Mince Pie Sazerac

Photo 17-12-2014 11 56 13

The final Advent Sunday cocktail is a sazerac with a twist – the dried fruit flavour of our Mince Pie Cognac and sweet sherry:

  1. Fill an old fashioned glass with crushed ice, add 10ml of absinthe and stir.  Set aside.
  2. Crush a sugar cube and four dashes of Peychaud’s bitters in a mixing glass until dissolved.
  3. Add 50ml Mince Pie Cognac, 15ml sweet sherry, and cubed ice and stir for thirty seconds.
  4. Discard the ice and absinthe from the old fashioned glass and strain the finished drink into the glass.
  5. Finish with a spritz of absinthe.
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Mince Pie Old Fashioned

cropped mince pie old fashioned

For the last #FridayOldFashioned before Christmas, here is a Mince Pie Old Fashioned.  Instead of using the Mince Pie Cognac for this one, here is a more versatile approach to mince pie flavouring: a mince pie syrup:

  1. Warm 500ml water and 500g sugar in a pan over a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add 200g of mincemeat, bring to the boil and then turn off the heat.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool and then strain out the mincemeat.  Bottle, refrigerate and use within two weeks.

For the Mince Pie Old Fashioned:

  1. Add a teaspoon of mince pie syrup, three dashes of bitters and a barspoon of water to a mixing glass.  Stir to dissolve.
  2. Add two ice cubes and 30ml of whiskey and stir well (thirty times).
  3. Repeat step two and then strain into a rocks glass and garnish with a mince pie (you can tell mine is homemade!)

My Favourite Cocktail: The Sazerac

This post originally appeared as part of Social and Cocktail’s ‘My Favourite Cocktail’ series.

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It may seem strange, coming from a Scotch whisky enthusiast who writes under the name of House of Bourbon, that my favourite cocktail is commonly made with rye whiskey, and before that even used grain-less cognac as a base. But we dipsologists can be a contrary bunch, and as it is best to approach tipular fixing with an open-mind, I feel no compunction in announcing that my favourite cocktail is the Sazerac.

Now the Sazerac isn’t the sort of brightly coloured drink you see fooling around with sparklers and fancy fruit embellishments. In fact, in its purest form it should be served without any garnish at all. And that is the first limb of its charm. Before serving your Sazerac straight up in an unmarked glass the bartender will pause to sell you the dummy of a twist of lemon peel. After expressing the oil he will whisk it away, with suitable distain, and allow the rich flavour of the rye whiskey, Peychaud’s bitters and absinthe to have untrammelled control of your senses.

The second charm of the Sazerac is the ritual by which it is prepared. You cannot simply toss everything into a shaker, rattle to a count of thirty and strain. A Sazerac is built from the bottom up and then inverted into a pre-chilled, pre-rinsed glass (or in my preference, goblet).

Thirdly, the Sazerac has appeal because it is a survivor. It has faced some tough times in the 150 years or so of its life. First came the phylloxera epidemic that devastated northern Europe’s wine crops in the 1870s (so cognac became rye). Then, in 1912, came the US ban on absinthe (so absinthe became Herbsaint). Then came Prohibition (and the drink withered, or at least all the ingredients apart from the sugar cube and the lemon peel were likely made in an old bathtub). Finally, after the blessed relief of the 21st Amendment, Sazerac aficionados noticed with despair that most of the USA’s rye distilleries had not survived the great drought and so the rye became bourbon.

After a history as complicated as this, it is no small miracle that the complex Sazerac, now back to its purest 1850 recipe has survived, nay flourished, and that can be put down to the fourth inherent and most profound joy of the drink: the combination of the butch, spiced notes of rye tempered with the sweet, cinnamon of the absinthe and bitters. A bracing, complex marriage enhanced by the markedly apparent suggestion of fresh lemon, all contained in the mysteriously rich red-brown tipular.

Fix the House of Bourbon Sazerac as follows:

  1. Fill an old fashioned glass with ice and leave it to stand.
  2. In a second old fashioned glass muddle a sugar cube and five dashes of Peychaud’s bitters.
  3. Add a large measure of rye whiskey and a handful of ice cubes to the sugar and bitters solution and stir well.
  4. Discard the ice in the first glass and rinse it with a teaspoon or so of absinthe until the inside is coated.
  5. Strain the whiskey, sugar and bitters into the absinthe-rinsed glass.
  6. Garnish with the oil from a twist of lemon and discard the peel.

Earl Grey Daiquiri

Photo courtesy of StuartWebster, some rights reserved

The Daiquiri is a sub-category of the sours group of cocktails, and is constructed from the simple combination of rum, lime juice (or lemon, once upon a time) and sugar.

Invented in Santiago, Cuba; the Daiquiri owes much of its reputation to Ernest Hemingway.  Upon moving to Cuba in 1932 to escape the horrors of Prohibition, Hemingway fell in love with Daiquiri Number Three as served in Constantino Ribalaigua’s El Floridita, the bar now known as the self-appointed ‘cradle of the Daiquiri’.

However, Hemingway’s favourite version was far removed from the traditional white rum, lemon and sugar concoction that was first served back in the 1890s. For a start, Hemingway was diabetic and therefore wary of drinks made with added sugar. Secondly, the addition of grapefruit juice will appeal only to those who prefer a super sour flavour profile. In my mind grapefruit juice is solely reminiscent of those bleary-eyed mornings in a continental hotel where you end up sucking your cheeks in after opting for the wrong jug at the breakfast buffet.

However, Hemingway’s endorsement and the mass exodus of wealthy Americans to Cuba during the dark days following the Volstead Act were enough to create a buzz around the concept of the Daiquiri.  Following on from the rich tradition of El Floridita #1 through #3, we now live in a world where Daiquiri possibilities are so endless that “drive-through Daiquiri joints are ubiquitous” in Louisiana.

The Daiquiri has proved to be a versatile canvas for the cocktail boomers of recent years. But while Difford’s #9 contains just over one hundred Daiquiri variants from Acapulco, Ace of Clubs and Aged Honey through to the Vanilla, Very Rusty and Whoop It Up varieties, the Savoy Cocktail Book contains just the one and I think it’s fair to say that a number of the current crop were born in the dark days of sparklers, blue curaçao and umbrellas (see the frozen puréed fruit varieties in particular).

At its heart, the Daiquiri is best made as follows:

  1. Add a large measure of white rum, the juice of half a lime and a barspoon of simple syrup to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a Martini glass
  3. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

Of course some flavoured Daiquiris can be acceptable and even quite pleasant. Consider using aged rum for a richer taste, or branch out to the other end of the spectrum and make a Hemingway Daiquiri to punish your taste buds:

  1. Add an extra large measure of rum, one measure each of pink grapefruit juice, maraschino and fresh lime juice, and an optional half a measure of simple syrup, to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a Martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a wedge of lime

However, I was making Earl Grey syrup the other weekend, and couldn’t resist the opportunity to experiment.

The Earl Grey Daiquiri, therefore:

  1. Add a large measure of rum, four bar spoons of Earl Grey Syrup and the juice of half a lime to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a wedge of lime (perched on the edge of the glass).

Much better.

Absinthe Foam

Photo by Jared Zimmerman, some rights reserved.

And so to foam.  Having come all this way (48 posts and counting) without touching on the trend for ‘molecular mixology’ seems remiss, so let’s correct that right now.

Having been warned off the use of dry ice after recent horror stories in the UK, and not having any scientific background or interest in what is really just a gimmick, cocktail foam is about the only element of molecular mixology that can be easily and relatively safely approached by the amateur.  While the use of a rotovap or calcium bath does appeal (the former more than the latter), the costs are somewhat prohibitive at this stage, and so we stick to foam.

There are a number of ways to create cocktail foam, and recipes differ on whether you should use egg white and elbow grease (or Aerolatte), or gelatine and N2O or a combination of the lot.

Your choice will most likely be influenced by the resources and ingredients you have to hand, but my preference is for a hybrid recipe:

  1. Dissolve half a packet of gelatine in warm water and add 30g of sugar until it dissolves.
  2. Allow the mixture to cool.
  3. Add one egg white and your flavouring – in this case I used a large measure of absinthe.
  4. Pour the mixture into your soda siphon/cream whipper and charge with two capsules of N2O (leave the second one in)
  5. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

To dispense the foam, shake the siphon until no movement can be felt inside and slowly layer the foam on top.  Keep the siphon in the fridge when you’re not using it.

Earl Grey Old Fashioned

Portrait of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Today is Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey’s birthday, or at least it would have been had he not died in 1845.  Earl Grey was British Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834, and is credited with the creation of the tea that still bears his name.  While many stories circulate, it appears that Earl Grey was gifted some black tea flavoured with bergamot, and it made such an impression upon him that he called upon his local grocer, Jacksons of Picadilly, to reproduce the striking citrus flavour.  Sometime thereafter, due to its popularity, Twinings approached the Grey family and received their consent to market the tea more widely, and a classic infusion was born.

Following on from last week’s experiments in tea-infused vermouth then, this recipe is for an Earl Grey Old Fashioned, a perfect toast for the man himself, as the orange and cherry flavours of the classic old fashioned are beautifully offset by the hint of bergamot orange provided by the tea.  Proceed as follows:

  1. Infuse one teaspoon of loose leaf Earl Grey tea per 50ml of whiskey.  Leave for thirty minutes and then strain.
  2. Muddle one sugar cube, three splooshes of orange bitters, and some water in a rocks glass.
  3. Add a handful of ice and a large measure of Earl Grey-infused whiskey.
  4. Stir gently and garnish with a twist of orange peel.

Death in the Afternoon

Photo courtesy of Kenn Wilson, some rights reserved.

Today is National Absinthe Day (in the US at least), and what better way to celebrate than with a quick post about one of literature’s great cocktails.  Ian Fleming may have given us the Vesper, but Ernest Hemingway went a few steps further down the road to decadence when he created Death in the Afternoon.

The cocktail, named after Hemingway’s book about the history and practice of bull-fighting, was created in 1935 for So Red the Nose, Or Breath in the Afternoona collection of new cocktail recipes proposed by famous authors of the time.  Hemingway’s instructions were as follows:

“Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”

The great author was credited with the creation of a number of other cocktails, but it was Death in the Afternoon which was said to be his favourite after he developed a taste for the bohemian concoction whilst living in Paris.

Variants of the recipe also include the addition of sugar and bitters (we can’t stray too far from our original bittered sling after all, and what better decadent replacement for water than champagne?), lemon juice, or a garnishing rose petal.