Tucked within the beautiful Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green, Peg + Patriot is a cosy bar that was opened just a few months ago by Matt Whiley of the Talented Mr Fox and his team, Ally Martin and James Stevenson. It was pretty quiet on a Sunday night, with just a few barstools occupied. I took a spot at the bar and studied the clipboard-bound menu. Is it me, or are a lot of London bars hopelessly obsessed with clever puns? Continue reading
Tequila is not a spirit that is very well represented in mixed drinks, and even less so in tiki cocktails. Beachbum Berry’s Total Tiki app includes only 4 tequila recipes out of a total of 238. Two of these recipes mix tequila with rum to great effect.
The first one, Jim’s Special, created at cult tiki bar Tiki-Ti in LA, pairs aged tequila with dark Jamaican rum. Coruba dark Jamaican rum provides body to the drink with plenty of molasses, while the aged tequila (7 Leguas añejo) adds wonderful notes of pepper, cinnamon, honey, and wood. With two such strong elements, you need other standout flavors – passion fruit syrup, orange with curaçao, and lime for acidity. Finally, a touch of orgeat rounds everything out. The resulting cocktail is deep, strong, mysterious, and delicious.
The Mixology Monday Challenge this month is about coconuts, right in the footsteps of a recent pineapple challenge. There is something delicious about a proper Piña Colada made with fresh ingredients that I could not resist. For the coconut element, using fresh coconut water instead of cream preserves the coconut flavor but cut downs considerably on the sweetness, which is a good thing. There is no need to compensate by adding sugar – pineapple is plenty sweet on its own. My pineapple had the right balance of sweetness and acidity and was fine as is, but if it’s very sweet, adding a squeeze of lime juice can help make flavors pop.
Cocktails with orange juice are evil, I’ve always been convinced. No matter how hard I try, I cannot find too many good things to say about The Bronx or the Blood and Sand. Even PDT could not get the Monkey Gland right. All these cocktails seem to compensate for their inadequacy with catchy names. Continue reading
Tiki Oasis, the annual festival of all things tiki, begins tonight in San Diego. It is the 14th edition of the largest tiki gathering, and an occasion to meet fellow tiki lovers from all over the world, in an environment that includes live music, exotic cocktails, seminars, and art shows.
After a great dinner at the Corner Room in Bethnal Green, I decided to check out nearby bar Satan’s Whiskers which had just opened a few months back. The bar, indicated by a red neon sign, had the expected decor of hipster cocktail lounges with a tasteful mix of brick, reclaimed items, light bulbs with visible filaments, a selection of taxidermied and accessorized animals, a unicorn skeleton, and an ironic old school hip hop soundtrack.
Lately I’ve been mixing with armagnac, cognac’s lesser known cousin. Armagnac and cognac are both distilled from grapes, but unlike cognac which is twice distilled in pot stills, armagnac is typically distilled only once in column stills, which results in a different flavor profile. Whereas cognac is smooth and refined, armagnac has a lot more character and roughness which makes it very interesting in cocktails.
So for this month’s Mixology Monday Smash Challenge, I decided to use armagnac as the base spirit. It’s also fitting that, historically, smashes used to be made with brandy before whiskey smashes became more popular. My inspiration for the drink was a traditional French pairing, plum and armagnac. In France you often see a simple dessert of Agen pruneaux (dried plums) with armagnac. Armagnac and the best prunes come from Gascony in southwestern France, so it’s only natural to serve them together.
Plums are in season and I had on hand a variety of pluot (Flavor King, a plum-apricot hybrid) from Frog Hollow Farm that I decided to incorporate in the cocktail. They are very sweet and have a slight acidic bite. To reinforce the plum flavor, I also used some plum eau-de-vie. Combining armagnac with the eau-de-vie gave depth to the cocktail. I added a touch of lemon juice for acidity. The plums were quite sweet so I did not have to add sugar or simple syrup. I garnished the drink with a slice of fresh plum and a couple of brandied cherries, plus fresh mint from my patio.