Like a lot of my cocktailian friends, the Aviation is one of the drinks that really got me into cocktails a while back. Lured by the appeal of a cocktail with a beautiful pale blue hue, for months (years?) I looked for that elusive bottle of violet liqueur. When I finally put my hands on one, the Aviation became my go-to cocktail for a while and was what I would serve to my friends at cocktail parties. I loved how refreshing and interesting it was, despite having only a few ingredients.
Since living in the U.S., there are a few holiday traditions that I have adopted. While I refuse to be involved with turkey in any shape or form, I can certainly appreciate a nice holiday punch. I’ve noticed that it tends to make family reunions a little more pleasant for everyone. And some, like the Fish House Punch, are so tasty that they get requested year after year.
There is a little place from out of town
Where, if you go to lunch,
They’ll make you forget your mother-in-law
With a drink called Fish-House Punch.
- Leaky ice maker
- Freezer converted into giant block of ice
- Repairmen break a wall while “repairing” freezer
- Extensive leaks after repair
- Pay $250 and go back to step 2
- Spend 1 hour chiseling out ice to extract ingredients for dinner
- Kitchen transformed into a giant swimming pool
- Need a drink
- Abundant ice available, none suitable for cocktails
- Secret stash of Tovolo ice cubes located
- Cocktail achieved
Dinah Sanders who authored the Art of the Shim, a nice little book about low-alcohol cocktails, is hosting Mixology Monday this month and has chosen shims as her theme. She defines them as drinks that contain less than half an ounce of strong spirits.
One of my favorite discoveries in the book is the Rhum Dandy Shim by Craig Lane of Bar Agricole in San Francisco. It’s red vermouth-based and cleverly uses rhum agricole and absinthe as modifiers. It manages to create a huge amount of flavor with only half an ounce of hard liquor. A very inspiring drink that shows that you don’t have to compromise on taste with these low-octane libations.
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.
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.
It’s winter, but that’s not a reason to not enjoy tiki cocktails. When the weather is colder, spice-forward cocktails are especially appropriate.
Here are a couple of tiki drinks that I have enjoyed recently. The first one is the Winter Diamonback that was created at the El Dorado lounge in San Diego. It is based on the template of Harry Craddock’s Rattlesnake, one of my favorite cocktails that combines rye with lemon, simple syrup, egg white, and a rinse of absinthe. Changing the sweetener from simple syrup to a combination of cinnamon syrup and orgeat is the basis for the Winter Diamondback. With its cinnamon and absinthe flavor, it is unmistakably a tiki drink in the vein of Don the Beachcomber’s best creations, even though it’s rye-based. The blanket of egg white softens the flavors and helps blend everything harmoniously.
The Ward Eight is a famous cocktail created in Boston that is considered a classic. But despite its reputation, it never completely convinced me. I see two problems with the Ward Eight. First orange juice is a difficult ingredient in cocktails. Orange does not have the acidity of lemon or lime, and often fails to balance the sweetness of the other ingredients. Then the drink also includes grenadine which is another problematic ingredient. I am not even talking about fake commercial grenadine which does not contain an ounce of pomegranate juice. Even good quality grenadine can easily take over a drink if you are not careful. And when combined with orange juice… Well let’s just say that even though the Ward Eight is a decent cocktail, I feel sad to use a good bottle of rye in this drink because most of its qualities are shadowed by the other ingredients.
I tried a few versions of the Ward Eight including this one from PDT that uses pomegranate molasses for the grenadine and was left feeling underwhelmed.
The fix is a very old recipe dating back to the days of Jerry Thomas, and it could not be easier. It’s a gin sour on crushed ice and that’s pretty much it. We’ve explored the Bramble before and its rum-based cousin the Rumble, but here we don’t use fruit or fruit liqueur in the drink, just gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup. It’s good for those lazy muggy summer days because it can be built directly in the glass and swizzled.
When you have a fantastically flavorful gin like St. George Terroir, simple is the way to go. It allows you can appreciate the California coast aromas of the gin – Douglas fir, sage, and bay laurel.
I made a couple more cocktails with my homemade elderflower cordial. First I absolutely had to try Sam Ross’ Sunflower again. It’s a variation of one of my favorite cocktails, the Corpse Reviver No. 2, with elderflower replacing Lillet. I used pastis but use absinthe if you have it. I keep it in a little perfume mister which is great for drinks like this one that just call for a rinse.
The cocktail is crisp and light, but also full of flavor from the interplay of the elderflower with the botanicals of the pastis and the orange of the Cointreau. Really wonderful.