Friday, April 30, 2010

The Mint Julep, Part III, Louisville Stinger

If you haven't checked them out already, we've been drinking Mint Juleps over the last couple of days.

First, we tried the Traditional Southern-Style Mint Julep, a pleasant drinking bourbon cocktail of great prominence this time of year in the Commonwealth.

Then, we tried the Muddled Mint Julep, a similar, albeit a tad easier to drink version of the classic cocktail.

Today, on Day 3 of our stroll through the world of Mint Julep, I made an executive decision, and decided we'd try the Louisville Stinger in the place of yet another Mint Julep.

For those disappointed that they are not seeing another Mint Julep recipe, my sincerest apologies.  But, this Louisville Stinger is good, very good.  It may be the go-to order this weekend if you want something a little off the beaten path.  As you'll notice in the recipe, it's got bourbon and mint flavor, so you could make an argument that the Louisville Stinger is the long lost distant cousin of the Mint Julep (think of it as the 3rd cousin, three times removed).

And we're off (to drinking)!!

American Bar, page 356

Louisville Stinger

1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce light rum
1/2 ounce white creme de cacao
1/4 ounce creme de menthe

Shake the ingredients vigorously with ice.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

For the Louisville Stinger, I'm using good ol' Jim Beam White Label, Bacardi Rum, and DeKuyper Creme de Cocoa and Creme de Menthe.

This will be an excellent cocktail for Kentucky Derby weekend. First, the mint pairs perfectly with the rest of the ingredients.  There is a nice cool mint flavor that is not too minty.  A little mint can go a long way, and this is just the right amount.  The creme de cacao provides a nice smooth chocolate flavor and aroma, and it too pairs well with the rest of the ingredients. 

Know though, that the mint really dominates the white creme de cacao.  Despite its larger contribution to the ingredient list, the creme de cacao takes a backseat to the minty goodness of the creme de menthe.

Also worth noting is the fact that this drink is shaken, not stirred.  I'm not going to delve too deeply into the ongoing debate between shaking and stirring (not in this post anyway), but on balance, a shaken drink will likely be a little cooler, a little more mellow as a result of the melted ice, and more frothy.  The Lousiville Stinger is all of these things when compared to a Mint Julep, and it's not even served over ice.

No matter which drink you prefer, the Traditional Southern-Style Mint Julep, the Muddled Mint Julep, or the Louisville Stinger, I hope everyone has a great Derby weekend.  My pick is still Ice Box, with a late charge to win it.  Until next week, cheers!

For more drink links, random musings, and my attempts to be witty, check us out @IMakeDrinks on Twitter.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Mint Julep, Part II, Muddled Mint Julep

Since we're focusing so much upon the Derby's main drink, let's take a moment to focus on the race itself.

This year's Kentucky Derby has already gone through a bit of drama when the original favorite, Eskendereya, had to withdraw after some swelling in its left front leg.  Now, the favorite is a horse called Lookin at Lucky. 

But, in yesterday's lane draw, Lookin at Lucky drew the inside lane, which made me question the veracity of its namesake.  Lucky?  Not yet, anyway.  The inside lane is notoriously difficult to navigate unless the horse can get out in front early, or, if the horse can somehow find its way through traffic.

Sidney's Candy, the horse slated as the second favorite, is running out of the far gate, gate 20.  Some horse racing enthusiasts think that the far post positions for the two favorites somehow evens things out.  I don't know what to make of it, truthfully. 

My pick is Ice Box, in the second post position.  He's a late closer, which I think will prove usefull when Sidney's Candy runs out of gas at the end.

Now, onto the Muddled Mint Julep!

The Ultimate Bar Book, page 358

Muddled Mint Julep

12 to 14 fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon simple syrup
4 ounces Kentucky bourbon
2 to 3 mint sprigs
Lemon twist (optional)

Muddle the mint leaves and simple syrup in the bottom of a chilled julep cup or old fashioned glass.  Fill the glass with crushed ice, add the bourbon, and stir until the glass is frosty.  Garnish with the mint sprigs, extending them above the rim, and a twist of lemon peel, if desired.

I'll be making this version with Jim Beam White Label, Simple Syrup (available at Fresh Market, or made on your stove if you're not as lazy as I am), organic mint, and lemon (though admittedly, I'm not going to include a lemon peel, because I find it unnecessary).

This is a little sweeter, more accessible version of the Mint Julep.  But don't be fooled, it is still a strong bourbon drink.  Not much changes in this drink, compared to yesterday's Traditional Southern-Style Mint Julep, except that additional mint is used at the start, muddled with the simple syrup.  The added mint provides a little sweetness, and a more prominent mint flavor.  The same aroma is present as a result of the prominently placed mint sprig as a garnish. 

This is a great cocktail, no doubt about it.  It requires a little more mint, and a very small amount of effort with the muddling.  Is it better than the Traditional version?  I don't know - to each their own, right?  I like them both, but I'd probably make the Traditional version more often, if only for convenience sake.  I also like bourbon enough to drink it with less periphery. 

Tomorrow, more Mint Julep madness!  By the end of this week, you're going to know more about Mint Julep variations than a Louisville bartender.

For more drink links, random musings, and my attempts to be witty, check us out @IMakeDrinks on Twitter.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Mint Julep, Part I, History, and the Traditional Southern-Style Mint Julep

It's Kentucky Derby season!  That's right folks, it's that time of year where we all pretend that we care about horse racing.  And, in honor of the occasion, we're doing a 3-part series on the Mint Julep, publishing gems through the end of the week.

Now before saddling up to the local OTB, and before lighting up that Marlboro Red, you know, just to fit in the aforementioned OTB, take a moment to learn of the Mint Julep.

The Mint Julep is the only cocktail that comes to mind around Derby season, and consists of 4 basic ingredients: bourbon, mint, sugar and water. 

It is thought that the first Mint Juleps were made on the east coast around 1750 or so, a likely combination of mint leaves and whatever moonshine was available in Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia (source link).  For the linguists, the word "julep" is derived from the word "julab", a drink made of water and rose petals that was popular in the Middle East and Europe.

The drink didn't make its way to the Commonwealth of Kentucky until the 19th century, whereupon the main alcohol consumed was what we now refer to as bourbon (though again, it probably tasted more like your everyday moonshine back then, and different from the bourbon we know of today). 

In 1938, the Mint Julep became associated with the Kentucky Derby by way of the commemorative glassware that Churchill Downs used when serving the cocktails.  The Mint Julep had made many appearances in prior years at the horse track, but it was the glassware sealed the Mint Julep and Kentucky Derby together in perpetuity.

If you're enamored with the history of the drink, I recommend checking out Joe Nickell's book "The Kentucky Mint Julep."  If Joe's book doesn't satisfy your Mint Julep obsession, you sir, have a problem. 

You should know too, that no one in the Commonwealth drinks these things, even during the Derby.  The Mint Julep is a part of the event for part-time revelers, and not the good ol' Kentucky boys and girls ("You can tell the people from out of town at Derby parties...[t]hey get all excited because they feel like a julep is the thing they have to drink.").

Which is not to make you think that the Mint Julep is a bad cocktail.  It's a fine drink all its own, though, it is usually not as minty as people would like to believe.  It's far more bourbony than people realize.  Yes, I just made up the word "bourbony" - try and use it in a sentence today, I dare you!

Bourbon is one of my favorite alcohols.  Thing is though, sometimes a Mint Julep makes you feel as though you're misusing good bourbon by adding anything to it but a splash of water.

Today, we're going to try our hand at the first of a few recipes, the Traditional Southern-Style Mint Julep.  Be forewarned, this traditional version is really really bourbony.  Mint is an aromatic in the Traditional Southern-Style version, and little more.

Tomorrow, we're going to make a Muddled Mint Julep, a version that is likely more palatable for the average cocktail drinker (and likely too, an abomination to anyone who reveres bourbon neat).

To the drink!

Traditional Southern-Style Mint Julep

4 ounces Kentucky bourbon
1 teaspoon simple syrup
4 to 6 mint sprigs

Pour the liquid ingredients into a juliep cup or collins glass filled with crushed ice.  Stir well until the glass is frosty.  Garnish with the mint sprigs, extending them above the rim, and serve with a straw.

For this cocktail, I'm using classic Jim Beam White Label, Simple Syrup, and organic mint leaves.

I'm a big fan of this version of the Mint Julep, though it will be too strong for many drinkers.  You're essentially making a sweet version of a straight bourbon, with some very pleasant aromatics thrown in the mix. 

I think Jim Beam is a good choice here.  I should add, that I think Jim Beam is a quality bourbon.  Yes, it's cheaper than everything else on the shelf, but, their white label is a good product.  Believe it or not, I prefer it to Jack Daniels whiskey.  Do I think it compares to Woodford or something in the middle range of bourbon price points?  No.  But that's OK, Jim Beam is perfect for this type of mixed cocktail, whereas Woodford may be a better choice when drinking bourbon neat.

You're going to enjoy this drink if you like whiskey, it's that simple. But, if you find it a little strong for your tastes, I have a few suggestions:

1. Let it mellow. Don't touch the drink for five minutes, and let the ice do its work. You'll be surprised the difference in the first taste of a drink after its freshly made, and after its had a chance to marinate for a minute. And sometimes, the first taste of a drink will go a long way in determining your overall enjoyment of (and moreover willingness to finish) the rest of the drink.

2. Increase the syrup by just a touch. Not a lot! Just a little - like a half more of a teaspoon. Any more than that and you're going to be drinking sugar-whiskey, and you're really veering away from the core of the traditional Mint Julep recipe.

3. Swirl the mint leaves in the drink, and then place them back as a garnish. This is going to impart a touch more mint flavor into the cocktail - probably more than you'd likely think.

I'd do one or two of the above, but only if necessary. I enjoy the drink as is, but if you need a little bit of a buffer to make it drinkable, have at it. You're supposed to enjoy cocktails, remember? It's no fun if you're suffering through them!

Tommorrow, we're going to make a Muddled Mint Julep, a sweeter version of the drink. The Amateur Mixologist, your home for all Mint Julep related news and information.

For more drink links, random musings, and my attempts to be witty, check us out @IMakeDrinks on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Beauty Spot

Ever heard of this cocktail?  Me neither.  Like every other cocktail invented, this one has a few different recipes swimming about the ether.  Some contain a few juices here or there, but we're leaving those ingredients out of the mix, as the one we're drinking today contains egg white.  That's right, raw, uncooked egg white.

Still reading?  Nice!  I like you, you're an adventurous soul.  Good on you, lad. 

Funny thing about this drink - it's called the Beauty Spot, and it contains some rather delicate flavors - which, if I were a guessing man, would put this drink squarely in the relm of being a bit of a lady's cocktail.  Except, that it has RAW EGG WHITE!! 

Not to malign my loyal female readers, but I think it's safe to say that males are more inclined to consume such bizarre ingredients like raw egg white at a greater clip than the females.  Perhaps, among other reasons, it is because women are smarter than us gents!  "Delicious drink v. possible salmonella poisoning?  I'll let you take this one Bruno."

It does make a lovely picture, no?

The Ultimate Bar Book, page 175

Beauty Spot

2 oz gin
1/2 oz white crème de cacao
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon grenadine

Shake the gin, crème de cacao, and egg white vigorously with ice.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Drop the grenadine in the center of the drink; do not stir.

For the Beauty Spot, I'm using:

- New Amsterdam gin (one of the better bargins out there gin-wise - around $12-14, and very good gin);

- DeKuyper Crème de Cocoa (if you're at all inclined to read a nice sidebar on the differences between the word cocoa and cacao, read here);

- Rose's Grenadine; and

- An organic cage-free egg from Fresh Market (even my cocktails gotta be cage-free eggs homey).

This is the first cocktail I've made with an egg white.  I'm a little cautious, admittedly, about consuming uncooked egg.  I figure though, that if Rocky can do it, so can I. 

And it turns out to be a good drink.  The gin pairs nicely with the crème de cacao, giving it a light chocolate aroma and taste that is rather delicious.  Thus far, a couple sips in, I have not reached any grenadine.  The grenadine functions like the cherry in the bottom of the glass.

While I cannot taste the egg's contribution to the cocktail, I'm sure it's adding something to the mix.  I talked with some friends about this cocktail recently, and it's worth restating what I had told them about the drink: the consistency of the drink is normal, not weird or phlegmy (words I did not expect to write on Amateur Mixologist, ever: phlegmy). 

With each drink too, the chocolate flavor comes forth a little more.  I'm on sip 3 or 4, and I'm realizing that it's as though in my first couple of sips the gin somehow rose to the top.  In this 3rd or 4th sip range, I'm settling into a mixed area of sorts, with a less prominent gin flavor. 

One could argue that you could add as much as 1 full ounce of the crème de cocoa, and it would be a good fit.  I think it is all dependent on how much you like gin.  If you like gin, 1/2 an ounce of the crème de cocoa is enough.  If you think gin is just OK, maybe add a touch more crème de cocoa than the recipe requires.

The grenadine adds a nice finish, in the same way a maraschino cherry is perfect after a chocolate shake. 

This is a one-order maximum drink.  I mean, uncooked egg is not ideal in mass quantities, right?  If you're in the need for something very different (uncooked egg always qualifies as very different), the Beauty Spot is a solid choice.

For more drink links, random musings, and my attempts to be witty, check us out @IMakeDrinks on Twitter.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Duchess & The Week of April 25, 2010

We're cutting right to the chase this week, and drinking on a Monday!  No rest for the weary.

Quickly though, I do want to tell you what we're drinking this week: In addition to The Duchess, we'll be drinking a unique cocktail called the Beauty Spot, and later this week we'll be paying close attention to Mint Juleps in light of the Kentucky Derby that takes place this weekend.

The soundtrack this week is the streaming preview of the new The National album, "High Violet."  You can find the streaming audio here, accompanying a stellar article about the band.  The National may be my favorite band of the moment.  Their last two albums are off-the-charts good.  Upon first listen, "High Violet" is more outstanding work.

The album drops May 11th, and if you haven't already done so, I highly recommend pre-ordering it on Amazon so that it arrives on your doorstep the date of its issuance (link, if you're so inclined). 

Now, we drink:

The Ultimate Bar Book, page 214


1 oz Pernod
1 oz dry vermouth
1 oz sweet vermouth

Shake the ingredients vigorously with ice.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This is the Good and Plenty of cocktails.  One sip, and you will immediately be transported to the last time you tasted a Good and Plenty candy.  You either liked or were revolted by its licorice shell.

As mentioned in the Sazerac post, licorice jelly beans were always my favorite candy.  I know that this preference places me squarely in the minority.  Still though, it has its benefits - like enjoying the flavor of this cocktail.  Others would likely turn away in disgust while I sip with pleasure.

There isn't a strong licorice aroma to the cocktail, but each drink will provide a dominating anise flavor profile that is unavoidable.  The vermouths, both of them, are a bit of filler mostly, perhaps meant to cut out the strongest of the licorice flavors in the Pernod.  I've had Pernod straight, and while I enjoy the first couple sips, one does become a bit numb to the taste after 3-4 sips into the glass. 

The licorice flavor in straight Pernod is too powerful after a few drinks.  Ever heard of the notion that your first bite of a particular food gives you something like 75% of the pleasure, and that it's diminishing returns from there?  Pernod is like that, though, you can boost the percentage to around 95%.

The same cannot be said here.  Here, the licorice and vermouth pair well, to provide a nice licorice flavored cocktail, while not beating you over the head with a single-note of Pernod.

The Duchess is for licorice lovers only - and though I recommend everyone expand their horizons when it comes to cocktails, knowing ones' preferences should be commended and rewarded.  If you're not down with Good and Plenty's, then you're probably not going to be down with The Duchess.

Looking forward to another stellar week.  The Beauty Spot will definitely be a change of pace, and I am very much looking forward to dissecting the Mint Julep...until then...

For more drink links, random musings, and my attempts to be witty, check us out @IMakeDrinks on Twitter.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pall Mall

Today, we're talking about Pall Mall, the cocktail, not the cigarette manufacturer.  I remember the cigarettes though.  In college, the smokers bought the cheapest packs available, and Pall Mall cigarettes fit the bill.  I also remember on the packaging, Pall Mall used the phrase "In Hoc Signo Vinces", meaning in this sign you will conquer.

I always found this a curious tagline for a cigarette manufacturer.  The phrase stems from Constantine, the Roman emprorer, and his conversion to Christianity upon allegedly seeing the sign of the cross.  I say allegedly because I think it's far more likely Constantine saw the benefits of mass rule under Christianity, as opposed to actually seeing a vision. 

In any event, what is Pall Mall, the cigarette manufacturer, trying to say by using this tagline?  And if the line is to be taken literally, what exactly will Pall Mall's smoking audience conquer when smoking under their brand?  Seems a bit grandiose to me.  I guess we should all set such high goals, eh?

Today though, we ditch the smokes, and turn to the drink of the same name - the Pall Mall!

American Bar, page 200
Pall Mall

1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1 teaspoon white creme de menthe
Dash of Angostura bitters

Stir the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

For this cocktail, I'm using the last of the Bombay Sapphire (going to have to run to the store for a new bottle), Martini Rossi Dry Vermouth, Gallo Sweet Vermouth, DeKuyper Creme de Menthe, and Angostura Bitters.

This has a pretty weird range of flavors.  The mint is the first flavor, you can smell it before taking your first sip.  Soon, thereafter, you'll taste the sweet vermouth.  Sweet vermouth has a way of pronouncing itself in cocktails, little else seems to be as sweet in the same way.  The last distinct flavor is the gin, though, the gin is really taking a backseat to the mint and sweet vermouth, and it is abundantly clear that I could have used a far lesser gin than Bombay Sapphire. 

I don't love this drink.  I like mint too, so this is a bit disappointing.  I just don't think the sweet vermouth pairs well with the rest of the drinks contents.  And the bitters are heavily masked by the mint, which makes me question its addition to the ingredient list.  I'm sure it adds a spice element that would otherwise not exist if the bitters were not included, but even so, its not adding a noticeably agreeable flavor.

I think mint flavored cocktails, or at a minimum those cocktails featuring creme de menthe, are fickle beasts.  Mint doesn't pair well with everything.  In fact, it doesn't pair well with most things.  That's why eating food after brushing one's teeth is usually an awkward experience.  Pairing mint with sweet wine, which is essentially what sweet vermouth is, seems awful in theory.  Perhaps the reason this cocktail isn't a complete failure is that there are enough additional ingredients to mask what could otherwise have been a debacle of a pairing, the mint flavors with sweet vermouth.

I don't think the Pall Mall is something I would ever order at a bar or restaurant. There are far better gin based drinks, and though I don't pretend to be an authority on mint cocktails, there have to be better choices (ex. the Stinger).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Drink Links

We have a ton of excellent drink links, covering topics ranging from a 400lb pig roast to the best airlines for in-flight beer.  What can I say, we serve a broad audience.

Bartending takes off in Singapore.  "Once seen as an unglamorous low paying job in Singapore, it has evolved to a point where bartenders now have a semi-celebrity status that is equal to that of well-known chefs."

Angustora Bitters Shortage Update.  "Well, it seems the shortage is over."  Go ahead, make a Sazerac, in honor of the averted crisis! 

Fruity cocktail article from an Indian newspaper.  Note the double entendre of "Indian summer" when an American audience reads the quote:  "It's a long and hard Indian summer, and the cocktails are meant to soothe and refresh."

New York City Bars, new ones anyway, worth checking out.

The end of the bar car?  Say it ain't so!

Sign of the apocalypse...Burger King may being featuring mimosas.  Oy vey, I don't know what to make of this.  The classic Pulp Fiction scene whereby the guys are talking about ordering beer at an overseas fast food restaurant is WHOLLY DIFFERENT than champagne mimosas at a nearby Burger King.  God help us all. 

Washingtonians: Pig roast at Poste, tonight, 9pm.  They're opening the patio and cooking a 400lb hog.  Wait, one second, did they say a 400lb hog?!  Run, don't walk.  Warren, I'm looking at you.
And finally:

The best airlines for in-flight beer!!  See!  You knew that subscribing to our RSS feed was going to pay dividends!  Next step, excuse to fly on Alaska Airlines...

Tomorrow, we're making the Pall Mall - see you then!

For more content, updates, random musings, and my attempts to be witty, check us out @IMakeDrinks on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Palmer, With Dueling Whiskeys

In another Amateur Mixologist first, we're making two drinks of the same name, with a change in the base liquor. 

As often happens in the world of mixology, one person's cocktail contains a list of ingredients that varies from another person's cocktail of the same name.  Such is the case here with the Palmer.

In the foreground, we have the iDrink Palmer cocktail recipe, and in the background, the American Bar Palmer cocktail recipe.  The iDrink version uses rye whiskey, while the American Bar version uses bourbon.

Here are the two versions, side by side:

American Bar, page 148

Dash lemon juice
Dash Angostura bitters
1 3/4 oz Bourbon

Pour Bourbon over ice cubes in an old fashioned glass, add dash of Angostura, squeeze lemon wedge over drink and drop into glass, stir well.

iDrink -

1.0 dash Bitters
0.5 tsp Lemon juice
2.0 oz. Blended Rye/Whiskey

Stir all ingredients with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and serve.

In the American Bar version, I'll be using Maker's Mark, a very nice, somewhat sweet Kentucky-made bourbon.  I'm a big fan of Maker's Mark, and figured it'd be a nice whiskey choice to contrast the more spicy rye whiskey.

I hate to immediately kill the suspense, but I must tell you up front that the American Bar recipe is a no go.  We already know from the Sazerac that bitters and rye whiskey go together well.  So what's the problem here?  Is it the flavor profile differences between bourbon and rye whiskey?

I don't want to pin the blame squarely upon bourbon here, because I think that the combination of flavors causes a really rough overall taste.  The lemon juice, however little the wedge adds, is hurting, not helping.  In fact, I think it's the combination of lemon juice and bourbon that  makes this drink difficult to drink.

Bourbon is an excellent alcohol, but this cocktail recipe is not the best way to consume the good stuff.  I would never order this drink under any circumstances.  It is one big fail.

Is the iDrink version, with rye whiskey, any better?  Well, by comparison, yes, the iDrink recipe is better, but only marginally so.  In the iDrink recipe, I use Sazerac Rye Whiskey, a nice mid-range rye that I like. 

In the iDrink recipe, the lemon juice is a little more forward in the drink and seems to be a better pairing with the rye whiskey.  The lack of ice cubes also seems to add to this version's drinkability.

But again, I'm not ordering this at a bar anytime soon.  There are a litany of other cocktails that I'd prefer in the place of the Palmer. 

If I had to make an argument for one of the two Palmers, I'd have to go with the iDrink recipe.  Neither Palmer works though.  We're not in Jack Rose territory, but we're damn close.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Week of April 18, 2010

We're drinking some interesting drinks this week, but first, let me quickly tell you about the weekend.

I went to a wedding on Saturday.  It was a fun time, though, Saturday ended up being a really late evening.  The bride and groom were kind enough to have a fully open bar, which of course, makes for the best kind of wedding.

The food was pretty good, but not great.  Wedding food is never great.  If anyone works in the industry, can you explain why a wedding filet doesn't look or taste like any filet I've eaten outside of a wedding?  It's as though the meat has been pumped full of a salt-solution, so that it stays moist (Incidentally, my least favorite word in the English language?  Glad you asked.  "Moist."  Hate it.).  Wedding filets also look pre-seared.  I would love some inside information on what exactly goes into wedding food.  E-mail, or comment away.

Back to the open bar...I was looking for a way to make and drink a Fireman's Sour, as it sounded good, but it didn't appear as though the bar had powdered sugar, and I wasn't going to be that guy and ask for it.  If it weren't for the fact that it's obvious, I'd formulate a rule that said something along the lines of "don't make yourself the object of attention when making a drink."  With no Fireman's Sour, I turned to scotch.  Beautiful, beautiful scotch.  Each scotch was delicious, until Sunday morning, that is, when I woke up and felt as though I had been thrown in a washing machine on the spin cycle.  Ugh, I've felt better.

Barca, the Official Mascot of The Amateur Mixologist, was less than thrilled that I wouldn't throw the ball around with her, as a result of my hangover.

In the place of more scotch, this week we will be drinking 3 different concoctions...

Palmer - We're going to make it two ways - once with bourbon, and another time with rye whiskey.  You can easily find Palmer recipes that feature both bourbon and rye whiskey - it will be interesting to see which whiskey tastes better.  Battle royale, you ask?  More like, Battle Crown Royale!!  See what I did there?  Very clever.  In fact though, Crown is neither bourbon nor rye whiskey, and won't be featured in this cocktail.  It was a bit of a stretch, I'll grant you.

Pall Mall - Gin based, and entirely unrelated to the cigarette manufacturer of the same name.  

Duchess - This one's for the ladies!!  Actually, it's probably not well liked by the ladies, as it contains Pernod, the anise-flavored alcohol.  Should be an interesting cocktail, I have no idea how it will taste. 

As often happens on Mondays, I'll likely be checking back in with some quality drink links.

Enjoy the day my friends!

For more content, updates, random musings, and my attempts to be witty, check us out @IMakeDrinks on Twitter.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tom Collins

The Tom Collins is another cocktail classic.  Everyone has heard of it, not everyone has consumed one. 

I have had a Tom Collins before, and if my memory serves me well, it reminded me of a flat and off-tasting Sprite.  Mind you, this was when I was around 18 years old or so, and at the time, I had no palate for cocktails.  If it was sweet, I could drink it.  I was also using a Tom Collins mix, which, much like the sour drinks of old I talked about yesterday, the Tom Collins mix was made entirely of sugar. 

Today's recipe though, is free of such shenanigans, and will taste miles better. 

The Tom Collins is an old drink, its origins dating back to 1874.  Then, "Tom Collins" was the name of a fictitious hooligan, a rather innocuous hoax that was featured in multiple newspapers.  Papers printed reports of a troublemaker named Tom Collins, and the name began to stick on various drinks in 1876. 

Here is the recipe:

Tom Collins
American Bar, page 187

3/4-1 oz lemon juice
1/4-3/4 oz sugar syrup
2 oz gin
stemmed cherry

Stir first three ingredients well over ice cubes in a Collins glass, fill with soda, add cherry and lemon slice.

For the Tom Collins, I'll be using Bombay Sapphire gin, Nellie and Joe's Famous Key West Lemon Juice, Schweppes club soda, and simple syrup from Fresh Market.

This is chuggable.  I had to catch myself from downing this drink at an extreme clip. 

Quick sidebar:  Those that know me, know that I have a tendency to chug everything I drink, especially water.  I don't know where this stems from; I've consumed absurd amounts of water ever since I was a kid.  I don't normally chug beer though, for whatever the reason.  I can, if need be (the old college case-races, 2 on 2...good times).  Anyway, as a result of this tendency, when something is as tasty as the Tom Collins, I have to force myself not to down it too quickly.  If only this were my lone quirk.

As I was saying - the Tom Collins is chuggable.  Like many of the drinks featured of late, this is a brilliant cocktail for warm weather, in part because of the large ice cubes that make the cocktail more akin to an ice tea than a martini.  You'll be reminded of a light lemonade, perfect to cool you off.

And it doesn't taste like a Sprite in the slightest.  You can easily taste the lemon juice, which pairs nicely with the gin.  Bombay Sapphire has really nice fruit notes as it is, and the lemon juice and gin go together like Lennon and McCartney. 

The Tom Collins receives an unequivocal recommendation.  But don't buy a mix.  I implore you, please.  Do. Not. Buy. A. Mix.

Do though, have an excellent weekend.  And let me know how the drinks are going - love hearing feedback from those who have made recipes and written in.  As always, I appreciate your readership!


For more content, updates, random musings, and my attempts to be witty, check us out @IMakeDrinks on Twitter.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fireman's Sour

Wouldn't you know it, no sooner than I rail on the use of powdered sugar than I choose another recipe that has, guess what, powdered sugar.

Thankfully, I can tell you in advance that the Fireman's Sour recipe works.  There's enough of a punch in the other ingredients to quell any offensive qualities that the powdered sugar might otherwise provide.

The Fireman's Sour is especially good on a night like tonight.  I play softball on Wednesdays, and the weather this evening was ideal.  With a nice warm 80 degrees outside and 2 wins in the bag, a refreshing drink is in order.

If the name didn't give it away, the Fireman's Sour is a member of the Sour family of drinks.  No doubt you've heard of whiskey sours, or amaretto sours.  At one time, I drank both, but I always found them to be too sweet, even at a younger age.  It's worth noting though, that the bars I went to served sour mix out of a bottle.  In other words, there was little nuance (or quality) to whatever I was drinking.  It was more of a "let's hit you over the head with sugar" type of whiskey sour.  I think far too many bars, probably well over 75%, use bottled sour mix in the place of fresher ingredients.

Sour cocktails have been defined as any drink that includes a base liquor, lime or lemon juice, and a sweetner.  That's a rather loose definition, as numerous cocktails include lime or lemon juice, but bear no discernable relationship to something like a whiskey sour or even this Fireman's Sour.  Among the drinks listed on the Sour cocktail family Wikipedia entry include Amateur Mixologist alumni, like the Daiquiri, the Kamikaze, and my personal favorite, the Sidecar.

Here is the recipe for the Fireman's Sour:

American Bar, page 95

Fireman's Sour

3/4 ounce lime juice
1 barspoon powdered sugar
dash grenadine
1 oz white rum
1/4 oz dark rum

Shake well over ice cubes in a shaker, strain into a small highball glass over crushed ice, squeeze lime wedge over drink and drop it into the drink.

For the liquid ingredients, I used my trusty old Bacardi, Captain Morgan's, Nellie and Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice, and Rose's Grenadine.

This is one hell of a drink.  As mentioned above, the powdered sugar is balanced out by the mix of the different ingredients.  It's sweet, but not overpoweringly sweet like the Jack Rose (incidentally, we'll be checking back in with the Jack Rose cocktail in the near future - perhaps a different recipe will change my feelings on the drink). 

This may be the ideal summer cocktail, alongside such classics as the margarita.  It has a freshly made lemonade flavor that is the perfect balance between sweetness, tartness, and overall drinkability.

I highly recommend trying this drink out.  If I had a rating system, which I don't, I'd give this a strong 9 out of 10.  Most of you have the main liquors lying around in your cabinets.  Fork over the $10 to purchase the remaining items and you'll be well rewarded.

For more content, updates, random musings, and my attempts to be witty, check us out @IMakeDrinks on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mojito Battle Royale

In an Amateur Mixologist first, we're comparing recipes.  How does the American Bar Mojito recipe stand up compared to The Ultimate Bar Book Mojito recipe?  We'll find out in a moment, but first, let's look into the Mojito.

The Mojito is a drink of Cuban origin, made of five ingredients: white rum, sugar, lime, sparkling water and mint.  The Mojito dates back to an English pirate named Richard Drake, who purportedly invented a Mojito-like cocktail in the late 16th century.  I don't believe what Mr. Drake was drinking was remotely close to the modern mojito, but let's humor the historians for a moment and continue on...

After Mr. Drake created El Draque, the next incarnation included rum as opposed to rum's forebearer "aquardiente."   By the way, how terrible a drink name is El Draque.  It sounds too similar to El Dreck.  Perhaps Mr. Drake was in fact speaking yiddish in the 16th century.  In any event, it was said by Cuban playwright and poet Federico Villoch in 1940 that "[w]hen aquardiente was replaced with rum, the Draque was to be called a Mojito."

My favorite quote in one of the write-ups is this almost incidental addition to the historical record: "Other accounts suggest that slaves working in Cuban sugar cane fields in the late 19th century invented the mojito."

Now listen, I have no idea who invented this drink, but, I would say that if I were a betting man, I'd put my money on the slaves as having invented the Mojito.  Why?  Because white people steal everything!  Richard Drake probably saw a slave make the drink, and claimed it once it proved popular.  In other words, I'm postulating that Richard Drake was the Elvis Presley of his time.

I kid, I kid.  I have no idea how it all went down.

Enough with the history, on with the drinking.

American Bar Mojito

Mojito Battle Royal

The tale of the tape:

American Bar, page 140

Juice of half a lime
1 barspoon powdered sugar
2 oz white rum
mint sprig

Stir sugar and lime juice well in a large high-ball glass.  Crush mint leaves with pestle, add the squeezed half lime.  Fill with crushed ice, add rum, stir.  Add soda, garnish with mint sprig.

American Bar Ingredients


The Ultimate Bar Book, page 269

1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
6 to 8 fresh mint leaves
2 ounces light rum
2 to 4 ounces chilled club soda
Fresh mint sprig

In the bottom of a highball glass, muddle together the lime juice, sugar, and mint leaves until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the rum.  Fill the glass with ice and top with club soda.  Garnish with the mint sprig.

The Ultimate Bar Book Ingredients

So how do the two drink recipes compare, and who is the big winner?

First the consolation prize:

The American Bar recipe is good, but not great.  I don't like using powdered sugar in any mixed drink.  I think it provides a saccharine-like flavor that isn't particularly palatable.  Also, there is bound to be some inconsistency from lime to lime.  Some limes are going to produce more juice than others; some limes will be sweet while others may be a bit over or under ripe.  While I'm all for using fresh products, using lime juice instead of lime adds some consistency to the recipe that most people can appreciate.  Why spend time making a drink, only to find out that it is inferior in quality as a result of a bad lime?

Also, superfine sugar, or regular sugar will provide a bit of grit that, when muddled, will produce more flavor from the mint leaves.  Powdered sugar just doesn't work in the same way.

The American Bar recipe tasted a little flat, and not particularly vibrant.  Lime is supposed to add citrusy goodness to the drink, and none of that was present in the American Bar Mojito.

On to the winner:

The Ultimate Bar Book recipe has a brighter, mintier, and sweeter flavor than the American Bar book recipe.  The sugar brought out more flavor from the mint leaves, providing a more complex and enjoyable taste that one should look for in a Mojito.  And it goes without saying, if the minty flavor isn't there, you're not going to love this drink.

One other difference between the recipes is that The Ultimate Bar Book calls for 2 to 4 ounces of club soda.  I have to hand it to the writer for at least putting in parameters when making this cocktail.  I went with 3 ounces, and it yielded great results.  American Bar, by comparison, just says "add soda."  Unfortunately, this tells me very little.  I appreciate the specificity of The Ultimate Bar Book recipe.

The Ultimate Bar Book Mojito

As a result of all of the above, I prefer The Ultimate Bar Book recipe. 

Just like the Caipirinha, I'm convinced that we keep coming back to these drinks, the Mojito included, ordering 2nds and 3rds because of the sweet sugar and lime combination that remains at the bottom of the glass.  It is delicious!

Laslty, and this is not a complaint against either recipe, but rather, a suggestion:  club soda should always, always be used sparingly.  Think of soda in the same way you think of salt when cooking. You can always add more salt, but you can't take it away. You can always add more soda, but you can't take it away. When a recipe calls for soda, add a splash to start, and no more. A splash may be all you need. If you prefer a lighter flavor or taste, perhaps add more. The point is, add in small increments, you'll be rewarded with a drink more to your liking.

Enjoy a Mojito in this beautiful weather - it's an easy choice on a warm day.

For more content, updates, random musings, and my attempts to be witty, check us out @IMakeDrinks on Twitter.
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