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Archive for September, 2010

*Recent ruminations from LUPEC Boston, as originally published in The Weekly Dig

by Pink Lady

It’s no secret that the ladies of LUPEC love vermouth. We like it poured with a heavy hand in our martinis and our Hearst’s. We have also been known to enjoy it on the rocks with a twist of lemon, orange wheel or even an olive.

A recent excursion to the left coast landed this LUPEC lady at Sutton Cellars, a winery in downtown San Francisco. Though the winery is basically a one-room operation with concrete floors and walls, a small room off the cask-filled space is Sutton’s vermouth lab. Jars filled with infusing botanicals line the walls, and the aroma of dried flowers fills the room. We sampled the freshest vermouth we’d ever tasted there, literally minutes after it was blended.

Vermouth is a special category of aperitifs that takes its name from the German word for wormwood, “wermut,” and is essentially an aromatized wine that has been fortified and flavored with herbs, roots, bark and flowers. Whether red or white in color, white wine is usually used as the base, with color imparted in the vermouth by botanicals.

Sutton’s vermouth is based on neutral white wine, fortified with unaged brandy, and flavored with a proprietary blend of 17 different botanicals. The most prominent among these is chamomile, making for a vermouth that is elegant and floral, with a little citrus kick.

Fortunately for us, Sutton Cellars vermouth is available in the Boston area, too. Hit up Dave’s Fresh Pasta or Central Bottle Wine in Cambridge to sample a bottle. Try it in a martini or on its own to whet your appetite before the dinner hour.

VERMOUTH APERITIF

2 oz Sutton Cellars vermouth

splash soda

Build over rocks in an old fashioned glass and a twist of lemon or orange.

CIN-CIN!

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*Recent ruminations from LUPEC Boston as originally published in The Weekly Dig.

by Pink Lady

Like most culinary potations, cocktails taste as good as the ingredients you put in them, a point that is most potently relevant in the case of fresh juice.

Once upon a time, the only way to impart juice into a cocktail was by reaching for whichever citrus struck your fancy and giving it a squeeze. But as American foodways developed into economies of scale and prefabricated items became vogue, use of fresh citrus in cocktails fell out of fashion. Sour mix, for example, appeared in the 1930s post-Prohibition era as a useful tool for new barkeeps thrust into the job with virtually no training after 13 dry years. Then, as now, it tasted awful compared to the fresh stuff, leaving no wonder as to why so many great classics fell out of fashion.

The best way to understand how fresh juice plays in cocktails is to taste for yourself. Squeeze room-temperature citrus whenever possible (cold fruit yields 1/3 less juice) and just squeeze what you need, as fresh juice becomes bitter very quickly and isn’t worth keeping overnight. If squeezing in any sort of volume, strain your juice with a hand-held citrus squeezer through a fine mesh strainer or chinois to remove any residual pulp.

Even bars that champion fresh lemon and lime will often buy commercial orange and grapefruit juice. Sample this cocktail with fresh grapefruit juice instead, and you’ll never again reach for Ruby Red.

BLINKER COCKTAIL

2 oz rye

1 oz grapefruit juice

1 tsp raspberry syrup

Shake in iced cocktail shaker and strain. Serve in a cocktail glass.

CIN-CIN!

 

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

by Pink Lady

Though it won’t technically be fall for another week, we’ve already begun to seek stronger, spicier cocktails made with dark spirits for September sipping. One of our favorite potations among these is the bewitching blend of applejack, Yellow Chartreuse and Benedictine, called “The Widow’s Kiss.”

Invented by George J. Kappeler while he was head bartender at the Holland House hotel in New York City, The Widow’s Kiss combines the storied herbal liqueurs, Chartreuse and Benedictine, with applejack, likely America’s oldest distilled spirit. Both Chartreuse and Benedictine trace their origins to monastic orders in France (the former in the French Alps, the latter in Normandy) and both are made from closely guarded proprietary recipes that were nearly lost during the French Revolution. Perhaps you’ve overlooked the Chartreuse and Benedictine bottles on the back bar in favor of more aggressively marketed sweeteners, but these august brands have been produced for over 400 and 500 years, respectively. They’ve outlasted many a drinking fad, and many more enthusiastic drinkers.

The Widow’s Kiss was such a hit during Kappeler’s reign at the Holland House, it made it into all the major cocktail books, including his 1895 volume, Modern American Drinks. It also exemplifies a trend that began around the 1880s of American mixologists reaching beyond the maraschino, curaçao and crème de noyaux bottles for complex herbal liqueurs to build new palates of flavors as they created innovative recipes. That tradition lives on in a new generation of American bartenders today.

We’ll drink to that.

THE WIDOW’S KISS

1.5 oz applejack

0.75 oz Yellow Chartreuse

0.75 oz Benedictine

2 dashes angostura bitters

Shake in an iced cocktail shaker, as you recklessly break the cardinal rule of stirring cocktails that contain nothing but booze; strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

CIN-CIN!

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

by Pink Lady

While we will hopefully enjoy the golden days of Indian summer in Boston for a few more weeks, we might as well get our ducks in a row now for the fall and winter sipping that’s on the horizon.

With ample time ahead, why not experiment with a little DIY liqueur making? Apples are beginning appear alongside tomatoes at the farmers market, and before long, we’ll be digging into pies, crisps and crumbles filled with them. A spicy, homemade liqueur is the perfect accompaniment to these delightful desserts.

By definition, a liqueur is an alcoholic beverage of a spirits base that can be flavored with botanicals (herbs, bark, seeds, roots), fresh and dried fruits, dairy products (cream, like Bailey’s), honey, spices or beans (think coffee, cocoa and vanilla). Liqueurs were first produced in Europe to combat intestinal problems, and many are still consumed as an aperitif/digestif today. And of course, many liqueurs find brilliant expression in cocktails.

Making a liqueur at home takes time, often at least a month. To make A.J. Rathbun’s recipe for the Italian liqueur Millefiori (“thousand flowers”), we’ll infuse our neutral spirit through a process of maceration, allowing the distilled spirit to steep with our ingredients for four weeks to capture their strong, spicy flavor.

When LUPEC met A.J. in Boston a few years back he confessed to us that this recipe is his favorite in the book. This fall we’re eager to give it a go.

CIN-CIN!

MILLEFIORI

from Luscious Liqueurs by A.J. Rathbun

2 tbsp whole coriander seeds

4-5 fresh mint leaves

0.5 tsp ground cardamom

0.5 tsp whole cloves

0.5 tsp freshly grated lemon zest

0.5 tsp ground mace

0.5 tsp fresh marjoram leaves

0.5 tsp fresh thyme leaves

4 cups vodka

1.5 cups simple syrup

1. Grind the coriander seeds and mint leaves with a mortar and pestle. You won’t want to destroy them, but you do want them broken up.

2. Put the coriander-mint combo, cardamom, cloves, lemon zest, mace, marjoram, thyme and vodka in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid. Stir well and seal. Place in a cool, dry spot away from sunlight. Let sit for two weeks, swirling it every couple of days.

3. Add the simple syrup, stir well and reseal. Return to its spot. Let sit for two weeks, swirling every couple of days.

4. Filter the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Carefully strain through a double layer of cheesecloth into a pitcher or other easy-pouring vessel. Finally, strain through two new layers of cheesecloth into another pitcher or bottle. Check that the liqueur is free of debris. If it isn’t, repeat this step until the desired clarity is reached. Pour the liqueur into one large bottle, or a number of small bottles or jars.

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

by Pink Lady

Ah, Labor Day—a time to relax, celebrate and have one last weekend of parties before summer turns into fall once again. We see this weekend as one last time to play, but Labor Day as a holiday has its roots in the labor movement of the late 19th century.

The first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City on September 5th, 1882, but the question of who first came up with Labor Day is debated. The most common answer is that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, first suggested a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

National legislation was passed honoring the holiday in the aftermath of the 1894 Pullman Strike, a conflict between labor unions and the railroad industry that halted traffic west of Chicago. US marshals and army troops ordered in by President Grover Cleveland broke up the strike, resulting in 13 deaths and 57 injuries. Following the strike, reconciliation with the Labor Party became a top priority, and legislation to make Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress in order to prevent riots. It passed unanimously and was signed into law just six days after the feds left.

LUPEC would also like to give a special nod to our many forebroads who participated in labor movements throughout history. The Women’s Trade Union League, for example, organized garment and textile workers, worked for protective labor legislation for women and better factory working conditions. Groups like this also served as a support network for women working within the labor movement who were often unwelcome, even barely tolerated, by male officers.

We will keep these labor organizers in mind as we raise a glass—or rather, an ice pop—on this long, lazy holiday weekend.

The recipe below comes to us via Linnea Johannson, a badass party planner and food and lifestyle editor for Elle Magazine. We suggest experimenting with several incarnations—elderflower (use St-Germain), cherry (use Roi René Rouge) and apricot (use Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot) are sure to delight.

 

ADULT ICE POPS

1 part Xanté pear liqueur

1 part lemon juice

1 part Champagne

lemon zest

Combine ingredients in an ice pop mold. Freeze and enjoy!

CIN-CIN!

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