma. It almost gives it that hint of crossover between rum and a light tequila flavor.

This is realized most with the Caipirinha (kay-peer-reen-ya), which also happens to be the national cocktail of Brazil. It takes three basic ingredients to put this drink together; Cachaca, lime, and bar syrup. They mirror ingredients and ratios in a simple margarita; Patron, lime and blue agave nectar. It also carries over to another drink with similar ingredients and ratios in the daiquiri with light rum, lime and bar syrup. Yet it is obvious the Caipirinha is neither a margarita nor a daiquiri. It is a cocktail that stands alone as it uses a distilled liquor that is like no other. It is no wonder the Cachaca so easily fills the space between rum and tequila with the Caipirinha. With the tart overtone of the lime combined with the unique flavor of this sugarcane distillate, this cocktail makes an excellent substitute for drinkers who steer clear of tequila, yet long for something other than mere rum.

Caipirinha

2 oz Cachaca
1/2 Fresh Lime Cut Into Slices
1/4 oz Bar Syrup
1 Lime Wedge for Garnish

Muddle together fresh lime slices and bar syrup in shaker for approximately 10 – 15 seconds. Add Cachaca. Fill shaker 1/3 full with ice. Shake for 15 – 20 seconds until thoroughly combined. Strain into a rocks glass filled 2/3 full with ice. Add lime garnish.

Traditional variations:

Caipiroska – substitute vodka
Caipirissima – substitute rum
Sakerinha – substitute sake and tangerines instead of limes


Something else you might try is straining the above cocktail recipe into a Collins glass with 2/3 ice and topping off with diet or non-diet tonic water for a refreshing summer drink that will stretch a little longer.

FYI: The International Bartenders Association recognizes the Caipirinha as one of the 50 greatest drinks of all time. It really is that good. With it being as simple as it is to put together, it really should be on every person’s list of cocktails to remember.

Friday, September 21, 2007

New England Highballs

The Cape Cod or Cape Codder is within the family group of drinks known as the New England Highballs. There are six member drinks within this family, five beginning with the base liquor of vodka and one tricky one with rum, followed by cranberry juice and all built in a highball glass. That is where the five other drinks break off adding grapefruit juice, pineapple juice, orange juice and/or peach schnapps. If you can master the Cape Cod the rest will be a breeze or walk on the beach or something like that anyway. You’ll get the picture in a minute.

The Cape Cod is the easiest. Men order it simply as a vodka cranberry. Tell them it’s a Cape Codder and they think they’ve ordered a girlie drink. So we’ll keep it nice and simple.

Cape Cod

2 oz Smirnoff Vodka
Fill w/ Cranberry Juice
Lime Wedge for Garnish

Fill highball glass 2/3 full of ice. Combine vodka and cranberry juice over the ice. Garnish with the lime wedge. Add a stir stick or straw.

The Sea Breeze is next in line in this family of drinks. To this one we add grapefruit juice to the cranberry juice in equal parts.

Sea Breeze

2 oz Smirnoff Vodka
1-1/2 oz Cranberry Juice
1-1/2 oz Grapefruit Juice
Lime Wedge for Garnish

Fill highball glass 2/3 full of ice. Add ingredients to glass in the order given. Garnish with the lime wedge. Add a stir stick or straw.

And now for the tricky one of the bunch; the Bay Breeze. It is mistake for many a bartender and even teachers of bartenders to make this particular drink with vodka instead of rum as it is among the New England Highballs. But try it out yourself with one of each with vodka and one with rum and see which one you think is best.

Bay Breeze

2 oz Bacardi Light Rum
1-1/2 oz Cranberry Juice
1-1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
Lime Wedge for Garnish

Fill highball glass 2/3 full of ice. Add ingredients in order given. Garnish with the lime wedge. Add a stir stick or straw.

The Madras is the basic Cap Cod with equal parts cranberry and orange juice, but no garnish. It is unbelievable the difference it will make in your drink if you take the time to squeeze a fresh orange for the juice.

Madras

2 oz Smirnoff Vodka
1-1/2 oz Cranberry Juice
1-1/2 oz Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice

Fill highball glass 2/3 full of ice. Add ingredients in the order given. Add a stir stick or straw.

Ah, who hasn’t longed for Sex on the Beach? While this one is within the family of New England Highballers it is a bit different in that it is built in a cocktail shaker and strained back into an iced highball glass. For a bit of extra punch we’re going with one extra ingredient that strays from the basic list and that is Chambord. In my opinion if you’re going with something like Sex on the Beach, it had better be something special and that is exactly what Chambord adds.

Sex on the Beach

1-1/2 oz Smirnoff Vodka
1/2 oz Peachtree Schnapps
1/4 oz Chambord
2 oz Cranberry Juice
2 oz Pineapple Juice

Fill a highball glass about half to two thirds full of ice. Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 3-4 cubes of ice. Shake and strain into highball glass. No garnish.

Lastly is the Woo Woo, otherwise known as a Pierced Navel. This would be due to its close relation to the Fuzzy Navel. There is also a Tequila Woo Woo that is more popular than the regular version. It is made in the same proportions only swapping out the vodka for tequila. Try them both to see which is your personal favorite.

Woo Woo

2 oz Smirnoff Vodka
1/2 oz Peach Schnapps
2-1/2 oz Cranberry Juice

Fill highball glass 2/3 full of ice. Add ingredients in the order given. Add a stir stick or straw. No garnish.


It was a breeze, a walk on the beach...Woo Woo! We’re done.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sangrita: The Traditional Tequila Shooter

Every good tequila story starts out with having had a few shots too many and trails off with not remembering how the night actually ended. Someone else usually fills in the blanks with all the embarrassing embellishments. Many tequila drinkers go on vowing to never touch tequila again. A shame really as tequila is no more potent than the other major contenders. It has just gotten a bad rap over the years as it is the most likely to find its way into a celebration shot glass known as “training wheels” or “lip-sip-suck.”

Briefly, tequila came to us by way of the Aztec people of Mexico who had a drink by the name of pulque, which is still in circulation today by the way. When the Spaniards arrived in April of 1530, they were running out of Brandy so they introduced the Aztecs to the distillation process. The distilled drink they made was little more than a higher proof version of the pulque, but it is what led us to the tequila we have today. However, it was another 70 years before the first tequila factory was established by Don Pedro Sanchez de Tagle.

To be classified as tequila, the liquor must be prepared from blue agave plants that are grown within Mexico’s Jalisco province. The hills of this area are covered with more than 100 million plants which produce more than 50 million gallons of tequila annually. (That makes for a lot of shots!) Approximately 40% of this is exported. Tequila being exported to the United States has experienced a surge in the last few years. This is a good sign for the higher end tequilas as they are becoming more main stream.

Higher end or lower end, all tequilas must pass Mexico’s standards for tequilas. To be labeled 100% Agave Tequila the tequila must be made from 100% blue agave nectar and bottled at the distillery in Mexico. It may be Blanco, Reposado, Anejo, or Extra Anejo. Anything labeled Tequila is only required to be 51% blue agave otherwise known as Mixto. This tequila may also be distilled in Mexico, yet be exported to other countries for bottling. It may be Blanco, Gold, Reposado, or Anejo. Both must comply with the NOM (Norma Official Mexicana) standard. This is the standard which defines the definition for each type of tequila.

Blanco or Silver: Clear, un-aged, bottled immediatedly after distillation. Contains the true bouquet of the blue agave.

Gold: Un-aged Blanco, but can have caramel, fructose, glycerin, and/or wood flavoring added to it to simulate aged tequila.

Reposado: Blanco that has been aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels. This gives Reposado a mellow flavor that is gentle on the palate while still allowing it to keep the blue agave essence.

Anejo: Blanco aged in oak for a minimum of one year, but less than three. This tequila is amber in color and picks up more of the flavor of the oak barrel giving it a more distinct flavor such as one would expect from an aged scotch. These are tequilas made for sipping and savoring due to their unique characteristics.

Extra Anejo: This is a new category established in March 2006. It is aged a minimum of three years.

So, what are a few premium brands to choose from?

Patron is my favorite. Ironically, I prefer the Silver to sip due to the smooth finish and the Reposado for my margaritas, because of the spicy nature.

El Tesoro Anejo has a smoky flavor to it. Excellent for sipping. Holds up well in a margarita, but it is a safe bet this isn’t what the distiller had in mind for the Anejo.

Corzo is beyond excellent. The bottle was designed by a perfumer. It is as sleek as the tequila is smooth. This is an extraordinary find. It would be a shame to shoot this tequila. While it might make a top shelf margarita or cocktail, the only way I would ever want to savor it is alone in a glass.

Jose Cuervo Tradicional 100% De Agave: This is the Cuervo family’s first creation and a long standing favorite of many. I chose this one last, not due to it being a favorite, but for it being a long standing tradition in the Tequila con Sangrita. Unlike the run of the mill Jose Cuervo that many grab on the midline shelf at the liquor store, this is an exceptional and premium tequila. In Mexico this is still the number one selling tequila kept by many in the freezer for frozen shots as we would vodka.

For an authentic Mexican experience try your frozen shot of tequila with Sangrita. This is not to be confused with Sangria, two totally different drinks. Sangrita is a spicy, tomato and fruit based drink poured in a shot glass. Traditionally a frozen tequila shot is downed chased by a Sangrita chaser. What follows is a traditional Sangrita recipe.

Sangrita

1/4 cup Pureed Jalepeno
2-1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
5 oz Fresh Orange Juice
46 oz Tomato Juice
3/4 Tablespoon salt-more or less to taste
3/4 Tablespoon white pepper-more or less to taste
Tabasco to taste

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher. Mix well. Chill. Taste to test seasoning. To serve: Pour into shot glasses alongside ice cold tequila shots.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pina Colada with Punch

Don Ramon Lopez-Irizarry may have been a genius when he came up with the homogenized cream in a can we know as Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut. But it wasn’t until a bartender by the name of Ramon Marrero at Puerto Rico’s Caribe Hilton combined this cream of coconut with rum, pineapple juice and ice in a blender did it become the special treat we know today as the Pina Colada.

If you look at a can of Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut the Pina Colada is a breeze with only three ingredients, but it also lacks imagination. It is a quick and easy drink, sure to satisfy and please. When given the opportunity and just a few more minutes of time, who wouldn’t want a drink with more depth and character? The secret to making a Pina Colada of this caliber takes two kinds of rum, heavy cream, and bitters in addition to the ingredients already called for in the typical Pina Colada recipe. There is nothing extravagant about it, only a few more steps to give your Pina Colada that extra zing.

Pina Colada

1-1/2 oz Bacardi Light Rum
1 oz Myers Rum
2 oz Coco Lopez
1 oz Heavy Cream
4 oz Pineapple Juice
Dash of Angostura Bitters
1 Cup Crushed Ice
Garnish – Pineapple Wedge & Maraschino Cherry

Combine all ingredients except garnish into a blender and blend until all ice is completely mixed in. Any chunks get caught in straws, so be sure to mix very well. Pour into either a hurricane glass or a poco-grande glass. Place pineapple and cherry on a garnish skewer and place in the drink.

If you want to add just that little something more to your Pina Colada, very carefully drizzle 1/4 oz more of the Myers dark rum around the top edge of the drink. It adds a nice visual effect to the drink with just that little extra punch as well. This was a trick a bartender on a cruise line showed me a few years back that kept me going back for more of the tropical treat, too.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Daiquiri & Hemingway's Papa Doble

The Daiquiri is a bar classic dating back to the nineteenth century. Ernest Hemingway even had one named after him called the Hemingway Daiquiri or the Papa Doble. Originally built in a Collins glass over cracked ice, the Daiquiri has evolved into what we know today as the sophisticated cocktail drink served in a martini glass.

The Daiquiri is a rather tart and refreshing drink with just a hint of sweetness. It consists of only three ingredients; rum, lime juice and sugar. The balancing of these three ingredients is what complicates the drink.

Fresh ingredients are always best when creating any cocktail. This is no different with the Daiquiri. To save time, some bars will use concentrated lime juice rather than fresh lime juice. This will throw the ratio of lime juice to bar syrup completely out of whack as the concentrated lime juice tends to be rather strong and thick. Even worse, some bartenders will use Rose’s Sweet Lime in exchange for fresh lime juice not recognizing the difference. This is a huge mistake in building the Daiquiri.

Another factor in the flavor of a Daiquiri is the rum you choose. Bacardi is a perfectly fine choice. But if you would like a top shelf Daiquiri that adds a hint of depth my recommendation would be 10 Cane.

Most rum is produced from cane that has been grown and harvested for the purpose of sugar with the rum being a side product. Not so with 10 Cane. It is not ordinary rum made from molasses. It is made from the first pressings of Trinidad sugar cane grown for the sole purpose of making rum. The cane is then harvested in groups of ten, thus the name, 10 Cane. The cane is small batch distilled and aged in French oak barrels, producing a lighter, smoother tasting rum with an absolutely fabulous golden color. The undertones of this rum remind me of caramel and vanilla with a hint of spice. It is wonderful to take in the aroma before sipping it neat or within a cocktail.

Daiquiri

2 oz 10 Cane Rum
1 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
½ oz Collins Bar Syrup

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Fill 1/3 full with ice. Shake 15 – 20 seconds. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.

The Hemingway Daiquiri or Papa Doble has no bar syrup added as Hemingway had an aversion to sugar. Although his drink calls for no sugar, you can be certain it is still a marvelous concoction as it calls for a little known liqueur; Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur and also grapefruit juice. The layering effect of the flavors in this cocktail keeps the taster coming back for more and more. It is refreshing and unusual. Not the run of the mill Daiquiri, which is quite satisfying, too.

Hemingway Daiquiri (Papa Doble)

1-1/2 oz 10 Cane or Bacardi Rum
¼ oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
½ oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice
3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice
(1/2 oz Bar Syrup if you find the recipe too tart for your tastes)

Combine ingredients in cocktail shaker. Fill 1/3 full of ice. Shake for 15 – 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.

As a side note, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur is sometimes difficult to find locally, but can easily be found on the internet. Accept no substitutions as this is a one of a kind liqueur in a one of a kind bottle.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Tuaca - Not To Be Overlooked

Tuaca is a liqueur I’ve passed on the liquor aisle many times without more than a mere glance, but with a little gnaw of wonder in the back of my mind. It isn’t one of the more widely known or used liqueurs such Gran Marnier, Kahlua, or even Drambuie. All of these liqueurs bring a particular drink to mind; Margarita, White or Black Russian, and Rusty Nail. With Tuaca, however, I draw a blank.

My curiosity finally won out recently at a local hot spot. While perusing the drink menu I ran across a drink with Tuaca as an ingredient. I thought I might like to try the drink, but not without knowing what I might be getting into with the Tuaca. I asked about the Tuaca, but the bartender didn’t know what it was either. This goes to show, just because there is a bartender behind the bar, they haven’t always done their homework. In his favor, he did offer a small sample taste which sold me on the Tuaca and the drink.

Tuaca is an Italian liqueur with the taste of buttery vanilla. The official website says it also has a hint of citrus. This may be true as well, but it is so slight that it can be missed. This liqueur is so smooth it rolls over the tongue ever so easily like silk whispers over skin. It is warming like rum can be, yet it can add depth to a cold drink as I will show you in my recipe today.

Tuaca Lemonade

2 oz Three Olives Citrus Vodka
1 oz Tuaca
½ oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
Lemon Twist for Garnish

Combine vodka, Tuaca, and lemon juice in cocktail shaker. Fill 1/3 full with ice. Shake 15 – 20 seconds until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

As a side note, Tuaca seems to have the perfect flavor for a very high end Buttery Nipple as it has the caramel undertone that butterscotch liqueur has, but is not as sugary and raw as butterscotch schnapps. When using higher end liquors and liqueurs it also seems a shame to shoot them and miss the taste. Sip and savor the flavor instead for a change of pace.

Friday, September 14, 2007

St~Germain Limon Blossom

When I walk into Omaha Wine at 114th and Dodge I am always looking for something new and different to try. By new, I mean new to me that I’ve never tried. By different, I mean unusual. What I came away with was in fact both. If you have ever tried St~Germain liqueur, you know exactly what I am talking about.

The bottle itself is a work of art. It is tall and elegant with sharp edges begging to be touched. Once it is picked up, it isn’t like a regular bottle of liquor you’d hold by the neck. No. It requires cradling and care by its design alone. That is precisely the first clue as to what is inside the bottle as well.

As is perfectly clear, what drew me to this liqueur in the first place was the spectacular bottle. Upon reading the label I discovered St~Germain is created from handpicked elderflower blossoms. Yes, flowers. I had to ask about the elderflower, since most liqueurs I’ve ever tried have a fruit base. The quick witted response of the person on duty was a little unusual, but I can play along. He said, “Hold your hand out and get ready to lick.” That isn’t something you hear every day. Then again, Omaha Wine is where you find the new and different. So, I put out my hand and sure enough, he poured a little sample of the St~Germain in the palm of my hand. It was so delicious I didn’t hesitate to buy it immediately. My brain was already concocting delicious things to try out with this new flavor.

Thinking on it, I can’t describe what the liqueur even tastes like. It is light, yet abundant, but not overpowering. It is floral, but not flowery and strong like roses. It has a hint of fruit in it, yet there is not a particular fruit to distinguish in the flavor. If you take a look at the official website they hint at the subtleties of the flavor, but can not pinpoint it either. “Neither pear nor peach, lychee nor citrus, the sublime taste of St~Germain hints at each of these and yet none of them exactly.”

It is a complicated liqueur, yet brings a dynamic to a drink that is unmatched. It is a layering effect that happens when a drink is put together with forethought. When you drink a cocktail such as this, you take a sip and think to yourself that it tastes really good. Then you take another sip and realize there is another element in the drink you hadn’t caught the first taste around. That adds new depth and character to it and you want to taste more to see if you catch something else. That is exactly what the St~Germain does for a drink if it is added in the right proportion.

St~Germain may be on the pricier side of liqueurs, but well worth it. Play around with it in exchange for bar syrup in a mojito or in exchange for Gran Marnier in a margarita for something different. Now try this. It is my newest experiment.

St~Germain Limon Blossom

1-1/2 oz Three Olives Citrus Vodka
1 oz St Germain
½ oz Caravella Limoncello
1 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Fill 1/3 full with ice. Shake 15 – 20 seconds. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Check out St~Germain at
www.stgermain.fr

Monday, September 10, 2007

Oatmeal Cookie Cocktail - Transforming the Shot

Recently I passed by a new cocktail bar advertising a cocktail I had only been familiar with as a shot or shooter. Curious as I am, I immediately did a little research in my trusty books and sure enough, I found it. The Oatmeal Cookie Cocktail. It was not just a shooter to be slammed back, barely tasted for a split second on the tongue. One could actually sip it for a while in a cocktail glass and savor it, tasting the complexities and see if it indeed tasted like an oatmeal cookie for which it was named. So, of course, I wondered if it did indeed taste like an oatmeal cookie. Being a bartender I of course have made the Oatmeal Cookie Shooter for women who have ordered it. But, must admit, even though oatmeal cookies are my favorite, I had never actually tasted an Oatmeal Cookie Shooter. I as a rule, I rarely do shots.

Aha! I am found out. Shooters and shots don’t hold the highest appeal to me, so I don’t usually try them. My opinion of shooters and shots is that they are not on the tongue long enough to taste, so the only point in drinking them is to get drunk fast. There is a time and place for that some would argue, but I truly enjoy the flavors and complexities of the liquors, so I want to enjoy them for as long as I can before falling flat on my face. But, with so many shooters and shots out there, cutting out that entire section of recipes seems a little sad. Certainly there is room for compromise.

That is where the Oatmeal Cookie Cocktail comes in. It brings in the idea of compromise. I looked up the recipe for the shooter and the cocktail and they both have almost identical ingredients. They are just taken in at different speeds. Which made me think the same could be done with other shooters with the same appeal. Most shooters could be made into a cocktail or iced drink unless of course the basis of the shooter is a visual effect. Then, the effect could not be duplicated in a cocktail or iced drink. The trick would be to decide whether the drink would be better shaken over ice and strained into a cocktail glass or built into glass with ice where the ice would melt into the drink as it is being sipped. This is basically personal preference unless a drink is meant to be creamy. Ice melting would of course ruin that effect.

Oatmeal Cookie Shot

¼ oz Jagermeister
¼ oz Butterscotch Schnapps
¼ oz Baileys Irish Cream
¼ oz Cinnamon Schnapps
¼ oz Goldschlager

Mix contents over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake until well chilled. Strain into a shot glass. Serve and drink ice cold.

Oatmeal Cookie Cocktail

1 oz Baileys Irish Cream
1 oz Butterscotch Schnapps
1 oz Jagermeister
½ oz Goldschlager

Pour ingredients together in a cocktail shaker. Fill 1/3 full with ice. Shake until well chilled. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with skewered raisins, dried cranberries, or dates. All would go perfectly with this drink. This is the original version I found for the Oatmeal Cookie Cocktail. I can’t help myself when it comes to tweaking drinks a bit. I found it to be a bit too much cinnamon and a bit too thin for my liking. Try cutting back on the Goldschlager to ¼ oz and adding in ½ oz of half and half to make a creamier drink with less cinnamon bite.

Here’s one for those of you who do shots to get way messed up. I don’t know why you do it, but I’m sure you have your reasons. I know, I know. It’s fun. But, seriously. This one is called for lack of a better name….Russian F**er… I didn’t name it guys, someone else came up with that one. But, in all fairness it makes a great sipping drink.

Russian F**er Shooter

¾ oz Stolichnaya Vodka
¾ oz Amaretto
¾ oz Crown Royal

Mix contents over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake until well chilled. Strain into a shooter glass. Serve and drink ice cold.

Russian F**er on the Rocks

1 oz Stolichnaya Vodka
1 oz Amaretto
1 oz Crown Royal

Fill a rocks glass with cracked ice to the top. Measure liquors into glass over the ice. Insert a stir straw and serve. No need for a garnish, but an orange peel on a skewer would make a nice visual effect.

Next time you run across a shot or shooter you think sounds like something you might want to actually taste instead of throw back, try it out shaken over ice and strained in a cocktail glass or poured over ice in a rocks glass. You might be surprised that the shot tastes a lot better at a slower pace than you thought it would. Then again, I’ve seen some of those shots….Some of them are aptly named like Toxic Waste, Nuclear Spill, and even a Dirty Ashtray. No thanks.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Nomad Lounge Review - Omaha, Nebraska

Last night my boyfriend and I wandered off the beaten path of the tried and true Old Market faithful and headed down to the Nomad Lounge. Elan furniture store once occupied this space, but there is no evidence of it remaining with the exception of the vast space and wood floor. Nomad Lounge has done a remarkable job with the atmosphere.

To be honest, when we approached the place we were hesitant as it appeared mostly dead. Upon entering, it wasn’t very busy and was quiet, but in a peaceful, serene sort of way. It is quite dark with lots of red lighting and candles galore surrounding the exterior walls and highlighting the bar area. The bar itself is a large wrap-around concrete bar that sits in the middle of the lounge area. The seating areas along the exterior walls are filled with comfy sofas, candle light and an array of art reflected from overhead projectors creating a unique atmosphere for this truly unexpected bar for the Old Market.

Our bartender was eager to set us up with drinks, but unfortunately was stumped with an easy request; the Bacardi Cocktail. While he did not know what a Bacardi Cocktail was, he did have recommendations from the Nomad Lounge’s cocktail list which is varied. First, every bartender should know a Bacardi Cocktail as it was the center of litigation in 1936 when a bar owner substituted another rum in place of Bacardi in the Barcardi Cocktails. Basically the only difference in a Bacardi Cocktail and a Daquiri is one cocktail uses grenadine and the other drink uses bar syrup as the sweetener. Both are basic bar drinks that should be known to every cocktail bartender.

Bacardi Cocktail

2 oz Bacardi Light Rum
1 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
½ oz Grenadine

Shake ingredients in cocktail shaker one third full of ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.

I also ordered a straight up martini with a lemon twist made with Pravda Vodka. Had the martini been made with less vermouth than the free pour amount the bartender added to the drink itself instead of to the iced cocktail glass before shaking the ice away, it would have been a great martini. Instead, I got a really up close and personal taste of what Cinzano Vermouth tastes like. It’s a martini, I suppose, but not my kind of martini.

Perfect Martini

Noily Pratt Vermouth
2 oz Vodka – Chopin, Pravda, Tall Blonde, (all top of the line-choose one)
Lemon Twist

Place ice in a cocktail glass. Swirl approximately ¼ oz of Noily Pratt Dry Vermouth over top of ice filled cocktail glass. Set aside. Place vodka in cocktail shaker. Fill 1/3 full of ice. Shake or swirl for 15 – 12 seconds. Swirl iced vermouth around the cocktail glass before dumping out. Strain vodka into chilled cocktail glass. Twist fresh lemon around rim of cocktail glass and lightly squeeze over top of martini before placing the lemon twist either on the rim of the glass or into the martini itself. Some people prefer olives in their martinis and that is a perfectly good option. Skip the lemon twist in that case. Try any assortment of olives to liven things up a bit. Jalapeño olives are my personal favorite.

The Nomad Lounge has several drinks on their menu. The Flower Island Bikini made up of Belevedere Vodka, 10 Cane Rum (my favorite rum!) blue curacao, pineapple juice, and sprite is one. This drink came served in a Collins glass over ice. It was too blue for my taste and also way too sweet. As it ended up, I didn’t care for it and our bartender took it away without charging me for it. That’s a real plus in favor of the Nomad Lounge and did lead me to order something else; their Nomad Lemonade. It had Grey Goose Citron, Tuaca (our bartender gave me a tiny taste first-kudos again!), Fresh Lemon, and Nomad’s own freshly made Simple Syrup. It also comes in a tall glass over ice. Although it could use a tad less simple syrup, this makes for a great sipping drink. It’s rather pricy at $12, but proceeds from it go toward a good cause. You can read about the cause yourself on their menu when you go check them out. Another plus to the leisurely atmosphere is there is no smoking indoors, but a nice sitting area with sofas on the patio for those of you who care to.

By the time we called it a night, the place was filling up and holding its own in the Old Market. Refreshing to see with all the places that come along and fade away.

Nomad Lounge
www.nomadlounge.com
1013 Jones Street
Omaha, NE

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ultimate 10 Cane Mojito

Ultimate Mojito

10 – 12 Fresh Mint Leaves
1 oz Collins Bar Syrup
¾ oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
2 oz 10 Cane Rum
2 – 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Club Soda
Fresh Mint Leaves to Garnish

Place the 10 – 12 mint leaves, bar syrup and lime juice into a cocktail shaker. Press leaves with a muddler for a generous portion of time. I usually allow 30 – 60 seconds to allow proper bruising of the mint leaves. Next, remove muddler from the cocktail shaker. Add the 10 Cane Rum, and bitters. Fill the shaker 1/3 full of cracked ice. Shake for 15 – 20 seconds. Fill a Collin’s glass 4/5 full of ice. Strain cocktail shaker contents into Collin’s glass. Top off with club soda. Garnish with a fresh mint leaf.

This makes a perfect Mojito every time. An ultimate Mojito in fact. The taste is fresh, the flavors are layered. The bitters take just enough edge off the sweetness to allow the full effect of the mint to rum flavor shine through. Now, you could try this with other rums such as Bacardi, but it would not be the same. Don’t get me wrong. I am a fan of Bacardi as well. It has it’s place. I’ve visited their distillery and was very intrigued with the entire story of the bat on the bottle, which I will share at some point with photos as well if it comes to that. But the story here is about the Mojito and 10 Cane.

It was only a few months ago that I was introduced to 10 Cane. Bottles catch my eye. It is ingenious how liquor companies know this about consumers. It isn’t just their product, but their bottle that will draw someone in. Some liquor companies have perfume bottlers design their liquor bottles to make them more, shall we say, consumer friendly. As if the liquor within them was not draw enough to the consumer. 10 Cane however, does not have this dilemma. Their rum is well within consumable range. It is spicy and aromatic with a hit of caramel beneath the first sip. It seems to flow over the tongue as if it were a melody. The bits of flavor flow harmoniously together to form a perfect blend of rum for that perfect drink you choose to create.

10 Cane rum is extraordinary in that it comes from Trinidad and is processed from virgin sugar cane grown for the purpose of rum. Most rum is made from molasses which is a by product of sugar cane not grown for the purpose of rum. This alone gives 10 Cane a taste of its own. Knowing as well that the makers of Moet Hennessey are the backers of 10 Cane only elevate it even more. This is a savoring sort of rum. It is great for sipping or adding to some of your well made cocktails or tall drinks. Check it out for yourself on the web at
www.10cane.com.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Raspberry Lemon Drop

We’ve had some very hot days this summer with the heat index climbing as high as 105 or higher. The kids may be selling lemonade at the corner stand, but a real thirst quencher for adults is a Lemon Drop with a twist. Lemon Drop cocktails have usually been too sweet and grainy for my taste, so I’ve strayed away from them in the past. But lately I’ve been playing around with them a bit. Mmmm….my mouth is watering already just thinking of making this drink.

If you order a Lemon Drop in a bar it is typically made as a shot or shooter with a sugared lemon wedge. It may be served as simply as a shot glass rimmed with granulated sugar, filled with citron vodka and a lemon wedge on the side or a lemon wedge dipped in granulated sugar as well. The patron licks the sugar, sucks the lemon and shoots the citron vodka. In my opinion, there is little fuss about it and also little to make it worth coming back for. So, instead of making a shot of it, let’s make a cocktail out of it and make it worth drinking. This one is so thirst quenching you may still be tempted to throw back a few, though.

Let me address the granulated sugar rather quickly. Working with granulated sugar in cocktails like the Lemon Drop which is shaken or a Mojito which is muddled, you will find that the sugar does not dissolve like expected. That makes for a gritty drink going down and residue left over in the bottom of the glass. Neither is very attractive. It takes a great amount of time and patience to finally get sugar to melt into other liquids. So, instead of using granulated sugar as some cocktail recipes call for, try either making your own simple sugar syrup or there is a great product on the market by Collins called Bar Syrup.

It is relatively easy to make your own sugar syrup. It is two parts sugar to one part water. Heat the water in a saucepan on the stove to a simmer. Gradually stir in the sugar. Continue stirring until all of the sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from the stove and allow mixture to cool completely. The mixture must be stored in the refrigerator and will keep for two to three weeks. Since the homemade syrup does eventually go bad due to mold, the Collins Bar Syrup is an excellent product since it does not have to be refrigerated after being opened making storage very handy. You can find Collins Bar Syrup at your local liquor store or online.

Raspberry Lemon Drop

2 oz Ciroc Vodka
Juice of One Freshly Squeezed Lemon
½ oz Collins Bar Syrup
¼ oz – ½ oz Mathilde Liqueur Framboise (Chambord may be substituted)
1 Lemon Wheel (remove seeds)

In a cocktail shaker combine Ciroc Vodka, lemon juice, and Collins Bar Syrup. Fill shaker 1/3 full with ice. Shake 15 – 20 seconds. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Gently float the lemon wheel on top of the cocktail drink mixture. Very carefully pour the Mathilde Liqueur Framboise onto the lemon wheel only. Some of course will filter through, but be careful not to stir it into the drink to allow for a nice layering effect. Enjoy!

This makes a beautiful drink. The raspberry liqueur continually sinks to the bottom of the glass giving the illusion of a rather plump looking raspberry at the bottom. You could even garnish this drink with a skewer of fresh raspberries if you would like. The last third of the drink is where the lemon wheel and raspberry liqueur start working together for an extra burst of flavor. Again, my mouth is watering. I think I’ll have to go make one now.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bloody Mary Sunday

Sundays usually bring to mind family time, relaxation, and tradition. For me, no matter where I am, Sunday mornings remind me of my oldest brother. He’s a bachelor living in this great two bedroom house that he fixed up with the best wooden floors and this fabulous front porch meant for drinking coffee and working on crossword puzzles, which is exactly what he does on Sunday mornings until the coffee pot runs dry. When the coffee pot is empty he announces that it is Bloody Mary time. It isn’t just any Bloody Mary. No. It is my brother’s Bloody Mary. It is an event. It is a meal to be savored and enjoyed.

The Bloody Mary had never been among my favorite drinks or even top twenty or hundred for that matter, until I tried one that my brother made. I liked tomato juice. I liked V8 juice. I like vodka. I like spicy. So I couldn’t figure out how combining all of those things never worked out in a drink. It didn’t make sense to me. This was a drink I tried over and over again, because I really wanted to like it. It seemed pretty basic with a shot of vodka, some pepper, Tabasco, celery salt and Bloody Mary mix. Basic was all wrong. Sometimes basic is just getting by. Just getting by is rarely ever fun.

The recipe I am sharing today is a blend of a vodka infusion I learned, my brother’s recipe, and some tweaks I added along the way.

Bloody Mary Vodka Infusion

For the vodka infusion you will need a jar with lid large enough to hold the contents of the following:

1 Bottle of Tito’s Vodka (or vodka of your choice)
1 Fresh Red Bell Pepper (seeded and sliced)
1 Fresh Jalapeño Pepper (seeded and sliced)
Whole Peeled Garlic Cloves (approximately 5 per liter of vodka)
Whole Black Peppercorns (1-2 per liter of vodka)
Funnel and cheesecloth for later use

Combine all of the above ingredients in a jar. Seal and place in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours. Ingredients may be left longer if desired, but this is not necessary. I recommend keeping the original liquor bottle for returning the infused vodka to later. After 48 hours, remove the infusion from the refrigerator. Double up cheesecloth over the funnel and place funnel inside the Tito’s vodka bottle. Strain infusion into the original bottle, throwing out the peppers, garlic and such. Place infused vodka in the refrigerator or freezer for storage. Do not keep infused vodka at room temperature as it may mold.

Bloody Mary Recipe

2 oz Tito’s Bloody Mary Infused Vodka
½ Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
6-8 Dashes Worcestershire Sauce
4-6 Dashes Tabasco Sauce

2-3 Dashes Peychaud's Bitters
3 Dashes Celery Salt
2 Dashes White Pepper
2 Dashes Garlic Powder
2 Dashes Onion Powder
Clamato Juice

Coarse salt for rimming

Begin with a large Collins glass. Slide half of the fresh lime around the rim of the Collins glass. Dip the limed rim into a saucer of coarse salt. Fill the glass 2/3 with ice. Season the ice with the peppers, salts and powders first, the Worcestershire,Tabasco and Peychaud's next, and then the squeeze of lime. Shake the bottle of infused vodka before using as it has a tendency to settle at the bottom. Lastly, top off your drink with Clamato juice. Clamato is thinner in consistency than either tomato or V8, making for a smoother textured drink.

Garnishing is the key and there is so much more than the mere celery stick. I like to use a skewer of queen sized jalapeño stuffed olives in addition to the celery stick to stir with. A pickle spear does quite nicely as well. A few cocktail shrimps speared and dunked go rather nicely with this drink. Go wild! As I said, the Bloody Mary is not just a drink. It is an event, a meal even. If you can find a spicy course salt for the rim garnish that would give this drink extra punch as well.

Tito’s is a handmade vodka crafted in an old fashioned pot still by Texas’ first and oldest distillery. It is distilled six times, making for an incredibly clean finish. If you would like more information about Tito’s vodka go to
www.titos-vodka.com

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Simply Perfect Margarita

Last night I went to a favorite Mexican restaurant for one of my favorite meals and decided on one of their classic top shelf margaritas to go with it. The margarita was a watered down, bitter disappointment. If it had tequila in it, it was a surprise to me. If it had the Cointreau in it, it was a surprise to me. Mostly it had watery ice inside and drippy green salt around the edges getting everywhere. This goes to show that just because a restaurant can make fabulous food, they cannot always make fabulous drinks. My conclusion was to go there to order the food and be sated, but the margaritas, not so much. Which is why I’m going to share what I think is a simple, yet fabulous margarita. This isn’t my recipe by the way, so I cannot take credit. It was shared with me by a friend, but the originator is unknown to me, so I cannot give credit either. For that I apologize.

Patron happens to be my favorite tequila for making margaritas. It is on the pricier side, but well worth the expense. Something distinctive about Patron is the bottle. Each bottle is handmade and individually numbered making it collectible. Patron is not for slamming back shots. It is for savoring. For a margarita I prefer to use Patron Reposado at 80 proof. It is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of six months and has a bit more flavor and spice to it than the Patron Silver. Patron is also 100% agave. That is extremely important to look for when searching for a premium tequila. Of course, you will have your tequila of preference when making a margarita, but always be sure it is 100% agave. Accept no substitutions.

The next important thing to look for that may be more difficult to find is agave nectar. Agave nectar is pressed from the heart of the agave plant. It is then reduced or heated to create a syrup. The agave nectar is thick such as honey only much sweeter. The advantage of using the agave for margaritas is it is of the same agave plant as the tequila so it marries to the tequila within the drink making for a well rounded drink. I have found this product locally at my Whole Foods retailer. If you don’t have one near you, try Google. There are many sites that carry it. Just make sure you purchase the light agave nectar instead of the darker agave nectar.

Fresh limes, ice and salt are all you need to complete the margarita. Sounds like we’re missing Gran Marnier or Cointreau doesn’t it? Not in this simple recipe.

Simply Perfect Margarita

2 oz Patron Reposado Tequila
1 oz Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
½ oz Agave Nectar
Lime Wedge
Margarita Salt

Cut lime in half. Juice one half of lime into cocktail shaker. Cut other half into wedges. Slide a lime wedge around the outside rim of the margarita glass. Dip the glass rim into a saucer of margarita salt making sure the salt remains on the outside of the glass only. Set aside. Measure the Patron and agave nectar into the cocktail shaker with the lime juice. Shake to thoroughly combine ingredients. Place ice into salt rimmed margarita glass. Strain contents of shaker into margarita glass. Garnish with a lime wedge. Enjoy!

For more information about Patron, have a look at their website at
www.patronspirits.com

Friday, August 24, 2007

Pomegranate Possibilities

Pomegranate has increasingly become one of the more trendy cocktail flavors going as of late. It seems every other bar on the corner has a pomegranate cocktail, “martini” or margarita on their specialty menu. It used to be that lemon and orange were the only flavored vodkas on the market. Now there are cherry, raspberry, blueberry, pomegranate and just the other day I saw a kiwi. This opens the door to so many possibilities when it comes to wonderful concoctions in cocktails.

With such emphasis on pomegranate I began playing around with PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur to come up with a twist on an old favorite. Pairing with the PAMA liqueur, I have used Three Olives Vodkas. Three Olives has a rather nice selection of flavored vodkas; twelve in fact. Although I have not tried them all, I have tried a few and the flavors stand up well with the vodka. Three Olives Vodkas are quadruple-distilled and quadruple-filtered making for a very smooth finish on this English import. To find out more about Three Olives, look them up on the web at www.threeolives.com.

So, what can we do with a twist on an old favorite? How about the ever popular Cosmopolitan? It made a come back during the 90’s with Sex in the City. But that isn’t where it had its start. Its history is somewhat unclear with credit being taken by a bartender from South Florida in the middle 80’s who claimed to create the Cosmo for those drinkers who wanted to look cool holding a martini glass while drinking, but didn’t care for the martini drink. Next in line for taking credit is a bartender out of Manhattan who shook things up a bit in the cocktail shaker in the later 80’s which is something closer to what the Cosmo is today. A slightly different version to this shortened tale is that the Cosmo actually had its birth in 1975 by an entirely different hand behind the bar in Minneapolis. That’s what happens with some cocktails. There are so many twists to the tale that the history becomes a bit muddled.

Now for my twist on the Cosmo…

Pomegranate Cosmopolitan

2 oz Three Olives Pomegranate Vodka
1 oz PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
½ oz Cointreau
Juice from ½ of a fresh lime
Lime twist for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker 1/3 full of ice. Add vodka, liqueurs, and lime juice. Shake until well chilled. This takes approximately ten to fifteen seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lime twist.

If you are interested in sugared rimmers, Stirrings makes a variety of flavorful rimmers for your favorite cocktails. At last count they had twenty-one different flavors, two of which are pomegranate and cosmopolitan, either of which would go great with the above cocktail. Check them out at www.stirrings.com.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Measuring the White Russian

Stepping into an unknown bar to order a drink is a little like playing Russian roulette. Each bartender is as different as the bar they work in. Each bottle of liquor is as individual as the label. No two vodkas are the same. No two liqueurs are the same. Each double old fashioned glass gets filled to a different level with ice each time. Some bartenders free pour, some don’t. Some jiggers measure in an ounce, some measure in an ounce and a quarter. That being said, it stands to reason that it would be pretty difficult to order a drink at one bar and then go to another and expect to order the same drink and get the exact same taste. Or is it?

When I first started bartending I was taught that faster is better. One of the first things my boss told me was where the liquor pour line was on all of the glasses. He said we didn’t use a jigger, because it took too much time. He was only right in that it takes a few seconds longer to use a jigger, but faster is not always better. Faster does not make a better drink. Faster usually means an out of balance drink that can never be duplicated from one glass to the next no matter how hard a bartender tries. That isn’t to say it cannot be done. There are professionals out there that can do it from one drink to the next, but it is rare.

Part of bartending is an exact science and some is not. A martini for example may vary ever so slightly in how much vermouth is shaken out of the iced martini glass. The size of the olive, onion or lemon twist can change the outcome of the martini in the tiniest of increments depending on its size and how much juice has still remained on it before it is put into the martini. Those are the variables of bartending.

The mechanics of bartending is basic measurement.

I do a lot of experimenting with old style cocktail recipes, homemade mixes, and fresh squeezed juices. When I go out to a bar, I am usually disappointed with the run of the mill bottled mixes and the same old “martini” style cocktail choices on the menus. So, I usually end up ordering a drink I think no bartender can possibly mess up, because it is simple measurement; the White Russian.

The White Russian is a simple drink consisting of equal parts vodka, coffee liqueur, and half and half built in a double old fashioned glass. This drink has been served to me in a collins glass filled with 2% milk, in a rocks glass with 2% milk, in a rocks glass half full of ice topped off with unmeasured half and half, in a rocks glass with heavy cream, and once I swear with gin instead of vodka. What really gets me is the not measuring of the half and half (and the incorrect ingredients of course.) I see liquor being measured carfully in some cases and then bartenders winging it when it comes to topping off drinks with the amenities whether it be the half and half, grenadine, or juices. All of those things need to be measured. In the case of the White Russian, if the glass is only half filled with ice and the vodka and coffee liqueur are measured, that still leaves room for almost two measures of half and half in the glass if a bartender chooses to free pour. That makes for a watered down drink. It makes me an unhappy camper and will make your customers or guests dissatisfied if they know what a well made White Russian is supposed to taste like as well. This goes for any drink. Measure it correctly and you will get the same perfectly made drink every time.

Now for the ease of making the White Russian…

White Russian

1.25 oz Smirnoff Vodka
1.25 oz Kahlua Especial
1.25 oz Half & Half

Fill a double old fashioned glass within a half inch of the rim with cracked ice. Measure each ingredient into the glass in the order in which given. Stir with a cocktail stirrer and enjoy. Some choose to garnish with a maraschino cherry. My preference is to go without.

If you are a Kahlua user, try the Kahlua Especial at 70 proof at only a couple of dollars more than the original Kahlua at 53 proof. The Kahlua Especial has a deeper, richer coffee flavor to it than the original. All vodkas are not created equal nor should the same vodka be used for every kind of drink. For this particular drink, Smirnoff is my vodka of choice. It has a smooth, clean taste that stands up to the Kahlua without getting lost.

Now a really great twist to this particular drink is to change up the liquors and try something really fabulous. If you are a tequila drinker this is really great stuff. The spice of the Patron adds some real dimension to this drink.

1.25 oz Patron Reposado (80 proof)
1.25 oz Patron XO Café (70 proof)
1.25 oz Half & Half

Fill a double old fashioned glass within a half inch of the rim with cracked ice. Measure each ingredient into the glass in the order in which given. Stir with a cocktail stirrer and enjoy. Definitely no maraschino cherry garnish on this one.