Cup of Awesome Cocktail

cupoawesomeA while back you may recall that I posted my MYO: Porter syrup.  Aside from the original drink posted in the Happy Hour article there wasn’t a lot I could think to do with it, until recently.  A post on Cocktail Wonk about Knee High Stocking Company in Seattle turned me on to this particular cocktail and I cannot recommend it enough.

The drink includes egg whites, something that a lot of people are leery about.  I can say that if you’re using locally grown eggs or pasteurized eggs that you are in no danger from adding egg whites to your drink.

2 oz Gin
1 oz Porter Syrup
1/4 Tsp Fresh Ground Nutmeg
1/8 Tsp Ground Glove
1/8 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
2 dashes angostura bitters
1 Egg White

Crack the egg and pour the white into a cocktail shaker, using a small whisk or drink frother whisk the egg white until it is fluffy.  Add everything except nutmeg and shake well with ice, strain into cocktail glass, grate nugmeg over the top

Alternately when making your porter syrup you could add the spices at the same time as the sugar yielding a much more flavorful result and giving you a better chance to combine them before they get to your shaker.

The flavors on this are amazing.  I’ve tried it with and without the clove/cinnamon addition and I think either is a great way to go.  The porter converts the juniper into almost a minty flavor and the aromatics from the nutmeg get you started right off the bat.

The drink also looks fantastic, the dark liquid under a nice thick tan foam.  I encourage you to at least give this one a try.

The Gibson

gibsonI sometimes wonder why every single variation in a cocktail requires an alternate naming scheme.  In this case you have a fairly simple drink, gin and vermouth.  One would think that these would be the determining factors, but no.  In this case it is the garnish which determines the name.  If you place a cocktail olive in the drink you have a martini, if instead you place an onion in the drink it becomes known as a Gibson.

Like many cocktails the Gibson’s creation is shrouded in mystery.  It is entirely possible that the drink originated in many places at the same time as the components are not rare, difficult to combine or unusual.  Regardless of the circumstances of its creation the drink is similar to the martini in all respects except for the item on the end of the toothpick.

Even further removed if you garnish the drink with an olive, an onion and another olive alternating on a toothpick the drink is called a Patton.

For those not familiar:

2.5 oz of gin
0.75 oz dry vermouth

Stir over ice, strain into coupe glass.
Garnish with cocktail onions.

You might ask how many, the best advice I’ve ever heard on the subject is as follows:

“Always add between one and three, but remember three is a meal and even numbers are unlucky.  I’ll let you figure the rest out.”

Vivacity Native Gin

vivacityA little off the beaten track of interstate 5 is the town of Corvallis Oregon.  A college town home to Oregon State University and to the wonderful Vivacity Spirits.

While I have not been able to visit them personally I have met people from the company at many events in the Portland area and have sampled many of their other fine products.  As I was on something of a Gin kick at the time their Native Gin was an obvious addition to my cabinet.

The chief claim to fame here is that the contents are “Organic” and that the herbs used to flavor the gin are all plants native to the pacific northwest in some fashion.  As this is a Gin that means that it will include juniper, and if you’re not already familiar Oregon has its’ own variety of juniper that grows exclusively in this part of the world.

While Oregon Juniper and the more classic Albanian Juniper are similar in flavors the Oregon type has some esthers and aromas that do not lend themselves to alcohol very well.  You can imagine my surprise then when the product in the bottle was both flavorful and without some of the off odors that Oregon juniper can provide.

In testing I attempted the classic gin and tonic as well as a few other cocktails and a small sample straight.  The spirit is clean and crisp, has many of the notes one commonly associates with the new American style gins as opposed to the London Dry gins.  Notes of hops and citrus are well placed and despite the local substitutions you are still left with a classic gin presentation.

I don’t know if the organic stamp will really mean anything to anyone.  I personally think that in this market it’s a lot like saying gluten free.  Yes it is but so is water when you get down to it.

Currently running $29.75 for 750ml I’m not sure if the additional elements add up to the price tag.  There are other gins using Oregon juniper in differing applications and some at lower prices.

I liked the bottle I bought, but I think my next purchase from Vivacity will likely be their Turkish Coffee Liqueur as it seems to be the most unique take on the genre from anyone around.

Double Simple Syrup in Practice – Fitzgerald Cocktail

fitzgeraldIn looking for a simple cocktail to showcase some of my new syrups I happened upon an old classic.

The Fitzgerald is a classic cocktail in every sense.

1.5 oz Gin
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Simple Syrup
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

The combination of sugar, bitters, citrus and spirit is effortless and allows your primary spirit to really shine.  If you’re not a big crazy gin drinker, the double simple syrup that I created a couple of days back is an excellent way to ease yourself into some drinks you might not otherwise be sure of liking.

Double Simple syrup is simple syrup with a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water instead of the 1:1 normally used.  This can actually be extended to 3:1 if you dare but anything beyond that and you’re getting into candy making country which is beyond the ken of this lowly cocktail scribe.

The richness of the syrup is strong, and I think you could scale back a bit on it if you wanted to play with the ingredient mix a bit.  Upping the citrus will lose some of the more delicate flavors in your gin, but cutting back on the sweetness will change the cocktail without getting in the way of the flavors.

It is slightly thicker than normal simple syrup but this isn’t really evident once it’s in the drink.

I garnished mine with a few of the maraschino cherries I made a few weeks back.  They’re still kicking and the extra flavors at the end were a nice touch.

Drinking Basics: Core Drinks

It was not that long ago that I was like many casual drinkers out there.  There was no complexity in my attempts to get smashed as quickly as possible and I was guilty of drinking some things that these days make me cringe.

An argument I’ve had with a friend of mine is what constitutes a cocktail.  The original definition read something along the lines of “spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.”

Specific enough for my tastes but that defines the classic cocktail, back when people knew a sling from a gimlet.  Today the waters have been muddied to the point that the dictionary says “an iced drink of wine or distilled liquor mixed with flavoring ingredients.”  About the only thing that definition excludes is beer and cider.  Anything else could reasonably rolled into the realm of “flavoring ingredients.”

I’ve stated my position is that anything that uses a soda as the primary carrier in the drink isn’t really a cocktail.  The point of refutation in that argument is the Cuba Libre which does all kinds of things to the cocktail world.

So I’ve performed a strategic retreat and I present to you here the most basic “cocktail” in common consumption for each of the most common forms of hard liquor.

Vodka

For this most plain of liquors we have two options.
1. The Screwdriver – 1 part Vodka and 2 parts Orange juice.
2. Vodka Cranberry – 1 part Vodka to 2 Parts Cranberry Juice

Vodka is a neutral spirit, when done well it should present no burn either forward or afterwards.  In either of these drinks the dry and sour components in the citric acid are there to try to smooth out a cheaper vodka.  The cheaper the vodka the more juice you add.

Gin

The floral bouquet of gin is one of the most complex scents in the liquor world.  A gin basket can contain dozens of ingredients each distinctly detectable in a well made liquor.
1. The Martini – 1.5 oz Gin to 0.5 oz Dry Vermouth
2. Gin and Tonic – the most basic of all, Gin and a quinine containing tonic water mixed in ratios of about 2:3

Rum

There are a lot of different kinds of rum.  Too many to recount in this piece I’m afraid but we include here the current swing in rum drinks.
1. Rum and Coke – just like it sounds 1.5 oz rum to an 8 oz can of cola.
2. Scurvy Pirate – 1.5 oz Rum, Ginger Ale

Tequila

As complex a spirit as tequila is, it seldom mixes well with a lot of the more classic ideas of cocktails and tends to shun bitters and floral arrangements in favor of fruit and citrus.
1. Tequila Slammer – 1.5 oz Tequila, 7-up, Squirt or Mt. Dew.  This one is tricky as the drink is served with some room left in the glass.  You hold your hand over the top of the glass and slam it quickly on the bar to release the carbonation then drink it quickly before it foams over the top of the glass.

Tune in next time with drinking basics as we show you the evolution of tastes from the very basic to the complex as we upgrade the screwdriver.

 

Wild Lime Soda

Contest Entry

 

This was a drink I did as a contest entry.  It contains:

1.5 oz Aviation Gin
6 oz Dry Wild Lime Soda
2 dashes orange bitters
Garnish with Lime wedge

Not bad, but as I’ve observed before the flavor in the Dry sodas is light and doesn’t hold well with gin.  I think a vodka might work better with them but I’m not tempted to experiment more than what I already have just based on the way they combine.

Blood Opal

blood opal

An Opal Cocktail is a fairly basic drink

1.5 oz Gin
0.5 oz Triple Sec
1 oz Orange Juice
2 dashes orange bitters

A bit more complex than a screwdriver and with a nice sipping quality for earlier in the day.

My own variation comes out of a desire to play with the new Dry Sodas I found at the grocery store.

The opening portion of this is the same we simply replace the orange juice with one of their Dry Blood Orange sodas and garnish with a lemon wheel.

I liked the opening smells on this.  The orange from the cointreau and the drink are both there and the lemon gives a bit more sweetness.

I think on reflection I used too much soda.  The dry sodas are only lightly sweet being much more in the realm of a flavored sparkling water than a soda.  The lack means that they soak pretty much every other flavor out much like club soda would.  I filled the glass there but I think 2-3 oz would be more than enough to get this where you want it.

I reworked it again to try some other things.  I started by muddling the lemon in the glass with the bitters, then shake the cointreau which I upped to a full ounce with the gin and add to the glass, add soda and then stir a bit.

Much better with more lemon in it but the soda is still a flatline compared to something like campari.

Vesper Martini

Vesper1As I’ve probably said about a dozen times now the “real” James Bond martini is not just a vodka martini (shaken not stirred).  The original and recognized drink of 007 is the Vesper, a drink he essentially created on the spot during the course of Casino Royale and named for the traitorous double agent Vesper Lynd.

There’s a lot of history on this drink, including a great deal of debate as to whether Ian Fleming created the drink or simply encountered it, but in 1953 Bond uttered the following:

“Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”

In the course of trying to recreate this drink there are a number of factors that could make any number of difficulties but let us look first and foremost at the recipe.

3 oz Gordon’s Gin
1 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Kina Lillet

If you’ve been following my little scribblings here at all you can already see at least one problem.  The drink was created in 1953 and since that time Lillet has reformulated their line giving Lillet Blanc and entirely different flavor than what Fleming might have gotten from his buddy Ivar Bryce.  It has been intimated that Cocchi Americano is an acceptable and equal substitute for our lost Kina.

Another factor comes into play here, Gordon’s Gin was also reformulated at one point for the UK domestic market.  Gin is an incredibly complex spirit and even the slightest change is likely to result in a big flavor difference.  In the UK modern Gordon’s is an 80 proof Gin, the more traditional Gin is 94 proof.  I’m told reliably that the version exported to America is 94 proof but it is a good idea to check your gin before you mix if you want to be “authentic”.

Next up we have the vodka.  Bond recommended a grain vodka as opposed to a potato vodka.  I think in the US right now you’re actually more likely to find a grain vodka than a potato one.  After doing some research it also appears that vodka in the 50′ s was far more likely to be 100 proof.  Modern vodka tends more towards 80 proof.

Combined together we see that Bond was asking for a much stronger drink that what we might make with off the shelf bottles. Stoli makes a premium 100 proof vodka today which I gather would be the vodka of choice in trying to make this work.

So updated for the modern age the recipe might resemble something like this:

3 oz Gordon’s Gin
1 oz Stoli Premium Vodka
1/2 oz Cocchi Americano

Sadly I lack any of those ingredients.  What I do have is a perfectly good bottle of Lillet Blanc slowing losing flavor in my fridge.  So we improvise.

3 oz Aviation Gin
1 oz Crater Lake Vodka
1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
Thick slice of lemon peel twisted

 

On first sip I can say that I’m not a fan.  This is a huge, heavy drink without any of the bells or whistles.  It’s also a lot of gin, and I’m a big fan of gin.  The drink is heavy and doesn’t move along any flavor.  It may be that I’m using aviation, which is not a dry gin but I think this needs some tweaking for my taste.  I power through this one and step back up to the shaker.

vesper2

Version 2: Here I went with slightly less gin, closer to 1.5 oz than 3.  Still an ounce of vodka but I upped the Lillet to a full ounce.  The shift is remarkable.  For starters I don’t feel like I’m drinking a fishbowl of booze.  For another the fruity notes in the Lillet are coming in loud and clear.  The vodka is doing the job of keeping the gin’s wilder tendency in check, and the Gin is dancing the fandango all around the herbal components in the Lillet.

I can’t say I’m going to make any more of these once my Lillet runs out, they’re simply dull.  But as a change from the Gin and Tonic they’re a temporary diversion.

Lillet Blanc

lillet blanc

As I pointed out in my white whales section on Kina Lillet, Lillet Blanc is the rebranded and possibly reformulated quinquina aperitif wine made famous by James Bond in the books and movies Casino Royale.

It could easily be mistaken for a sweet vermouth.  They both have a very crisp flavor but the Lillet is a much more complex product.  A lot of white wines that I’ve tried don’t do a lot for me.  They’re frequently too dry, and the alcohol taste runs roughshod over any other flavor components.  Lillet takes those flavor notes and brings them front and center by adding fruit, herbs and spices to the mixture of white wine.

I tried it straight, on the rocks, well chilled and with various citrus twists and they all perform very well.  It’s a sweet taste, very much in the fruit category without any syrupy or cloying components.  It’s harder to find that a lot of other things but you’ll see it in the most unusual places just sitting there alongside the Rouge and the Rose.  I picked my bottle up on special for about $20.

The one downside that I find to this is that it’s going to go bad.  Like a bottle of wine or vermouth, once open it will age rather quickly and the tannins in the wine will render it undrinkable after a couple of weeks.  So it’s vesper cocktails around here for a couple of days until this one is gone.

The difficulty in locating a bottle means I probably won’t keep this in stock at the house, but it is unusual enough that it makes for something unique to take to a party where people will be drinking wine rather than slugging aftershock.

I find that it mixes well with both Dry Gin and the Aviation that I already had on hand.  It goes passably with vodka but I’m expecting more notes there and I expect something citrus like limoncello, cointreau, curacao, or campari would work equally well in the mix there to create something more verbose.

I think tomorrow I’ll try it with some of the Clear Creek fruit liqueurs and see how it runs on cherry or cranberry.  I’m doubting that rum will go far in something like this but I would put money on a lillet sidecar having some legs.

Distillery Crawl Portland

Ed Note (This info is obviously a little out of date,

This is my own personal route that I travel on my birthday week every year with a select group of friends.

I usually buy the Distillery Row Passport which for $20 covers all the tastings I would normally have to buy as well as some nice around town coupons.

I go on a saturday starting at around 11am.  Depending on the crew and how well we’ve eaten we might start the tour with a stop at the Beaverton Farmers market which is almost right off of 217 and has a fantastic BBQ guy who does a wonderful burnt ends plate.

Stop 1 is Clear Creek Distillery , 2389 NW Wilson St., Portland, OR

A great place to begin any tour, it’s almost all alone on the west side so we hit it first and get it out of the way.  The tastings here are also free so it’s a nice place to stop just about any day they’re open.  Clear creek runs a wide variety of Fruit Liqueurs, grappa, eau de vie and brandy in both pear and apple.  They also release a small batch whiskey called McCarthy’s which usually sells out in about a month after they release it in march.  The part I like is that while you only get 5 samples if you bring friends you can pass them around a bit and get a little of everything.

Stop 2 New Deal Distillery 900 SE Salmon

We cross the river and head to the first of our east bank locations.  New deal makes some good stuff too.  I like their #1 gin, Hot Monkey pepper vodka and ginger Liqueur.  They’re also always doing something new so it’s worth a visit any time.  I pick up my passport here more often than not.  The last time I was there you got a free shot glass as part of your tasting which brought my count of them up to 3.  They’ve moved since the last time I was there, can’t wait to see their new location.

Stop 3 Vinn Distillery 833 SE Main St. Ste 125

Practically right across the street from New deal this tiny hole in the wall is a tasting room for a distillery in wilsonville.  They make a traditional rice Baijiu and rice vodkas.  They weren’t really to my taste, I may stop in again this year to see if they have anything new but I doubt i’ll linger.  Give them a shot, the rice vodka is a nice change for the gluten free crowd.

Stop 4: Bunk Bar 1028 SE Water Ave

A bit of a divergence from the straight line but this is the point in the tour where the drink starts to catch up with breakfast.  Bunk bar is a wonderful little spot where you can get a pork belly cubano, Roasted Poblano Torta or even a PB & J, side of debris fries and even order a decent cocktail.  Their shelves are pretty well stocked, lots of local stuff and even a few things like Maraschino liqueur that you don’t often see.  Their menu drinks are often Beer+ which doesn’t help me much but they all sound interesting at the least.  Grab a sandwich and go or sit and let the last 3 places settle before heading out again.

Stop 5: House Spirits 2025 SE 7th Ave

A bit further out than the next stop would suggest but I have a reason.  House carries a wide array of spirits, everything from gin to aquavit to a white dog whiskey.  Their tasting tends to be a little more varied than some of the other places which specialize a bit more in one kind of spirit or another.  Additionally this is the point where heat, botanicals and liquor start to cause burn out.  Go light here, taste what looks good but don’t get carried away there are still a couple more places ahead.

Stop 6: Eastside Distilling 1512 SE 7th Avenue (at Hawthorne)

Best for last (so to speak).  Eastside has continued to impress me every time I go.  Over the holidays they had egg nog, holiday spice liqueur, and peppermint bark, On top of their line of already very drinkable rums, bourbon and vodka.  Try everything, you won’t be disappointed.  I’m a big fan of their double barrel bourbon and their burnside bourbon as well as the rums.

Stop 7 Pacific Pie Company 1520 SE 7th Ave (Last Stop)

Literally next door to Eastside Distilling is a pie shop.  It’s probably 5-5:30 by now, you’re toasted lightly from the heat, sauced and full of lord knows how many herbs, botanicals and crazy concoctions.  The best thing for you is Pie.  Their menu changes regularly but they offer a majestic line of both sweet and savory pies and pasties.  If you can get it I recommend the strawberry margarita pie or the chocolate bourbon hazelnut.  In addition their bar offers a lovely line of cocktails featuring the best of everything i’ve listed so far.  For $8 you can get anything from a Tom Collins with Aviation Gin to a Bondi using Hot Monkey Vodka.

Alternates for this coming year:  I’ve still got a few months planning to do so i’ve been poking around to see how I might change things up.  The following are options that i’ve seen around town.

Breakfast: Leave much earlier and stop at the Oven and Shaker 1134 NW EVERETT.  They have a brunch menu which starts at 11:30.  Not ideal time wise but a ham plate, gravlax or pizza with duck eggs sounds delightful.  And they have some cocktails there like the French 75 that would make for a nice opener.

Westside additions: Bull Run Distilling 2259 NW Quimby Street

Only about 6 blocks from Clear creek I found out about these guys at a friend’s birthday when someone presented him with a bottle of their Temperance Trader Bourbon

Rogue Distillery 1339 NW Flanders St,

One of the bigger names in the local brewing scene they still make rum, whiskey and gin which might make them worth a try.