The Intoxicologist

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 Party punch seems so out of date, though.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.