Archive for June, 2009

Adventures in space, time and vodka

June 25, 2009

Here’s a thought.

Cocktails destroy good spirits.

It’s not my thought. It belongs to a man named Börje Karlsson, one of the master blenders involved with a new Swedish vodka called Karlsson’s Gold (rated B+ by Drinkhacker!), in an article in the Washington Post. It’s an interesting thought, not least because it comes from a vodka producer and vodka, well vodka is a bit troublesome.

NO COCKTAILS?… by Metro Centric, licenced under Creative Commons.

Imagine we’ve got a time machine, and rather than using it to buy last week’s winning lottery numbers, we travel back to somewhere near the sixteenth century, somewhere in Eastern Europe, where the bouncing baby vodka tradition has just started walking and saying its first unintelligble words. Assuming that no-one burns us as witches on account of our strange fashions and bizarre future talk, we’ll find a spirit that has mostly slipped past its origin as a medicinal elixir and is gaining popularity among the masses, flavored with herbs, honey and berries, and among the aristocracy who compete to create the purest liquid from their state-of-the-art pot stills. Skip forward a few hundred years and we’ll find this spirit embedded in the culture, adding punctuation to any event, from weddings to birthdays to funerals and everything in between. Vodka becomes the lifeblood of the community, used and abused by the powers that be as something approaching a rum ration for an entire empire through the middle part of the twentieth century.

Read the rest of this entry »

Twenty Two: Twice-Shy Negroni

June 21, 2009

I’ve been using a bottle of Punt E Mes as my go-to sweet vermouth for a good while now. I’m a big fan of the bitter note it brings to drinks, but I’ve been predominantly using it as a generic sweet vermouth which has slightly warped my expectations of certain drinks at the bitter end of the scale.

Case in point: the Negroni. When I have one in a bar, I can notice the absence of the extra bitterness provided by the Punt E Mes and it takes me an instant to remember that it’s my Negronis that are slightly out of whack, not the one I’ve just bought.

But then it also occurs to me that bitter is a very divisive flavor, and that if I can up the bitter content of a Negroni, surely it’s possible to mellow it out a little.

Twice-Shy Negroni
45ml Plymouth Gin
30ml Martini Rosato
4 mint leaves
50ml Campari (in an atomizer)
Give the mint leaves a quick smack to wake them up and place them in the base of a mixing glass. Add the gin and vermouth and stir with ice. Strain into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass. Spray some Campari over the top and garnish with an orange zest and a mint sprig.

In which we aim for a BSc in vodkaology

June 21, 2009

It’s been a busy little while at ednbrg Tower, what with trying to locate those missing vowels and all. Monday, for example, saw the 42 Below Vodka University roll up to the Voodoo Rooms to launch the 2010 Cocktail World Cup. Thanks to loveable kiwis Jacob and Marty, I now know that New Zealand is home to over 40 million sheep and has been – since 1996 – one of the few countries where home distillation is legal. I also learned that some people, no matter how hard you try, are never going to like a Feijoa-flavored vodka.

I really wish I’d taken some photos of the presentation. First of all, there was vodka tasting which is rarely on my list of top five enjoyable activities. We covered Russian style vodkas (Russian Standard, in this case), Polish style vodka (Belvedere) and what they called a new world style vodka (Ketel One) – meaning Western Europe/America, I’d guess – before moving onto flavored vodka (Zubrowka) and the 42 Below range of Passionfruit, Feijoa, Manuka Honey and Kiwi. While this was going on, there was an animated backdrop projected onto a screen behind Jacob that, at points, showed a giant, laughing Boris Yeltsin head.

After the tasting, we were shown a couple of videos from previous Cocktail World Cups. 42 Below have been hosting the events in New Zealand since 2004, doing things like throwing competitors off a bridge with a bungee cord and a cocktail shaker. The World Cup was described as “the hardest, and most fun” comp ever.

The brand guys then proceeded to the bar to make a mixture of signature cocktails and drinks that had performed well at previous World Cups – including one that had been engineered to taste like a traditional warm, English ale.

All in all, it was a cracking afternoon. There are always downsides, though, and in this case, it was the fact that I had to go to work pretty sharpish after the session.

So. That was Monday.

Want One

June 17, 2009

Because, let’s face it, more bars should have Hogarth’s Gin Lane silkscreened onto throw cushions. Well played, the Saint – which is run by the lads behind Bramble and will therefore start hoovering up awards right about…now.

One Perfect Moment: Vodka

June 16, 2009

Tucked away in a little corner of the Internet, away from the hustle and bustle, you’ll find Scans Daily – or its most recent incarnation, after the original fell victim to alleged grumpiness – where comic fans trade in snippets from their collections. Sometimes pages are posted because they’re flat out awesome. Sometimes they’re posted because they’re really, really bad, or obscure, or intriguing, or weird. Sometimes, they fit to the week’s theme. Last week, the community started posting scans of their favourite characters’ One Perfect Moment – the essence of the character expressed as eloquently as possible in a couple of pages or panels. It’s an absolute treasure chest of potential reading material.

So far, so geek, but we’re not really into drink territory. So here’s the thing: working in a bar, you’ll come across those same elegant moments that express an idea perfectly. For example, Scottish vodka drinkers…

Customer: What vodka do you sell?
Bartender: We’ve got [house pour], [insert super premium brands here], and maybe a bit of [random, appallingly expensive boutique brand] somewhere.
Customer: You’ve got Grey Goose? That’s a great vodka, it’s my favourite.
Bartender: No worries, one Grey Goose. On the rocks?
Customer: Yeah. With Red Bull.

MxMo XL: Ginger

June 15, 2009

Like other stuff, Mixology Monday happens every month, but is at least 7,000% more fun than paying your rent. This month, RumDood challenges us to find a use for ginger, in any of its various forms.

Ginger is a wonderful thing. Its mere presence elevates a run-of-the-mill stir fry towards the awesome and beyond that, it’s versatile and easily fermentable. It’s worth noting that having ginger hair is often treated as a kind of social disability in Scotland, but combining the physical trait with the root can be a powerful thing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Week Twenty One: Blackberry

June 7, 2009

If David Embury is to be believed, mixed drinks fall roughly into two categories – cocktails of the sour type, and those of the aromatic type. The former covers drinks that include – surprise! – a sour element like lemon or lime juice while the latter comprises recipes with some kind of aromatized or fortified wine component, such as vermouth. But I don’t think that these two categories have to be mutually exclusive.

I don’t mean drinks that contain both aromatic elements and sour elements – there are some, most notably the Corpse Reviver – more I think that it is often possible to present both a sour version and an aromatic version of the same drink. There will be differences in the two versions of the drink, but the overall flavor profile will pretty much the same.

I’m going to use a Bramble to illustrate the point. It’s a gin-based drink invented by Dick Bradsell in London in the early part of the 1980s.

Bramble
45ml gin
25ml lemon juice
10ml gomme syrup
15ml Creme de Mure
Stir the first three ingredients with crushed ice in an old-fashioned glass. Float the Creme de Mure and garnish with a lemon wedge and a couple of blackberries.

The thing with sour drinks is that they’re not actually sour. It’s all about that balance between sweet and sour, finding that spot between zingy and refreshing, and avoiding gum-sucking acidity. The immediate hit is something that is going to be lost in the aromatic version, but that doesn’t mean that we’re going to lose the citrus notes entirely.

Blackberry
50ml gin
15ml dry vermouth
10ml Limoncello
4 kaffir lime leaves
15ml Creme de Mure
Stir the first three ingredients with cubed ice in an old-fashioned glass. Float the Creme de Mure and garnish with a blackberry and a lime leaf.

And there we go – complementary sour and aromatic cocktails based on a single flavour profile.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.