The theme for this month’s Mixology Monday, Preserves, could not have arrived at a better time. A few weeks ago, armed with a good knife, a very large pot, and a lot of patience, I made a traditional British marmalade.
It’s been a few years now that I’ve been trying to track down the elusive Seville oranges. They are not commonly found in stores and have a short season. So I was quite excited when I saw them appear at Specialty Produce, my local source for produce. Bumpy, thick-skinned and full of seeds, with an intensely bitter juice, they are not the friendliest of fruit. But under the right conditions, they can become sublime.
It’s Mixology Monday today and the theme selected by Nick of the blog The Straight Up blog is anise.
For the holidays, I was invited to a Norwegian-themed party and was challenged to come up with an aquavit-based drink. I decided to bring a bottle of Jeff Berry’s Peg Leg punch. Punches are always a good idea for parties. You can pre-batch them, so you have something you can serve quickly to your guests while you enjoy the party.
Erik Ellestad of the Savoy Stomp blog has been taking his Savoy Nights on the road and did one at the Eveleigh in LA a few months ago. Sadly, he did not make it down to San Diego (maybe another time?). I am still recovering from my disappointment… Anyway, I’ve been keeping an eye on these events to see what he is mixing.
This cocktail may not have been included on the menu that night, but it’s one that Erik mentioned as being amongst his favorite Savoy cocktails. The Imperial Cocktail is a recipe that actually predates Harry Craddock. I found it in Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks (1917) and also in Tim Daly’s Bartender’s Encyclopedia (1903) (as pointed out by cocktail101).
After making a cordial from wild elderflowers, for my first drink I decided to make a Far Eastern Gimlet. It’s a very simple cocktail based on the classic Gimlet where Rose’s lime juice is replaced with lemon juice and elderflower cordial, plus a dash of Angostura bitters (another well-known bartender ketchup…! I know, I know…). Originally the drink was created at the Merchant Hotel in Belfast, and it was later tweaked by Maks Pazuniak (including the dash of bitters). It has a typical Gimlet profile with a subtle elderflower flavor. It’s nice but may be a little too simple. It’s not quite unforgettable, but if you are a Gimlet fan you will like this version for sure. Trying different gins would be a good idea since the flavor is already subtle, although I would stay with a gin that is juniper-light.
After attending Martin Cate’s fascinating seminar at Tiki Oasis about tiki restaurateur extraordinaire Stephen Crane (Intrigue! Adventure! Hollywood! Tiki!), it is not difficult finding inspiration for new tiki drinks. The other night I made Don the Beachcomber’s Volcano Bowl, a flaming tiki drink which has the particularity of using maple syrup as a sweetening agent. I was looking for drinks from Stephen Crane’s restaurants, the Luau and the Kon Tiki, but ended up finding a swizzle recipe by Martin Cate that looked interesting and also used maple syrup. He named it the Kaieteur Swizzle, after the waterfalls in Guyana.
What is great about swizzles is that they are built directly in the glass. You just add all of your ingredients, then the crushed ice, you swizzle preferably with a swizzle stick made of bois-lélé or a bar spoon, top with crushed ice, add your garnish and a straw, and you are done. Easy and very refreshing in the summer.
Sometimes it’s the middle of an already long week and you feel tired. You need a pre-dinner cocktail but you don’t have any desire to press citrus, prepare elaborate syrups, or measure complicated ratios.
rogue beta cocktails, the little cocktail booklet published by Kirk Estopinal and Maksym Pazuniak (Maks) in 2011, has a lot of cocktails with unusual and bold flavor profiles. Fatigue, an equal parts cocktail, was designed for bartenders suffering from palate fatigue after a long shift.
Tiki cocktails are usually thought as complicated drinks with a lot hard-to-find exotic ingredients, various syrups, and esoteric rum mixes. While this is often true, many of them have a more accessible structure. Take Trader Vic’s Mai Tai for example, his signature drink created in 1944 and composed of six ingredients: aged Jamaican and agricole rums, lime juice, simple syrup, curaçao and orgeat. At the core it’s a daiquiri variation (rum | lime juice | simple syrup), with orgeat and curaçao added as modifiers.
It’s fascinating to see how Don the Beachcomber comes up with something completely different based on a similar structure. When I think of Don the Beachcomber I immediately think of his characteristic use of spice syrups. In his Donga Punch (1937), another Daiquiri variation, he uses lime and grapefruit juice for the citrus, similar to a Hemingway Daiquiri (~1935). This time, though, the sweetening agent, which also acts as a modifier, is the highly aromatic cinnamon syrup, an ingredient that we immediately associate with tiki drinks.
Trying to find an idea for last night’s cocktail was like solving a riddle. I wanted something tiki – I’ve been blogging for a few days already but there has not been a single tiki or tartine in sight! Clearly, this sad situation could not last any longer. I had just received my CSA with a generous amount of fresh fruit and vegetable including plenty of citrus: grapefruit, oranges, and lemons. It looked like I was all set for a nice tiki cocktail when I realized that I only had half a lime left. Of course all my favorite tiki recipes include generous amounts of fresh lime juice, so I was stumped for a few minutes.
Looking through the various books by Jeff Berry and his very handy Tiki+ app, I soon realized that there are only very few tiki recipes that don’t require lime juice. The Halekulani cocktail caught my eye because it uses okolehao as the base spirit. Okolehao is a traditional Hawaiian spirit that is made from the root of the ti plant. It is more or less the local moonshine. After being almost impossible to find for a very long time, it was re-created by Jim Sargent at Haleakala Distillers. The taste is funky, earthy and vegetal. You can detect tropical notes but it’s not for the faint of heart – it is quite powerful.
From an article in Honolulu Magazine (June 2010):
To make the Maui Okolehao, Haleakala Distillers takes the starch of East Maui-grown ti root, converts it into sugar, ferments it with evaporated cane juice and then distills it. What results tastes like a cross between rum and tequila, with hints of honey and a coconut finish, which, Sargent says, “is a distinctly Hawaiian flavor [that] doesn’t taste like any other spirit.”
The recipe for the Halekulani cocktail does not have a lot of sweetener (just a little bit of grenadine). But that was fine because the okolehao liqueur is a little sweet on its own. The final cocktail ended up being daiquiri-like, slightly tart with a complex exotic flavor.