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

by Pink Lady

A favored tipple of grandmas and Brits, sherry hasn’t been popular among young’uns like us in a while. We happen to love the stuff. At the Manhattan Cocktail Classic in New York last week, we attended a seminar on sherry drinks that convinced us sherry will be the next hip thing. Here’s a primer, so you know what to expect when you see it pop up on cocktail lists everywhere.

Most people think of sherry as a sweet wine, but it’s actually made in a variety of styles ranging from super dry pale finos, to the rich, lush wines made from Pedro Ximinez, one of the sweetest wines you’ll ever taste.

Sherry is a fortified wine made in Jerez (southern Spain). Palomino fino is the base grape for most sherries, and it yields a regular wine that is light, pleasant to drink and straightforward, if a bit uninteresting. The sherry-making process changes this wine completely, developing complex flavors that make it an interesting ingredient in any cocktail.

Sherry wines are aged in barrels called “butts” (hehe), under a thick layer of yeast called “flor,” which prevents oxidation of the dry fino wines. After aging for six months, the winemaker checks the wines and determines, based on the flor’s thickness, if the wine will be a fino, or a nuttier, oxidized style, like amontillado or oloroso. Each style is then placed in its own solera, a special system of fractional blending, in which old wine is constantly refreshed with new wine. The barrels are stacked on top of one another in rows called “criaderas,” with the oldest butts on top. In some sherry houses, these criaderas house wine for years. Each time the sherry is bottled, an equal amount of vino is drawn off from each of the criaderas in the solera. That wine is then replaced with wine from the next oldest criadera, and winemakers are careful to blend horizontally and vertically across the rows in the solera. It’s a crazy complicated system, brimming with tradition and, in our opinion, a little bit of magic.

Sherry may be perceived as grandmacore, but back in the Golden Age of cocktails, the sherry cobbler was one of the most popular drinks around. It’s a light, refreshing sip, perfect for spring, and one we highly recommend resurrecting on the patio.

THE SHERRY COBBLER
Adapted from IMBIBE by David Wondrich, based on Jerry Thomas’ recipe

4 oz sherry of your choice

0.5 oz simple syrup

2-3 slices of orange

Shake ingredients with cracked ice, pour unstrained into a tall glass, with fresh fruits in season as garnish.

Dr. Wondrich suggests that Jerry Thomas would have been mixing this with fino sherry, but play around and see which you like best. For fuller, sweeter sherries like Pedro Ximinez or oloroso, scale back the sugar.

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*Recent ruminations from LUPEC Boston, originally published in this week’s Dig. Please note: the Dig’s edition was edited by FakeAPStylebook to promote ROFLCon, a festival celebrating all things Internet…this one is not :)

by Pink Lady

Thousands will descend on Churchill Downs this weekend for the 136th Kentucky Derby. If there was ever a time to don a big hat and languidly sip a cocktail while pretending to be Southern, it’s this Saturday, in anticipation of “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” And your drink should be a mint julep.

The mint julep’s now a staple of Derby Day drinking, but from the turn of the 19th century through the Civil War, it was a staple of everyday drinking. The beverage has agrarian roots, but it fit in at fancy city bars in the early 20th century.

The mint julep was originally built with brandy, but during its heyday, you’d find everything from the gin julep described in Jerry Thomas’ books (made with “Hollands,” or Genever), to the “prescription” Julep, which blends cognac and rye. It’s replete with idiosyncratic nuance, so the nuts and bolts of construction remain a point of regional and bartenderly pride.

“Julep” originally meant “medicinal,” but “after centuries of usage as a term connoting medicine,” writes David Wondrich in Imbibe!, “somehow, in America ‘julep’ morphed into a word for something you drank for fun.” Mint juleps on Derby Day are fun indeed. According to the Kentucky Derby website, almost 120,000 fuel the weekend, requiring “1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint and 60,000 pounds of ice.”

To represent Derby Nation, check out Drink’s “Run for the Roses Party” this Saturday. Enjoy three special cocktails and Southern treats, while listening to a live broadcast of the race. They’re awarding prizes for best hat and encourage derby-appropriate attire.

[Drink, 348 Congress St., Boston. 617.695.1806. 3pm-6pm/$45. drinkfortpoint.com]

CLASSIC MINT JULEP

2 sprigs of mint
1 oz simple syrup
2 oz Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
crushed ice

Pour simple syrup into a glass. Gently muddle one sprig of mint into the syrup, then remove mint.

Fill glass with crushed ice. Add bourbon. Top with more crushed ice, stir.

Cheers! [Italicized when referring to the popular 1980s television program.—Ed.]

CHECK OUT PINK LADY’S VIDEO ON HOW TO MAKE A CLASSIC MINT JULEP AT HOME ON HOW2HEROES. how2heroes.com/videos/beverages/mint-julep

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*The latest ruminations from LUPEC Boston, in case you missed them in The Weekly Dig.

by Pink Lady

Leaf through the pages of the Savoy Cocktail Book or Mr. Boston, and it’s easy to feel intimidated by the idea of coming up with a cocktail all by yourself. Talented modern mixologists are transforming bartending back into the craft it once was, elevating their work behind the stick to an art, to be sure. But this doesn’t mean even a relatively inexperienced home bartender can’t invent a delicious cocktail of their own.

A while back, Bourbon Belle introduced one method of creating your own drink by taking an already existing classic, altering the recipe slightly and giving it a fancy new name. This is how she arrived at her eponymous cocktail, which spiffs up that tried-and-true classic, the Manhattan, with a bit of Mathilde Peches Liqueur. Delish.

Another simple way to craft your own drink is by using a basic template that already works and plugging in ingredients of your choice to make it your own. An easy gateway cocktail template to get you going is the basic sour. Sours are one of the oldest categories of drinks, and though commonly considered “cocktails” now (as most drink are), they represent a drink family all their own. Consider this as you glance over cocktail lists next time you’re out on the town—they’re one of the oldest drinks in the book, but they’re everywhere.

It’s easy to see why sours have stood the test of time: They are simple to create, even with limited cocktail know-how and few ingredients, and they taste delicious. The basic template softens a base spirit with something sweet and something tart. You’ll need to adjust depending on the robustness of your base spirit (gin versus anything brown), the sweetness of your sweetener (simple syrup versus a liqueur, for example) and the acidity of your citrus, but the ratios we give below, as employed in the perennial and often misunderstood whiskey sour, are a good place to start. Then, play around—switch up your base spirit, grab a bottle of St-Germain or some Benedictine and see how that works in place of simple syrup; add some egg white, and top with soda or sparking wine. When you’re through, give your new drink a name and serve it with pride to your friends. They’ll be impressed.

WHISKEY SOUR

2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 oz simple syrup
0.75 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a rocks glass, or a sour glass if you have one.

CIN-CIN!

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*The latest ruminations from LUPEC Boston, in case you missed them in The Weekly Dig

by Pink Lady

A 7.0-magnitude earthquake; over 1.5 million left homeless; as many as 200,000 dead. The statistics flickering across the television screen nightly about the recent earthquake in Haiti seem improbably tragic, difficult to comprehend from the comfortable vantage point of a barstool.

Restaurant industry colleagues have rushed to donate time and talent to raise money to support relief efforts: Via Matta and Radius will donate 100 percent of dessert sales, servers at Myers + Chang have been donating a portion of their tips, Stella did a mini-celebrity chef dinner, and Upstairs on the Square held a day-long fundraiser offering guests opportunities to dine and donate at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our friends over at Drink offered an opportunity for charitable imbibing via a special menu of tropical cocktails made with Haiti’s famous Rhum Barbancourt, with a portion of proceeds going to Haiti relief. The list goes on an on, and we only hope it will grow.

Generous Bostonians, LUPEC salutes you. We invite our readers to do the same by raising a glass of Oloffson’s Punch, invented at the Grand Hotel Oloffson in Port-au-Prince. The eponymous hotel has been many things since it was erected at the turn of the 19th century: a fancy private residence for the then-ruling family, a military hospital occupied by US Marines, a fashionable tourist destination for glitterati like Mick Jagger and Jackie Onassis, and an artistic hub, a sort of “Greenwich Village of the Tropics.”

The enchantingly decrepit hotel also served as backdrop for Graham Greene’s novel, The Comedians. In his words, “You expected a witch to open the door to you or a maniac butler, with a bat dangling from the chandelier behind him.” The hotel’s “tropo-Gothic gingerbread façade” also inspired cartoonist Charles Addams, creator of the famed Addams Family. LUPEC loves a good story, and the Grand Hotel Oloffson is full of ‘em, from tales of an eccentric owner who raised alligators in the hotel swimming pool to the American expat owner who fancied himself a Caribbean version of Rick from Casablanca (weapons scandal and all).

Even as it fell into disrepair in the early ’80s, the Oloffson remained a destination for reporters and aid workers needing a safe place to stay near the heart of the city. Today, it’s where many American journalists are staying as they cover the earthquake that has devastated the country.

LUPEC hopes to partner with member chapters in other cities in the coming weeks to prepare a fundraiser of our own, allowing you to sample some of Haiti’s fine alcoholic heritage, from Rhum Barbancourt to cordials like Combier and Grand Marnier, which source bitter oranges from the tiny republic. Stay tuned for updates, and in the interim, enjoy one of these.

OLOFFSON’S PUNCH

2 oz Haitian dark rum
1 tsp maraschino liqueur
3 oz orange juice
1 1/2 oz lime juice
0.5 oz simple syrup

Shake in an iced cocktail shaker. Strain into a goblet and fill with crushed ice. Serve with straws and garnish with twists of orange and lime.

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