Twenty Four & Twenty Five: Colisão & Plantação

July 8, 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot about cachaca recently. This is not unconnected to receiving a couple of samples from Anthony at Abelha Cachaca the other day. It might be the third most popular spirit in the world, but cachaca is in pretty similar position to that of vodka in the 1950s/60s – there is a global awareness of the product, but the majority of the spirit produced is not exported and it hasn’t quite hit the mainstream in the export markets yet. Wikipedia suggests that only 1% of the 1.3 billion litres of cachaca produced annually are exported. While the availability of cachaca outside of Brazil is on the increase, we’re still at the stage where there are only a handful of notable brands – Sagatiba, Germana, Ypioca, to name three.

This is probably an excellent time to launch an organic, artesanal brand into the UK market. But I tend to be pretty busy most days, what with the working and the not working and the sleeping and the not going to Tales of the Cocktail, so it’s helpful that Abelha have been bringing some over for a couple of months now. Both expressions are small batch, artesanal (pot-distilled, as opposed to the column distilled “industrial” style) cachacas – the Silver is unaged while the Gold is aged for three years in small (250ltr) Brazillian hardwood barrels.

I’ll write about the Gold in more depth tomorrow, but I was completely blown away by the Silver. On the nose it has those familiar vegetal notes that come with cachacas and rhums agricole, but it also has a pleasant honey scent with a touch of citrus to it. The mouth feel is great – a slightly viscous texture, with a strong finish but without chemical burn of column-still spirit. Esquire just listed Abelha as one of its top three cachacas, but I’m not sure if you need the other two.

Unfortunately, the sampler I got wasn’t big enough to try in some spirit/mixer combos, but there was just enough to make up a couple of cocktails.

The first thing I did was based around the other classic cachaca cocktail, the Batida. It’s the Caipirinha’s longer, more laid back cousin and totally deserving of some of the love thrown at the little peasant drink. I ended up crossbreeding it with a Smash, with the intention of coming up with something fruity for summer.

Colisão
45ml Abelha Silver Cachaca
25ml freshly squeezed red grapefruit juice
25ml pineapple juice
6-8 mint leaves
Shake all the ingredients with ice and strain into an old-fashioned/rocks glass over crushed ice. Feel free to add a touch of gomme/simple syrup into the shaker to taste. Garnish with a grapefruit slice and a mint sprig.

After that, I decided to go old-school. Cachaca tends to be used in caipirinhas and long punch-style drinks and not a lot else, but the Abelha Silver struck me as something that would work really well as an alternative to a white rum. So, I went with a simple mod of a daiquiri.

Plantação
50ml Abelha Silver Cachaca
25ml freshly squeezed lime juice
10ml sugar cane syrup
1 barspoon Maraschino
Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled martini/coupette glass. Twist a lime zest over the top and discard. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow, I’m getting to know the Abelha Gold.


Happy birthday America!

July 4, 2009

It’s been 233 years since the bouncing baby United States of America declared its independence from the United Kingdom, and it’s been thirteen years since a hardy band of patriots led by no less than the US President repelled the alien invaders intent on exterminating mankind. If that’s not worth celebrating, then seriously, nothing is.

There are an actual ton of recipes kicking around to mark the occasion, which is handy because I haven’t had a lot of time to put one together myself. The one that caught my eye is Jonathan Pogash‘s American Collins (or Red, White & Blue Collins).

American Collins
45ml Bombay Sapphire
25ml simple syrup
15ml lemon juice
4 pitted Bing cherries
8 blueberries
Muddle the blueberries and cherries with the syrup and the lemon juice. Add the gin with ice and stir briefly. Top with club soda.

Whatever you’re drinking today, raise a glass to Uncle Sam. No, not the cantankerous old sod who lives in your basement. The mythologised personification of the American Spirit.

Yes, the creepy thin old man with the starey eyes. That Uncle Sam.



Bar = raised

July 4, 2009

Edinburgh bartenders continue to rock the UK scene. Here’s Bramble’s Ryan Chetiyawardana winning the national final of Diageo’s World Class competition.

More info available at the World Class faffy flash website.


Twenty Three: Reina Amargo

July 3, 2009

We are on the edge of a great moment in British history. We are in sight of the point at which the great British public see tequila as something other than a shot or a frozen margarita. My friends, the road to that point will be long and hard, but with courage, strength and resolve, we can make this dream our new reality.

Reina Amargo
50ml José Cuervo Tradicional
25ml lime juice
1 barspoon Campari
2 barspoons honey
Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into chilled martini glass.


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.

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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.

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