Almond Brother

Jason Littrell’s Almond Brother in the Death & Co Cocktail Book has good things going for it. The combination of a base spirit (aged tequila) with lime and orgeat reminds me of one of my favorite drinks, the Army & Navy. Also I happen to have obscene amounts of coconut orgeat that I made a few weeks ago and love using whenever I have a chance to. Its coconut flavor is subtle enough that it works well in cocktails calling for regular almond orgeat, while adding something a bit different.

The cocktail ingredients also include apricot liqueur and amaretto, which gave me pause and some concern (I use amaretto very rarely, and am not a big fan of apricot liqueur in general). Add maple syrup to the mix, and I was really skeptical. Too much going on on the sweet end of things, maybe? So I ended up only mixing a 1/2 size cocktail, which is my typical procedure for testing new cocktails I am not sure about.

I was so terrified that this might be too sweet that I reduced all the sweet elements very slightly. But it was fine in the end. It felt like a fancy version of Tommy’s “Margarita” (which is really a tequila sour). It worked great with the aged tequila, and I noticed that the pepper notes in the Siete Leguas añejo were highlighted by contrast with the other ingredients.

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Tequila tiki

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.

 

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Sympathy for the strawberry

Strawberries in cocktails, I know what you think, it just brings back memories of awful strawberry “daiquiris” or other sickly sweet concoctions. But sometimes (most times) it’s good to keep an open mind.

I recently bought a bottle of Dorothy Parker gin at the recommendation of a cocktailian friend. This gin, in addition to its Juniper backbone, has floral notes including hibiscus and elderberries that got me a bit stuck at first. But why not look to classics for inspiration… In the Savoy Cocktail Book, there always seem to be pearls hidden between endless Martini variations. Case in point, the Bloodhound, which is actually a “perfect” Martini, incorporating both sweet and dry vermouths. The particularity of the Bloodhound is that it adds fresh strawberries to the mix. Strawberries are in season and grown locally here in San Diego, and pairing them with the hibiscus notes from the gin sounded like a good idea.

For the sweet vermouth, I did not want aything too sweet, so I opted for Punt e Mes which combines dark berry flavors with an underlying bitterness. I did not bother muddling the strawberries, so the taste ended up on the subtle side. It’s probably best to muddle them a bit, unless your shake is especially energetic and your strawberries super ripe.

The resulting cocktail is is very much anchored in Martini territory, with the bonus of strawberry undertones and a beautiful color. The sweet vermouth and strawberry pairing is a very nice one that also works well in desserts – think strawberries macerated in red wine. Also the Dorothy Parker gin was especially well suited for this cocktail which allowed its unique flavor to shine.

 

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Booze and elderflowers (part 2)

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.

Sunflower: gin, lemon, cointreau, homemade elderflower cordial, pastis
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