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Archive for June, 2010

*Recent ruminations from LUPEC Boston, originally published in the Weekly Dig.

by Pink Lady + Hanky Panky

In honor of the anniversary of the birth of our nation, the ladies of LUPEC raise our glasses to the original first lady.

Regardless of party affiliation, most of us can agree that our very first president was a relatively stand-up guy, and his wife, Martha (to quote the stoner in Dazed and Confused), “was a hip, hip, hip lady.” And as a couple, George and Martha Washington knew how to party.

Martha took her entertaining duties as first lady very seriously. She hosted lavish parties at the then-capital cities of New York and Philadelphia, and the Washingtons’ estate, Mount Vernon. She wanted our nubile country and government to be on par with our European counterparts, and entertained in a similar formal style. Most of Martha’s affairs began with signature drinks served before dinner, which were likely made with spirits from Washington’s own distillery, one of the largest and most profitable during the colonial era.

According to the Mount Vernon Historical Society, George Washington favored sweet fortified wines like Madeira and port, and was also a fan of Rum Punch. So are we! Here’s Martha’s original recipe (from her notes).

MARTHA WASHINGTON’S RUM PUNCH

4 oz lemon juice
4 oz orange juice
4 oz simple syrup
3 lemons quartered
1 orange quartered
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
3 cinnamon sticks broken
6 cloves
12 oz boiling water

In a container, mash the lemons, orange, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks and cloves. Add syrup, lemon and orange juice. Pour the boiling water over the mixture. Let it cool. Strain out the solids. Heat the juice mixture to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Let it cool and refrigerate overnight.

In a punch bowl, combine:

3 parts juice mixture
1 part light rum
1 part dark rum
1/2 part orange curaçao

Serve the punch over ice. Top with grated nutmeg and cinnamon.

CIN-CIN!

For more stories on Presidential tippling, check out this post-election day post from Nov 2008.

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*Recent ruminations from LUPEC Boston, originally published in the Weekly Dig.

by Pink Lady

It’s easy to walk into a bar and order a call brand of gin with your martini or tonic, but how familiar are you with the gins you order and why you like them? If you’ve only ever tried the brand your dad liked, LUPEC implores you to branch out this summer.

There is art to all distillation, but when it comes to gin in particular, everything about the flavor of the end product depends on the distiller’s choice of botanicals and how they’re infused. In a sense, gin is the original flavored vodka. All gin begins as neutral spirit (typically distilled from cereal grains) which most producers purchase (though it’s usually distilled to their specifications and desired standards). The gin is then flavored by the master distiller using whatever botanicals his heart desires along with gin’s signature flavor, juniper berries.

To ensure that their product stands out in the marketplace, distillers go to great lengths to develop botanical blends that make their gins different from the rest. Common botanicals include all manner of citrus peels, coriander seed, Angelica root, cardamom, licorice, orris root powder, bitter almonds and much, much more. Once the list is finalized, the distiller must develop the gin recipe by testing it in many small batches until the perfect balance is achieved.

Another factor that directly impacts flavor is how the distiller gets those botanical essences into his high-proof neutral spirit. In one method, the botanical blend steeps with the spirit for a length of time before water’s added and the spirit is redistilled. Other distillers toss the botanical mixture into the still with the spirit and begin redistilling immediately. They may also opt to impart flavor by hanging the botanicals in a wire basket through which the spirit passes during the distillation process, picking up their essence.

With all of this in mind, we suggest you revisit your favorite gin brands and taste them side by side. There’s much more to these brands than just packaging, and we think you’ll be fascinated by the difference a brand makes. After you’ve tasted them on their own, try them in cocktails—a martini, a Pink Gin or a Pegu Club, perhaps—to see which gin is best for which occasion.

PEGU CLUB

1.75 oz gin

0.75 oz orange curaçao

0.5 oz fresh lime juice

dash angostura bitters

dash orange bitters

Shake in iced cocktail shaker; strain into a vintage cocktail glass.

CIN-CIN!

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*Recent ruminations from LUPEC Boston, originally published in the Weekly Dig.

The Sidecar was a gateway cocktail for many of us LUPEC Boston gals, a drink that is not unlike the Manhattan and curiously still kicking in modern bars, despite its vintage roots.

Many will claim the Sidecar was invented in the 1920s at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. According to one charming story, the bartender whipped this up to quench the thirst of a US Army captain, a regular who traveled to and from the bar via a motorcycle and needed a tipple to take off the winter chill. But savvy cocktailians will recognize this drink as little more than an evolved Brandy Crusta.

The Brandy Crusta was invented in the Crescent City by bartender Joe Santini, who took over at the New Orleans’ City Exchange in the 1850s. At the time, it was a unique blend of two different drinks—the “cocktail,” which was a short drink with bitters, and a “punch,” a long drink with citrus. Now, of course, we all drink “cocktails” much as we were all drinking “martinis” in the 1990s. But in those days, the category name had some relevance. The Crusta was enjoyed mostly locally, until Professor Jerry Thomas included instructions for how to mix it in his 1862 recipe book, The Bon Vivant’s Companion. By the 1890s, adding citrus to “cocktails” was de rigeur. Thirty years later, Crustas were out and Sidecars were in.

Father Knows Best at Fleming's

Father’s Day is this Sunday. Instead of gifting dad a pair of cufflinks or another boring tie, why not treat him to a classic cocktail, perhaps enjoyed with a nice beefy steak? They’re serving an American version of the classic Sidecar, made with Jack Daniels and Triple Sec, over at Fleming’s [217 Stuart St., Boston. 617.292.0808. $9.95. flemingssteakhouse.com] during Father’s Day brunch. You can order this drink, the “Father Knows Best,” or stick to the classic recipe with cognac and Cointreau, listed below. Either way, raise a glass this week to dear old dad.

CIN-CIN!

SIDECAR

As originally made, adapted from Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh

1 oz brandy

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake ingredients in an iced cocktail shaker. Strain into a chilled vintage cocktail glass. Serve with a sugar rim.

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*LUPEC ruminations, as previously published in the Weekly Dig.

Imagine 35 pairs of arms working in tandem to produce a cocktail just for you. If you were in New Orleans for Mardi Gras circa 1915, The Stag saloon would have offered this surreal experience. There, Henry Ramos mixed up his special New Orleans fizzes, believed to be the best in the world.

Ramos invented the drink at his Imperial Cabinet saloon in 1888, when New Orleans was becoming a hot tourist destination, beloved for its quaint, historic saloons. Ramos profited greatly from this boom, as tourists thronged his establishment for a taste of his famous house fizzes. Six bartenders were employed per shift at the Imperial Cabinet, each with his own dedicated “shaker boy,” “a young black man whose sole job was to receive the fully charged shaker from the bartender and shake the bejeezus out of it,” writes David Wondrich in IMBIBE!.

Why all the shaking? This particular fizz recipe calls for egg white and cream, two ingredients that are famously difficult to emulsify. “Shake and shake and shake until there is not a bubble left, but the drink is smooth and snowy white and of the consistency of good rich milk,” Ramos said. If preparing a Ramos Gin Fizz, you’d best bring your guns to the show.

By Mardi Gras in 1915, Ramos had conceived a new format for emulsifying: 35 shakermen would shake the drink until their arms were tired, then pass it on down the line.

There is one place where you can still see great displays of mixological showmanship: Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. This five-day celebration of the history and artistry of drink-making is just around the corner. LUPEC Boston will be there. Days filled with nerdy cocktail seminars taught by the most talented folks in the beverage industry, nights filled with boozing at New Orleans’ famous bars and a chance to sample a Ramos Gin Fizz in its hometown—we wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Think about joining us as you shake your own fizz long and hard.

RAMOS FIZZ

Adapted from The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks by Dale DeGroff

1.5 oz gin

0.5 oz fresh lemon juice

0.5 oz fresh lime juice

1.5-2 oz simple syrup, to taste

2 oz heavy cream

0.75 oz egg white

2 drops orange-flower water

club soda

Combine the gin, juices, syrup, cream, egg white and orange-flower water in a mixing glass with ice, and shake long and hard to emulsify the egg. Strain into a highball glass without ice. Top with soda but no garnish.

CIN-CIN!

TALES OF THE COCKTAIL IS JULY 21st-25th IN NEW ORLEANS. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT TALESOFTHECOCKTAIL.COM

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*Recent ruminations from LUPEC Boston, originally published in the Weekly Dig.

As you’ve probably noticed, LUPEC doesn’t devote much time to vodka cocktails. “It’s the predominant spirit on most cocktail lists,” you may be thinking, “so what gives? What do you broads have against vodka?”

It’s not that we have anything against vodka. We are egalitarian imbibers, after all, and we knocked back our share of Cosmopolitans in the ’90s. Our issue, really, is that vodka didn’t take root as a popular American tipple until well into the 20th century. Our mission is to “breed, raise and release cocktails that are endangered” into the wild, and there are precious few of these that use vodka as a base.

To paraphrase the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s definition, vodka is a neutral spirit distilled from any material reduced to 80-110 degrees in proof, “to be without distinctive character, aroma, or taste.” It was a tough sell when Rudolph Kunett first bought the rights to produce Smirnoff in North America in the 1930s. Americans favored strong-flavored spirits, like our native whiskies and the gin that kept the country wet through Prohibition. Our fore-drinkers hardly knew what to do with a product “better known for what it didn’t taste like than by what it did,” as Anthony Dias Blue writes in The Complete Book of Spirits. An aggressive, clever marketing campaign fabricated by Smirnoff eventually spun vodka into the vogue new spirit, and it hasn’t looked back since the 1940s.

While vodka cocktails may be nowhere near endangerment, vodkas that champion flavor over neutrality are a rare find. We were recently introduced to Karlsson’s, a brand that does just that. A Swedish vodka made with seven different kinds of virgin new potatoes (little baby potatoes harvested so young, they don’t have time to develop skin) distilled only once to carefully preserve the flavors of its base.

So, how does it taste? It has a vegetal, slightly briny aroma and a nutty, sweet taste with hints of cocoa. It feels rich, silky and weighty on the palate. We look forward to playing around with it and developing some modern classics with this new-old style spirit. In the interim, we quite enjoyed sampling Karlsson’s on the rocks with freshly cracked black pepper. And we’ve heard it sings in one of these, created by New York barstar Jim Meehan:

THE GOLD COAST

2 oz Karlsson’s Gold vodka

0.25 oz Carlshamns Flaggpunsch (Swedish punch)

0.25 oz simple syrup

1 pinch fresh dill

Muddle dill and simple syrup in a mixing glass. Add vodka, punsch and ice, then stir and strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with two spritzes of black pepper essence.

CIN-CIN!

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