Posts Tagged ‘vermouth’

Twenty Eight: Downtown Rio

July 20, 2009

One last blast on the cachaca front – it turns out that I’ve only got two weeks to put together a recipe for the 2010 Cocktail World Cup, so the next batch of drinks are going to be more focused on a certain Antipodean vodka.

Anyhow, aged cachaca worked pretty well in a twist on the traditional Old-Fashioned. How does it fare in a modified Manhattan?

Good, as it happens. Abelha Gold is aged for three years but it won’t stand up to a particularly robust style of sweet vermouth, so it’s probably worth leaving the Punt E Mes and the Dubonnet in the fridge.

Downtown Rio
50ml Abelha Gold cachaca
20ml Martini Rosso
1 barspoon maraschino liqueur
2 dashes Angostura Orange bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange zest twist.


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.

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.

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.

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.

Week Fifteen: Mystère

April 18, 2009

Once upon a time, Cognac was the drink of choice for the higher orders of society and the undisputed leader among spirits, but that was before phylloxera decimated French wine production allowing whiskies and rums to come to prominence, and before the British government started to promote gin over imports from a country it frequently warred with.

Cognac has heritage and tradition in spades which adds to the aura of luxury around the category, but it can also make the spirit seem fussy and impenetrable. Which is shame, because that previous dominance is based on the quality of the product rather than mere terroir or aging.

So, I made a conscious choice to make something with a Cognac base which isn’t something I do that often. Vermouth seemed like a no-brainer, wine-based modifier with a grape-based spirit. Keeping the complementary theme, I used some Mandarine Napoleon – a brandy-based liqueur not unlike Grand Marnier, only Belgian and more mandarine-y.

30ml Courvoisier VS
30ml Mandarine Napoleon
15ml Dubonnet Rouge
1 lemon zest
Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-filled brandy glass.

Week Twelve: Kitchen Special No. 1

March 29, 2009

Being honest, I’m pretty cocktailed out at the moment. We’re just put the finishing touches to a new drinks menu at work – featuring some of the drinks I’ve posted here – and I’ve been making the most of not thinking about combinations of spirits and liqueurs. That said, there are still times when I do want something a little more exciting than a beer or spirit/mixer.

The problem here is that I’m genuinely awful at keeping my kitchen stocked. I’d save a pile of money if I actually planned meals rather than getting takeaways or eating at work. So, using whatever I had lying around the kitchen…

Kitchen Special No. 1
45ml Amsterdamsche Oude Genever
15ml Punt E Mes
15ml Elderflower Cordial
Dash egg white
Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon zest if you’ve remembered to go shopping this week.

Week Ten: Winter’s End

March 13, 2009

11:44am on March 20 2009 marks the Vernal Equinox, one of the two points of the year at which the Sun is directly over the Earth’s equator. Or the Earth’s equator is directly over the Sun, if you want to be picky about it. See, astronomy lessons and everything.

The Vernal Equinox marks the end of winter and the start of spring, unless you happen to be in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case it’s the end of summer and the start of winter. If you are south of the Equator, I’m so sorry. You’ve got…ooh, 186 days until this post becomes topical.

And so spring is coming like a badly-driven haulage truck on an icy road, which is cause for much celebration in Northern Europe. Perhaps this will be the year when spring is accompanied with temperatures north of 20°C and bikinis for everyone, but I think that’s unlikely. It doesn’t mean the occasion shouldn’t be marked with some kind of mixed drink.

Winter’s End
40ml Amsterdamsche Oude Genever
10ml St. Germain
15ml Noilly Prat Dry
Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a single mint leaf.

Week Four: a Barbore Martini

January 29, 2009

There are a number of things I want to talk about.

  1. Angus Winchester has promised a bottle of Tanqueray No. Ten and a book from his extensive library of vintage and modern mixellany to the inventor of the drink named as the official Martini of Barbore. This is madness. I am, of course, totally there.
  2. Tea. A liking of tea is culturally hardwired into anyone who lives in the UK for more than six months. But there’s way more to it than the bags of gunpowder routinely sweetened and enmilked in mugs across the land.

On the first, I really don’t need a lot of encouragement to play around with Martini variations. I’m on the record saying that I think the Martini is a great drink but the current fashionable serve – vodka with next-to-no vermouth and no bitters – is hard work. So, honestly, the mere possibility of more cocktail reading and free gin (free gin!) is another carrot. Read the rest of this entry »

Week One: Homecoming cocktail

January 4, 2009

It seems that I thought it would be a good idea to post a new cocktail recipe every week through 2009, which is what happens when you leave me in a room with a bottle of 10 Cane. So, without any further ado, I present the first of the fifty-two.

2009 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, a man who would, over 37 short years, come to embody Scottish literature. Moving between rural Ayrshire and Edinburgh high society, Burns became a major celebrity – his intemperate ways helped him to premature aging and an early grave which is about as rock’n’roll as you can get before Rolls Royces and swimming pools were invented.

Every year, Scots celebrate January 25th the same way – with a dinner for Burns Night. There are toasts to the poet’s immortal memory, the Selkirk Grace, even an address to a haggis. In addition to the traditional celebration, the Scottish Government has launched Homecoming 2009, a series of events aimed at attracting people with Scottish ancestry to visit the country. The fun kicks off on Burns night and, over the course of the year, will cover events like the Edinburgh International Festival, the Heineken Cup Final and the Royal Highland Show. One thing that isn’t included in the calendar is, of course, anything cocktail-related.

See that? Smooth.

Homecoming CocktailThere are a decent clutch of contenders for a Burns night cocktail. You could go for a Rob Roy, or a Whisky Mac or Rusty Nail could be in with a shout. Then again, there’s always the Bobby Burns, detailed in the Savoy Cocktail Book, a blend of Scotch, sweet vermouth and Benedictine. It’s a good starting place and a great drink, so I haven’t made any huge changes to it. The major change is that I decided to use Drambuie instead of Benedictine, mainly because it’s Scottish and it fits the idea of the drink. There’s a bonus given that as a whisky-based liqueur, it blends well with pretty much any Scotch as well as bringing a bunch of interesting floral and spicy flavours. On top of that, I decided to push the boat out and use a single malt for the whisky. I had wanted to use Auchentoshan – a Lowland malt – purely because it’s made closer to where Burns grew up than most others, but it’s also triple-distilled and unpeated and didn’t come through against the Drambuie. In the end, I went for a 12 year-old Bowmore, kinda smoky and a bit peaty, but nowhere near as full on as some other Islay malts. Finally, I lobbed in a couple of dashes of Fee Brothers Peach Bitters. It’s not a hugely exciting recipe, but it is a tasty drink and at least it’s a start.

Only fifty-one to go…

Homecoming Cocktail
40ml blended Scotch Whisky (I used Johnnie Walker Black Label)
15ml Drambuie
25ml sweet vermouth (Martini Rosso)
2 dashes Peach Bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-filled Rocks glass. Garnish with an orange zest twist. It doesn’t have to be as mental as the one in the photo.

On the Martini

November 2, 2008

I’ve spent a decent amount of time thinking about gin recently. There are worse things to think about and I’ve sat in on two training sessions on it over the past fortnight.

One thing that always comes up in any gin training is the Martini. It’s one of the most iconic cocktails – everybody knows of the Martini, even if not everybody knows what it exactly is. It strikes me that the modern Martini drinker falls into one of two schools:

a) an experienced, hardcore drinker who knows exactly how they want their drink, or
b) someone who’s just seen a Bond movie and really doesn’t know what they’re getting into. I have fond memories of the aftermath of Casino Royale’s release – making Vespers and, five minutes later, being asked to top them up with lemonade.

All of it boils down to this: the Martini – or, rather, the modern dry Martini – is an incredibly inaccessible drink. If you don’t like the taste of straight spirits, there’s no point of entry unless you turn to neo-martinis which are an entirely different beast.

It’s a shame, really. I used to make a Cosmopolitan-flavoured martini-style cocktail as a party trick. At work, we’ve prototyped something that looks like a proper, old-school martini, and tastes like Neopolitan ice-cream. In both cases, I’ve found that people are really surprised in the sheer amount of flavour that you can get from a clear, colourless drink. Taking that idea further, I tried to come up with a more accessible Martini.

The other thing that sticks out at me is how unfashionable vermouth is in the mass-market these days, despite George Clooney’s best efforts. If you want to blame someone, Winston Churchill’s probably your best bet. Depending on who you ask, he took his Martinis with either a glance at the bottle while stirring or a pass of the bottle over the chilled glass. The drying of the Martini probably reached its logical conclusion with Salvatore Calabrese’s Naked Martini, where the vermouth is sprayed into a chilled glass before adding gins straight from the freezer, creating possibly the most hardcore cocktail the world has ever known.

So, yeah. Let’s make a more accessible Martini, but without using vermouth.

I do try to make things easy for myself.

The Duke of Marlborough
50ml Tanqueray Gin
25ml Sauvignon Blanc (I used Anapai River 2007 from Marlborough, New Zealand)
1 barspoon Acacia Honey
1 dash Fee Brothers Peach Bitters
Dissolve honey into white wine in a mixing glass. Add the gin and bitters, and stir with ice. Fine-strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a mint leaf wrapped in a lemon zest twist.

(Picture credits: Martini Time, from wickenden’s Photostream on Flickr;

On vermouth

September 4, 2008

So Wednesday is my training day at work – we alternate sessions between spirits and liqueurs, and wine. It was my last seminar on spirits with one of my groups and we were doing cocktail history. I was talking about the development of the cocktail through the ages while making drinks typical of each period for the guys to try.

First up, I decided to make a Martinez as an example of a pre-Prohibition cocktail. So, I start with my spiel about how drinks were different back then: for one, vermouth was way more popular than it is now.

“Vermouth?” asks one of the group.
“Yup,” I say, and before I can continue, she makes a face like I’d answered by saying “Yeah, so your dog? It died.”

This, of course, sparks five minutes of everybody saying they don’t like vermouth, only old people drink it, so on. And then I remember a conversation with my restaurant manager a couple of days ago, when he’d said that when you first start making cocktails, everything gets berries in it. Strawberries, raspberries, whatever. No recipe is complete without a berry component. And then I’d said “it’s like there’s an 18 month trial before you’re allowed to use vermouth.”

What is it about vermouth that the kids don’t like? I suspect that it takes a while to get your head around the more complex flavour as an ingredient in your own recipes. But, fortunately, they liked the Martinez. Which is a start.