San Diego Beer & Cocktail News (July 2014)

Polite Provisions won the Spirited Award for Best American High Volume Cocktail Bar last week at Tales of the Cocktail, the New Orleans cocktail festival. It’s great to see San Diego recognized, although there are other establishments of similar caliber that certainly merit a nod (maybe next year?). Craft & Commerce had been nominated in the same category in 2012. The full list of TOTC winners available on Difford’s also prominently includes London’s Artesian, which was crowned the World’s Best Bar (see here for my impressions).

The other exciting news from this weekend is that Stone has announced that they will be opening their first European brewery in Berlin in 2015-2016. This has been years in the works. Similar to the San Diego set-up, the facility will include a production brewery, a restaurant, and gardens. See here for the official press release.

MxMo Pineapple Challenge: the Riviera and the 1956 Zombie

This month, the Mixology Monday Challenge is hosted by Thiago of the Bartending Notes blog, and the theme is Pineapple. Of course one option is to go with pineapple juice as the pineapple component, and we will explore that option with the second cocktail. But unless making fresh juice from scratch, I often feel that the quality of pineapple juice is a bit left to be desired. Infusing the base spirit with pineapple seems like an excellent solution to get a fresh pineapple flavor. Typically pineapple is paired with rum which seems to emphasize its sweetness. But why not highlight the herbaceous nature of pineapple instead, and pair it with gin. So I decided to make a pineapple infusion with Beefeater London dry gin.

After 48 hours, I tasted the gin and it was intensely flavored. It is the main component of Toby Maloney’s creation, the Riviera cocktail. The other elements are Campari for a touch of bitter orange, maraschino liqueur for sweetness and funk, and orange bitters to round everything off. An egg white creates texture.

The Riviera (Toby Moloney)

Riviera Cocktail (adapted from Toby Maloney) | 1 oz pineapple-infused gin (Beefeater) | 3/4 oz lemon juice | 1/2 oz (short) maraschino | 1/4 oz Campari | 1/4 oz simple syrup | egg white | dry shake | shake with ice | strain into chilled coupe | mint leaf and orange bitters garnish (2 dashes Fee’s, 1 dash Regan’s)

In the glass, the Riviera looks like the ultimate girly drink with its incredible cotton-candy color and cloud of egg foam. It evokes a strawberry smoothie because of its texture and color. A guilty pleasure. What I love about it is that it is a grown-up drink despite appearances.  The flavor is very delicate and complex, floral and herbal. It reminds me of the Juliet and Romeo, another one of Toby’s gin-based creations. It’s the kind of drink people may order based on looks alone, but it is so much more. It would make an excellent introduction to Campari for bitter-timid cocktail enthusiasts.

Pineapple-infused gin

For my second cocktail, I used the challenge as an excuse to explore one of the many Zombie variations that Jeff Berry thoroughly researched and documented. The version I make regularly is Don the Beachcomber’s 1934 masterpiece which actually does not contain any pineapple. In its 1956 iteration, pineapple juice and maraschino liqueur take the place of the cinnamon syrup and some of the falernum. The resulting cocktail is a little more straightforward and less spice-heavy than the 1934 version. It tastes like something you would enjoy at Waikiki beach while watching the sunset; it’s tropical and multi-layered, and still incredibly strong with its three-rum combination.

1956 Zombie

1956 Zombie (Don the Beachcomber via Jeff Berry) | to a mixing glass add | 1.25 oz  gold Puerto Rican rum (Plantation 5) | 1 oz dark Jamaican rum (Appleton 12) | 1 oz 151 rum (Lemonhart) | 3/4 oz lime juice | 1/2 oz grapefruit juice | 1.5 oz pineapple juice | 1/4 oz falernum (homemade) | 3/4 oz maraschino liqueur | 1 dash grenadine | 2 dashes Angostura bitters | 6 drops absinthe (St. George) | shake with ice | strain onto fresh crushed ice in a large tiki mug

 

mxmologo

Thanks to Thiago for hosting the MxMo this month and challenging me to explore an ingredient I rarely use. And thanks to Fred for keeping MxMo alive and well.

 

References

  • Here is a video of Toby Maloney himself making a Riviera cocktail.

London adventures: Borough Market, Wright Brothers, and the Whisky Exchange

Borough market, London’s oldest market, is located near the London Bridge (that tourists like me often confuse with Tower Bridge, but that’s a different story). It is a covered market packed full of seasonal fruit and vegetables, cheese, meats (including game), fish, and hordes of hungry tourists on a Saturday afternoon. I walked around the stalls for a little while; people where lined up for prepared foods and it was easy to get overwhelmed with all the different options. It might be best to come back early in the morning for a more relaxing experience. In the end, I opted to flee the crowds and walked a few steps to Wright Brothers for a late lunch.

Wright Brothers is a seafood restaurant located near the market. I took a seat at the counter and decided to pass on the oysters this time, and instead started the meal with a plate of devilled whitebait with tartare sauce. Whitebait is one of these Proust madeleines for me; I used to have it all the time when I grew up in France, but it’s not something I see very often in the US, and I had not had it in ages. The plate was generous, and it was a delicious treat to eat these crisp little fish with a wedge of lemon, accompanied by a glass of Yakima red ale on draft. Yakima is brewed by Meantime, a local brewing company located in Greenwich, using five hop varieties from the Yakima valley in Washington state.  The beer was moderately hoppy with a good malt to bitterness balance. It was light and perfect to start my lunch.

London day 2

For my main course, I went with the special of the day which was roast hake with spinach, saffron & clams. The fillet of hake had a beautiful crispy skin. The sauce was rich from the cream and delicately flavored with saffron and seafood broth. The clams were succulent; a shame that there were only a few of them! I had a glass of sparkling Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2009 with my dish. French snob as I am, I had never heard of this sparkling wine from West Sussex until a friend recommended it. It has a nice acidity with notes of citrus and some almond in the finish. I was favorably impressed.

After this restorative lunch, I walked a few steps to the Whisky Exchange under the arches of Vinopolis. I was already familiar with this liquor store and its extensive inventory, a mecca for scotch-lovers. What I did not know is that they offered tastings! I got to try a few new London dry gins and a couple of liqueurs. There is an adjacent space that specializes in wines, and a counter where you can taste them before making a selection. In the end, I got a bottle of bitters made in Scotland by Adam Elmegirab for the Dead Rabbit in New York that are still hard to find in the US, the cardamom-forward Orinoco bitters. A small bottle that made a great souvenir.

Bitters selection at the Whisky Exchange
The bitter selection at the Whisky Exchange

 

 

Further reading and references

Recently I’ve had a chance to spend a bit of time in London, currently one of the most exciting food and drink capitals. This post summarizes part of a trip that took place earlier this year. For Part 1, see here.

Spring Sazerac and Summertime Manhattan

The Sazerac and Manhattan are classics that I enjoy all year long. But sometimes I look for variations with a slightly lighter feel to accompany the change of seasons.

Sam Ross’ Cobble Hill is a Manhattan with dry vermouth where half of the vermouth is replaced with Montenegro, an amaro. Cucumber is muddled into the drink. With dry vermouth and cucumber, the cocktail feels light and fresh which is unusual for a rye-based cocktail. The result still has the richness and complexity of a Manhattan/Brooklyn variation, the Montenegro contributing is vanilla notes and bitter finish.

I’ve tried Bulleit and High West Double Rye! in this drink and prefer the version with the latter. Its green and almost floral aromas go particularly well with the Montenegro.

 

Cobble Hill (Sam Ross) with High west double rye, Dolin dry vermouth, amaro Montenegro, muddled cucumber

Cobble Hill | to a stirring glass add | 2 oz rye | 0.5 oz dry vermouth | 0.5 oz montenegro | 3 slices cucumber | muddle | stir with ice | strain into chilled cocktail coupe | cucumber garnish

 

For his Spring Sazerac, Toby Maloney goes back to the roots of the Sazerac and uses cognac as the base rather than rye. He specifies demerara simple syrup with a touch of curaçao as the sweetener. The Peychaud’s bitters are replaced with a mix of orange (I used 5 drops of Regan’s and 6 drops of Fee Brothers) and aromatic bitters (I went with Angostura). The absinthe rinse is traditional.

The result is sweeter than a rye-based Sazerac, with the additional sweetness balanced by the orange flavor of the curaçao and orange bitters. The Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac and dry curaçao worked particularly well in the drink which is still a sipper, but one that is surprisingly easy to drink (a beginner’s Sazerac?). I am also very curious to try an armagnac version.

I’ve seen variations of this cocktail with apricot liqueur, and it would be fairly easy to come up with more by just changing the sweetening agent. You can turn spring into summer with a touch of chamomile, autumn with apple, or winter with coffee.

Spring Sazerac (Toby Maloney) with Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac and dry curaçao, demerara syrup, orange and Angostura bitters, St. George absinthe

Spring Sazerac | to a mixing glass add | 2 oz cognac | 1/8 oz (scant barspoon) curaçao | 1/8 oz demerara simple syrup | 11 drops orange bitters | 9 drops aromatic bitters | stir with ice | strain into chilled rocks glass rinsed with absinthe | twist lemon peel over the drink

Unfinished business in London

Recently I’ve had a chance to spend a bit of time in London, currently one of the most exciting food and drink capitals. This post summarizes part of a trip that took place earlier this year.

The evening started with an early dinner at J. Sheekey Oyster Bar. Located steps away from the Leicester Square station on St. Martin’s court, the oyster bar is near its big brother J. Sheekey, a seafood institution which has been in business for more than 100 years. The oyster bar itself is a fairly small art deco room with an imposing marble horseshoe-shaped counter, and a décor of black and white photographs on wood paneled walls. Even though it opened just a few years ago, the restaurant as a certain timeless charm and a calm atmosphere.

The selection is extensive, from small plates of seafood to shellfish platters. I started with Gillardeau Speciales from France which were some of the best oysters I’ve ever had. They were crisp and full of delicious broth, similar to Fines de Claires but perhaps slightly more on the rich and savory side. Then came a bass ceviche with avocado and a plantain crisp, and razor clams with chorizo and hedgerow garlic, a type of wild garlic. Finally, the piece de resistance was a Devon Cock Crab. It takes a little bit of work to release all the sweet and succulent meat, but this gave me a chance to slow down and enjoy a glass of Sauvignon blanc from Touraine. As for dessert, the brown meat from the shell that I spread on a slice of baguette was rich like a delicious little seafood foie gras treat.

La Bodega Negra
Afilador and Martinezita at La Bodega Negra

On my way to the Artesian bar at the Langham hotel, I was enticed to stop at a sex shop turned Mexican speakeasy, La Bodega Negra. The décor of this underground bar is an amusing mix of lucha libre paraphernalia crossed with somewhat daring imagery and accessories. As expected, the bar has a good selection of tequila and mezcal. The cocktails are for the most part tequila and mezcal twists on classics. I sampled an Afilador, a Corpse Reviver No. 2 variation with tequila and absinthe, and a Martinezita, a Martinez with reposado tequila mixed with sweet and dry vermouths, which was my favorite of the two.

The Artesian bar
Cocktail menu at the Artesian bar

Then it was time to go to the Artesian Bar. Unlike the American Bar at the Savoy, another world class hotel bar, the bar is immediately visible from the entrance and dominates the room. The décor, a mix of chinoiseries and mirrors, is elegant and fun to look at. The menu designed by Alex Kratena and Simone Caporale seemed a little gimmicky at first with its butterfly wheel, a painter’s palette providing various options from “fruity & refreshing” to “woody & deep”. But it serves a purposes as it accurately describes the type of drink you are about to enjoy.

I started with the Unfinished Business which is served on a large ice sphere and garnished with a slice of chorizo and a caper berry. The drink, a mixture of Woodford Reserve bourbon, Martini Rosso, galangal, and bitters, slowly ages on the counter of the bar in a large leather “pig”. This custom-made wineskin is an interesting alternative to the barrel-aged cocktails that have been popping up everywhere. The result is a slightly savory take on a Manhattan which is very aromatic and smooth, a phenomenal drink. The Secret & Lies was refreshing scotch-based cocktail with pomegranate and rose.

Artesian
Secrets and Lies and Unfinished Business at the Artesian

I concluded with the Above & Beyond which is described as adventurous and came with a pillow floating above the glass. Eucalyptus air, once released from its plastic cloud, immediately transported me to a different place and surrounded the glass as I enjoyed my drink. Ron Zacapa rum (aged at high altitude, “above the clouds”) and sherry are the foundation of this cocktail, with coffee and banana accents providing depth and richness, and Fernet a lingering bitterness. What a great way to finish the evening.

 

References and Further Reading

 

Cold as a carafe of orgeat

I’ve been making orgeat for several years now, as this is an essential component in some of the most important tiki cocktails like the Mai Tai. Orgeat is an almond syrup that was originally made from barley (orge in French), hence its name. If you’ve only tried the common brands of commercial orgeat (Torani and co), then you are really missing the point. These commercial syrups are essentially sugar or corn syrup mixed with a touch of flavorings, and their artificial taste, which is reminiscent of the almond-scented Cléopâtre white glue that I used in kindergarten in France, won’t do much good in cocktails.

Trader Vic Mai Tai with Appleton 12, La Favorite rhum agricole vieux, Clement creole shrubb, homemade orgeat, and lime juice

Trader Vic Mai Tai with homemade orgeat

Homemade orgeat has a fresh and vibrant almond flavor that shines in many cocktails. Its texture is rich and silky, not unlike gum syrup. Technically, orgeat is an emulsion and the process used to make it extracts the oils from the almonds to produce almond milk, a translucent liquid. Orgeat is obtained by adding sugar and orange blossom water to this nut milk. A similar type of syrup can be prepared from other types of seeds, as long as they are rich enough in oils, which opens the door to exploration. It’s possible to make walnut (see the end of this post), pistachio, hazelnut, or even sesame seed orgeat…

The orgeat recipe that I have been using is adapted from of the bibles of tiki cocktail books, Jeff Berry’s Beachbum Berry Remixed, and was originally developed by Darcy O’Neil from Art of Drink. I typically make a quarter batch  – original quantities are noted in parentheses in the recipe below, with my notes in italics. When stored in a clean glass bottle in the fridge it can last for a couple of months.

Ingredients

500 g (125 g) blanched almonds

I use sliced blanched (skin removed) almonds, the freshest I can find. Some people prefer roasting them beforehand. I like the green/fresh almond flavor so I just use them as is and don’t roast them. My end result is milky white. With roasted almonds you get more of the caramelized flavor which can be distracting in certain drinks, and the resulting orgeat will be golden brown.

800 mL (200 mL) (filtered) water

700g (175 g) (white) sugar

100 mL (25 mL) vodka or brandy (I use Tito vodka which is neutral)

2 Tablespoons (1/2 tablespoon) (orange flower water or rose flower water (optional) (I use orange flower water)

Method

  • Place the almonds in a bowl with cold water, soak for 30 min. Drain and discard the water.
  • Grind the almonds finely in a food processor.

Orgeat

  • Transfer the almonds to a bowl with the 800 mL (200 mL) water. Let stand for 1 to 2 hours.
  • Strain the almond and water mixture into another bowl using a metal strainer lined with cheesecloth. (I use a nylon cheesecloth that I get from a cheesemaking supply store. The mesh size on regular fabric cheesecloth is way too big and it does not work for that purpose.) Squeeze to extract all the liquid.

Orgeat

  • Put the almonds back into the bowl and let stand for another hour, and then strain again. Repeat a third time if time permits.
  • Pour the strained liquid into a pan, discarding the almond pulp. Add the sugar and heat very gently, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat as soon as the sugar is fully dissolved.

Orgeat

  • Let cool as needed. Add the orange flower water and vodka. Transfer to a glass bottle.

Homemade orgeat

Yield 1.5 L (375 mL)

Note: orgeat has a tendency to settle over time, so just make sure to give the bottle a good shake before each use.

Variation: walnut orgeat

Same as above, but instead of the almonds, use walnuts (Smith & Cross-soaked if you have been making walnut-infused rum for your Rum DMCs),  and skip the first step.

I hope that I have convinced you to make your own orgeat, as it’s definitely worth the small effort. If not, you can always buy one of the artisanal orgeats that are now available. Small Hand Foods and B.G. Reynolds make good ones.

References

 

Even a blind pig finds a nut once in a while

For this month’s MxMo Nuts Challenge, I decided to recreate a drink that was one of the best I had in 2013. Last October while in London I went to The Blind Pig at Social Eating House, a bar in Soho, with a couple of fellow eGulleters/cocktailian friends. I was advised that there was one drink that was not to be missed on the menu, and I could tell why right away based on its list of ingredients. The primary ingredient is walnut-infused Smith & Cross rum which is something that is very hard to resist. This potent rum is paired with another Jamaican rum, Appleton, together with Cynar, lime juice, maple syrup, and orange bitters. It’s been a few months and I still think about that cocktail. The MxMo challenge gave me the opportunity to finally reproduce it at home.

Let the madness begin... Walnut-infused S&C for the MxMo Nuts challenge - inspired by Gareth Evans

I started with the Smith & Cross walnut infusion. It’s really not that difficult: all you need is S&C rum, fresh walnuts, and a little bit of time. I used about 1 cup of rum and 120g of walnuts that I chopped roughly. I let the mixture sit at room temperature, occasionally giving it a good shake, and tasting it a couple of times a day until it was to my liking. I let it go for five days and decided it had enough of the walnut flavor without being overly tannic, and also I was growing quite impatient at that point. So I double-strained it using a nylon cheesecloth over a fine mesh strainer.

Walnut-infused S&C

Then it was time to make the cocktail, which is named the Rum DMC. (Its creator, 2013 UK World Class Champion Gareth Evans, who very nicely shared the ratios for the cocktail, has a taste for pun-heavy cocktails.)

The walnuts in the rum go wonderfully well with the caramelized notes of the Cynar and the maple syrup. The cocktail is powerful and bitter, with just enough lime just to keep things light.

Rum DMC

Rum DMC (Gareth Evans) | 20 mL walnut-infused S&C rum | 20 mL Appleton rum | 20 mL cynar | 15 mL lime | 10 mL maple syrup | dash orange bitters | shake | strain into coupe

The beauty of the recipe is that you end up with this beautiful infused rum that is both versatile and delicious, and also with walnuts that are now soaked with rum. So it’s a perfect opportunity to use these nuts to whip up a batch of orgeat! I used the recipe from Jeff Berry in Beachbum Berry Remixed.

Orgeat prep - soakingOrgeat prep - grinding
Orgeat prep - strainingWalnut orgeat

The walnut orgeat was put into good use in a Mai Tai variation. I drew my inspiration from the classic Trader Vic Mai Tai and another pun-incorporating-cocktail, the Arrack and a Hard Place which, as it names indicates, contains Batavia Arrack. Batavia Arrack is distilled from sugar cane and fermented red rice. It has a very pungent and spice-forward aroma and can be challenging to mix with. The recipe already called for S&C rum as another ingredient, so I used my walnut-infused S&C. For the second nut component, instead of amaretto I went back to the classic Mai Tai and used my walnut orgeat instead of the traditional almond-based orgeat. The orange liqueur was Clement Creole shrubb which is rhum agricole-based. Lastly, for the bitters, I married the whiskey barrel-aged bitters from the original recipe with pecan bitters from Miracle Mile.

The result is a cocktail that provides a nice transition from spring to summer. It feels familiar with the classic Mai Tai flavor profile – rum-forward, potent, and a bit tart. It is also full of spice with the batavia arrack, and feels cozy and comforting at the same time with its nut undertones.

Arrack and a Hard Place with Batavia Arrack, walnut-infused Smith & Cross rum, lime juice, Clement creole shrubb, walnut orgeat, barrel-aged bitters

Walnut Mai Tai | 3/4 oz batavia arrack | 3/4 oz walnut-infused smith & cross rum | 3/4 oz lime juice | 3/4 oz walnut orgeat | 1/2 oz clement creole shrubb | shake with ice | strain into a double old fashioned glass filled with crushed ice | spent lime and mint garnish | drizzle with whiskey barrel aged and pecan bitters

Many thanks to Elana of Stir and Strain for hosting the challenge this month, and to Fred of Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping MxMo going month after month.

 

References

 

mxmologo