Review: Coole Swan

cooleswanListed as a Superior Cream Liqueur this thick milky beverage comes straight from Dublin Ireland. At about $34 for a 750ml this is certainly the top shelf for irish cream. As a comparison I was seeing Bailey’s the shelf below at $18-20 and some of the knockoff brands as low as 6-8. So for a four times markup this had better be fantastic.

This was first recommended to me by Derrick Schommer of Common man Cocktails. He swears by the stuff enough in his video reviews that it made me wonder.

Color on this is very nice, none of the tans or browns of most other creme liqueurs. A very bright white. Smell is pretty similar to most other creams I’ve had, no real scent of alcohol but those hints of whisky at the nose that ensure you’re talking about the real thing.

First taste is light on the tongue, second taste is much harder giving me the impression that once the cream gives you a tongue coating that the rest is getting a bit further back on the palate

I could sip this very easily, but I think that I would enjoy it more if I were an actual whisky drinker.cooleshot

I like the feel of the bottle, it has a nice even sided construction as opposed to the bulbous long necked baily’s bottles.

Mixes: I elected to do some of the more common things one might do with Irish Cream.

Hot Chocolate: As an additive and not a replacement this is an excellent addition. Full flavored without being a harsh kick it gives a smooth heavy cream sensation.

Kahlua or Coffee: I’m not a straight coffee drinker but I did mix this with the Below deck coffee rum. They don’t blend well being of very different weights but they do combine nicely in the mouth.

Buttershots: The slippery nipple is a pretty classic shot and I have to say that the addition of coole swan while not amazing was a good choice here as well.

Update: Sorry to say that likely due to the $35 price tag the OLCC stopped carrying this.  Sad Face.

Tools: Shakers

I’ve not had a serious opportunity to use many shakers in my testing so far but I can speak reasonably about some of the benefits.

My current shaker is a lovely Boston shaker that was purchased for me at Crate and Barrel for about $20.  What makes this model interesting as Bostons go is the rubber seal rim around the glass portion.  This makes the seal between the glass and metal a lot tighter and doesn’t rely on the fit of the glass itself.  One down side is that the rim is starting to crack after only about 4 months of infrequent use and I’m not sure a replacement is possible.  The hawthorn Strainer that I have also doesn’t fit well into the glass making me think it’s a bit more narrow than a standard pint glass you might find elsewhere.

I have a metal on metal Boston purchased by another friend which I have only used once or twice having received both at around the same time.  I like having some visibility on what i’m shaking which also means the metal on metal has stayed in the cupboard.  I may take the larger half and a pint glass as a replacement if the rubber rim on my crate and barrel job fails entirely.

I had previously a nice metal shaker of a more traditional style with the strainer built into the top.  It was fine for myself but once I started mixing for friends it became a hindrance as it was not full sized and could hold at best a third of the volume of my current rig.  I would go back to that style again as I enjoy not having to wash an extra tool but it is my understanding from more professional bartenders that this style tends to gum up or freeze shut with prolonged use and can be more of a chore to clean between drinks than a separate strainer.

My next purchase is likely to be a Mason Shaker.  At 32oz this monster lets you mix some serious drinks.  I attempted to do some larger drinks at a recent convention and I think after 2 servings my current selection simply cannot hold the volumes required.  Being fitted to a Mason jar allows for both the built in strainer as well as glass sides to observe the process.  It’s not classy by any stretch but it will do when one needs to mix 4-5 drinks at once without having to stop and re-ice your shaker between runs.  I can foresee this being a much more two handed affair but at $29 i’m actually impressed with some of the quality i’ve seen.

An insulated shaker may be my next purchase.  The loss of heat in the shaking process means wet ice, watery drinks and the like.  Instead of having to change ice more frequently or change out shakers for one more recently inside the freezer this option seems like a way to keep the cold where it should be.

All picky business out of the way you really cannot undersell the benefits of shaking over any other method.  I have had drinks poured from one solo cup to another and there simply is something magical in the conversion going on inside a shaker.

Hard Cherry-Limeade

cherrylimeadeAs promised, my drink of choice in variable recipe format.

Cherry Limeade in general is something that I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid.  In the southwest we had Sonic Drive-ins all over the place and their cherry limeade was a big hit in our family.  A little cherry 7-up, a little limeade,  the lime wedge and maraschino cherry garnish had all the right kinds of things for a growing kid to get hooked on.

When we moved to the Pacific Northwest you can imagine my devastation when we discovered that car hops and Sonic were unheard of in the overcast & perpetually damp corner of the country we now occupied.

That all changed several years ago when the franchise finally made the leap out here but in the interim I had experimented with the creation of the Cherry Limeade at various points when I was working food service.  Most memorably, during a stint as an Ice Cream jockey, where unmonitored access to cherries and a soda fountain on long hot Sunday afternoons was the norm.

When I started looking at making my own cocktails this was the first thing to come to mind.  Fresh juice, a little sweetness and some cherry flavor and you can knock this out of the park.

As I explained in my Limeade Recipe,  the basis of this entire enterprise is finding a good measure of lime flavor.  Without that base you’re lost in the woods and could wind up with something too tart, cloying or worse.  Experiment with small shots first before you step up and if you don’t like the mix adjust the lime juice or syrup.   Even adding a dash more water can even things out.  Once you find your ratios then you need only expand them up to full drink size. (Or even to a punch bowl if that’s your pleasure.)

The Recipe

3 oz Limeade
1 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Cherry Liqueur
1/2 oz Kirschwasser (Cherry Eau de vie)
Splash of club Soda
Maraschino Cherry (garnish)
Lime Wedge (Garnish)

Shake the first 4 ingredients in an iced shaker, strain into a Collins glass.  Top with club soda and garnish.

cherrylimeadesoda

For my own version I’m currently using an ounce of Volstead Vodka, half ounce of Clear Creek Cherry Liqueur and half ounce of Clear Creek Kirschwasser.  The Volstead has almost no burn at all front or back so it’s like a vodka ninja.  The Clear Creek Cherry is as close to a ripe Bing cherry as you’re likely to get in a bottle.  I haven’t had a chance yet to compare the Clear Creek Kirsch with any of the other brands but I’m happy with about 99% of their other stuff so I’ll stick with the local brand for now.

This mix gives it a nice kick, good cherry flavor, nice color and some subtle nuance from the kirsch that you might otherwise miss in a stronger drink.

For walking around I do about 4 times this amount in a large water bottle and then top with club soda.

Some Variation:

If you want something with a bit less punch, drop the vodka and up the two liqueurs to an ounce each.  You don’t get much of a drop that way but it’s enough to keep it from being a serious slap.

To be more clear:  I recommend trading the cherry liqueur for Maraschino liqueur.  I use Luxardo, I’ve heard there are several better ones but this was one I was able to find in the (pitiful) selection of the liquor store up the street.  And until I’ve finished the bottle I’m not going to invest in another.

If you want to do this on the cheap, a bottle of cherry 7-up and a bottle of Simply limeade with a splash of vodka can do the trick.  It’s not anywhere near the complexity of the cherry flavor you get with either of the above but there’s less mixing and no fuss.

As a cocktail, I like this one without soda most of the time but you can vary your drink a bit with either club soda or some citrus soda.  If you use a sweet soda like sierra mist, sprite or 7-up you can usually avoid the simple syrup in your limeade.  Having both is going to kill any other flavors you might have used with the sugar content playing solo the whole time.

Madam mimm

Someone posted a purple dragon martini on Facebook.  My contention was that a blended drink with soda in it and no gin isn’t a martini.  So they said “fix it” and I did.

Below please find the madam mimm.  Otherwise known as the “did I say no purple dragons?”.

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1 1/2oz Bacardi silver rum
1oz grenadine
1oz blue curacao
1oz cranberry liqueur
1oz Orgeat Syrup

Shake in iced cocktail shaker.  Rim Collins glass with sugar strain shaker and pour over ice.

Limeade

One of the things I’ve been doing most recently is playing around with lime juice.  Personally I consider it a lot more flexible than say lemon or grapefruit juice.  In the citrus family I think only the orange has a better claim to fame.

Sadly there are some things that full on lime juice will not really support and that sweet and sour mix doesn’t need.  I’m a big proponent of making things yourself where you can.  If there is a question of volume, need, frequency or speed I can always see buying what you want but if you have the time to prep, the freshest and best ingredients are the ones you make yourself.

So in that vein I went looking for a good way to make limeade or sour mix in very small quantities, say 1 glass at a time.

My own proportion finally worked out as 1 part each of lime juice, simple syrup and water.  It gives you a nice lime flavor without being too sweet or too sour.  Add another equal part lemon juice and you have sour mix ready to go.  For a single glass an ounce of each is right on the mark.

When i’m mixing for a party I keep a pour bottle of lime juice and a squeeze bottle of limeade ready to hand.  The limeade cuts out the more offensive portions of the base lime juice for when you need something to blend out the alcohol flavors but you don’t exactly want a fully sour drink.