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Archive for January, 2009

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by Pink Lady

“The proper union of gin and vermouth is a great and sudden glory; it is one of the happiest marriages on earth, and one of the shortest lived.”

- Bernard De Voto

Yes, we are talking about vermouth again, both here and in our column in The Weekly Dig. I’ll admit, the story idea came to me after taking my sixth or seventh order for a “Grey Goose Martini, extra extra dry, extra extra dirty, with extra olives,” during a busy Thursday evening shift at Toro. “What if all of those drinkers put a spirit and a mixer with actual flavor into their glasses, rather than covering up chilled vodka with a tablespoonful of olive brine?” I wondered. I suspected these drinkers might enjoy a “wet” martini.

After my shift ended, I hopped back behind the bar with MiMi, who works at Toro too, and we put our theory to the test. We mixed up a massive glass of Grey Goose shaken with a generous dollop of olive brine, and a gin martini with 2 parts Bombay Sapphire and 1 part Martini & Rossi dry vermouth stirred over ice and tasted them against one another. The Grey Goose dirty thing tasted saltier than I remembered, presenting a flavor profile that no drink made sans olive brine could hope to match. But the gin martini tasted to both of us as we suspected: balanced and slightly savory.

All of this activity attracted the attention of the peanut gallery, and we ended up sharing our sips with a group of four friends/regulars who had been drinking at the end of the bar for a little over an hour. I also made them taste a splash of vermouth on its own. I’ll summarize their reactions below:

GUY #1: (A friend of GUY #4, who I suspect was more interested in talking to the pretty ladies.) So, wait…this one is the vodka thing? It’s good. And this one is the gin thing? This is the one you like better? Yeah…it’s delicious. So anyway, what’s your name?

GUY #2: (A chef who is well-acquainted with the local cocktail scene.) Yeah, it’s more balanced than the dirty vodka thing. And the vermouth is really light and refreshing. Can I have another PBR now?

GUY #3: (Clearly a bit more intoxicated than the rest.) So wait, this is Grey Goose? Yeah, that’s the best kind. This dirty martini is way, way better than the other one. Not even a question. The other one doesn’t even taste like vodka. I remember this one time when I was drinking vodka at a concert and [INSERT MEANDERING STORY WITH COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT POINT HERE].

GUY #4: (A beloved regular, also rather intoxicated.) What are we doing again? You want me to taste something?

To supplement our rather unhelpful experiment with the peanut gallery, I embarked on a little home experiment to compare and contrast how the various types of gin on my home bar (Plymouth, Hendricks, Genvieve) play with the two types of vermouth I have on hand in the fridge (Noilly Prat and Vya, which we mentioned in in our first post on vermouth and was also recently covered by The Leather District Gourmet here). I mixed martinis in a 2:1 ratio and tested them on my unsuspecting, non-cocktailian friend with the following results. I also made her drink Grey Goose + olive brine, for which was very forgiving:

Plymouth + Noilly Prat = “Delicious, refreshing. What’s in this again? So simple.”img_2941

Grey Goose + olive brine = “That’s really, really salty. Blech.”

Hendricks + Noilly Prat = “Very floral and much more crisp than the first.”

Genvieve + Noilly Prat = “Is this grappa?”

Plymouth + Vya = “Good. Richer. I like the first one better.”

Hendricks + Vya = “Crazy floral and herbaceous. Almost too much.”

Genevieve + Vya = “Super strong. I don’t think I could drink a whole glass of this, but again, I’m one of few Americans who actually likes grappa so I don’t hate it. Can we please stop drinking gin now?”

I relented.

And the moral of the story is, when a LUPEC gal invites you over the taste-test martinis, it’s not a joke.


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Great Molasses

by Pink Lady

If you checked out this week’s column in the Dig, you know the ladies of LUPEC have molasses on the brain. As mentioned in broad strokes in print, this dark, sticky sugar by-product and the rum that it produces are about as tightly woven into the history of New England as the American Revolution. Here are a few more facts and great resources to continue reading about them, for the history buffs among us:

  • As Pink Gin mentioned in last week’s column, “History reminds us that we once had a thriving rum industry that was buried along with any acknowledgment of our role in the slave trade.” Indeed, rum in New England has a distinctly checkered past. As Stephen Puleo summarizes in Dark Tide,

It was from Salem, as well as from Boston, Newport, and Bristol, Rhode Island, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and New London, Connecticut, that the slaving ships set sail for the coast of West Africa, their holds laden with barrels of rum. Once they arrived, they traded the rum to African coast merchants in exchange for black slaves, whom they sold, in turn, in the West Indies for local products – most notably molasses. These ships then transported molasses to New England to be used as a cheap sugar substitute, and to distill into rum. The cycle then began all over again. The “Triangle Trade” was born and became the backbone of New England’s economy and prosperity before the American Revolution.

For an more in-depth exploration of the history of rum in the United States, you can check out Wayne CurtisAnd A Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails, or Ian WilliamsRum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776.

  • A neighborhood decimated, 150 people injured, 21 people killed – the details of the Great Boston Molasses Flood are pretty shocking, even to disaster-weary modern minds. But the scandal surrounding the flood is a fascinating, David vs. Goliath story in itself that is deftly recounted in Stephen Puleo‘s Dark Tide. 119 separate legal claims were brought again United States Industrial Agriculture, which the Superior Court of Massachusetts decided to consolidate into a single legal proceeding, “creating in effect, if not by strict legal definition, the largest class-action suit to date in Massachusetts history and one of the largest ever in U.S. legal annals.” The USIA tried to blame anarchist bombers for the tank explosion, but were ultimately held responsible and paid hundreds of thousands of damages to North End residents. To learn more, pick up a copy of Dark Tide – it’s a compelling, well informed read that will teach you tons about early 20th century Boston history and culture.

And now for some more molasses cocktails!

Adapted from David Wondrich’s Imbibe:

BLACK STRAP (a.k.a. BLACK STRIPE)

2 oz. Santa Cruz rum

1 tablespoonful of molasses

“This drink can either be made in summer or winter; if in the former season, mix in one tablespoonful of water, and cool with shaved ice; if in the latter, fill up the tumbler with boiling water. Grate a little nutmeg on top.” (Source: Jerry Thomas, 1862)

Writes Wondrich: “The Nutmegs [New Englanders] so loved theif Black Strap that, according to the memoirs of Henry Soule, a New England parson, bowls of it were even circulated at weddings. One shudders.”

Here’s a modern one, which we located on Trader Tiki’s Booze Blog. It comes originally from Martin Cate of Forbidden Island, and was named Trader Tiki Most Officially Excellent and Outstanding

Original Drink for Tales of the Cocktail 2008.

PAMPANITO

1 1/2 oz Pampero Aniversario (rum)
1/2 oz Mild (aka first boil) Unsulfured Molasses
1/2 oz Simple Syrup (2:1)
1/4 oz St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
Dash Angostura Bitters
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2 1/2 Charged (fizzy) Water

Combine all ingredients except fizzy water in an ice-filled shaker; strain into a Collins glass. Top with fizzy water, stir to combine, garnish with mint & serve.

Yum! Thanks for bringing it to our attention, Trader Tiki!

Cin cin!

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Thanks to everyone who stopped by The Boston Shaker store at GRAND yesterday to say hello and sample a little Hot Buttered Rum!

The smiling faces of our guests made us feel pretty certain the drink was a hit. If you loved it so much you’d like to recreate the experience at home, here’s the recipe, which is a favorite of mixologist Tony Abou Ganim. Hot Buttered Rum is also LUPEC’s chosen Endangered Cocktail of the Month, so check back later in the week for more discussion of rum in general, and variations on the rum-with-hot-water-and-stuff cocktail theme.

hot-buttered-rumHOT BUTTERED RUM “BATTER”

1 lb light brown sugar

1⁄2 lb unsalted butter (softened)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl beat together softened butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract and spices until well combined. Refrigerate in an airtight reusable container for up to a month, or place in your freezer until ready to use.

to make HOT BUTTERED RUM

In a pre-heated coffee mug combine 2 heaping tablespoons batter with 1 1⁄2 oz. Mount Gay Eclipse Rum. Top with boiling water and stir well to mix. Serve with a spoon.

Hint: It is best to make the batter in advance so the spices have an opportunity to mingle.

Be sure to remove batter from refrigerator at least 6 hours prior to serving to allow it to soften.

We used Mount Gay Eclipse and Mount Gay XO in alternating incarnations and found both drinks to be delicious. As you might expect, the XO version is richer, stronger and more complex. Since the bottle retails at a considerably higher price point than it’s younger sibling, you may be more apt to sip this product than water it down and butter it up. Your choice, but if you do, you can expect  little bit of winter bliss.

Why not mix one up tonight as you watch the snow fall?

Thanks again to the Boston Shaker store, GRAND, and the nice people at Mount Gay for a lovely Saturday afternoon!

Cin cin!

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by Pink Gindrink-locally

This week’s Dig column highlighted the availability of locally produced spirits.  We’d like to hear from our readers what local products you recommend.

I’ll start:  Mary at Rialto created a drink called the Journalist that uses the Berkshire Mountain Distiller’s Greylock Gin to good effect.

In the meantime, I’ll share another yummy drink that came out of the Dogfish Head stash.

MAPLE LEAF RUM VARIATION

3 parts Dogfish Head Brown Honey Rum
1 part maple syrup
1 part fresh lemon juice

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Also a bit of trivia:  The Rehoboth Beach Layaway recipe featured in the Dig is adapted from the Webster F Street Lay-Away Plan described in Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday.  Continued appreciation to Messrs Gertsen and Montuori for these recipes and adaptations.

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by Pink Lady

The ladies of LUPEC are still on the hot drinks – how could we not be when President Hanky Panky is introducing us to delicious concoctions like The Steaming Bishop mentioned in this week’s Dig column? This delicious, wine-based beverage also features prominently in the Boston Herald’s gallery about LUPEC Boston, which ran with a Herald story about our group today.

We uncovered many recipes for variations on the Bishop, both of the hot and cold variety. Again, we turn our sites to the one offered by Charles H. Baker in The Gentleman’s Companion, reprinted for this generation as Jigger, Beaker, Glass:

From the section titled” FOUR HOT ONES BASED on BRANDY”:

THE SO-CALLED “ENGLISH BISHOP” – Considered by the Author to be One of the Most Attractive Hot Cups ever Invented for the Aid & Comfort of Civilized Man, Discovered in the Summer of 1932 in Boxmoor, Hertfordshire

Take an orange, stud it thickly all over with whole cloves, dip it in cognac and dust with brown sugar. Now brown well until sugar caramels, either spitted upon a skewer or stick before the fire or under the broiler. Cut into quarters; now take a saucepan or other vessel, turn in 1 qt of red port wine, simmer tightly covered for 20 minutes, add 2 jiggers of cognac just before pouring. Can be served flambe with a little brandy floated on top.

PLEASE NOTE: Take utmost care and caution should you decide to go the flambe method. Hanky Panky suggests heating up the booze to get it to ignite it a little more quickly, and using a long match so you don’t burn your little fingers.

Cin cin!

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