Something From the Bar

The Mint Julep

I like sharp, classic, bracing cocktails most of the time. But I always have a mint julep on Derby Day and occasionally on a hot day in summer. My version is mostly traditional, just culled together from several methods I've tried.

You can use 2 tbs simple syrup instead of the brown sugar and water, but I prefer mixing it on the spot, and also in separate glasses for each person instead of all in one container.

1 tbs brown sugar, packed in the spoon
2 tbs water
3 sprigs spearmint; if you can get Kentucky Colonel mint, use that because it's awesome
3 oz good bourbon
1 tray of ice, chopped up or crushed, depending on your equipment and patience

Put the sugar and water in a double rocks or large wine glass or the like, and add two mint sprigs that each have several leaves on them. Muddle with a wooden spoon or stir vigorously for at least a minute. Set it aside.

Chop or crush your ice, or if yours already came that way, just let the mint syrup sit for about five minutes, add half the ice to the glass, stir vigorously, add the other half, then pour the bourbon over it and stir lots more. Garnish with the third mint sprig.

Don't add anything else. If you do, you've made some other kind of drink. Which is fine, but not at all the point.

If you actually have a silver cup, sure, use that. But if you're using a silver cup for a mint julep, you don't need anyone to tell you how to make one. :-)



More gin tales

So, I really like gin. I like classic drinks made with gin. I like several different gins for them, but my favorite is Hendrick's, which isn't at all classic, but is completely awesome. I would let Hendrick's be my boyfriend and do really dirty things to him every night if I didn't know it was going to turn into this whole awful enabling thing, possibly ending with me needing to permanently avoid Vicodin and Tylenol to save my liver. (Plus, Hen getting mad and blah-blahing at me for occasionally cheating with bourbon or vodka instead.)

I'm kinda boring about what I do with it, though. I am an old man in terms of cocktail drinking. It's like this—

I grew up here: Sportswhirl_1958.60203605_large
I (kinda sorta) dress like this: McCalls_Fall-Winter_1963_001.29133357_large
But when it comes to drinks? I'm mostly an old guy at the 19th Hole: 681ee78e06bf865a_large
The most creative I usually get is to add cucumber to my Hendrick's gimlet in summertime. Which, by the way, is so delicious. Do that.

Also, I have a lot of teenaged-type kids and not a lot of extra money for fancy liqueurs and mixers. I have what I have, and when I run out, maybe I get that again, or maybe I substitute with a different thing all the kids are talking about. (Not my kids. I mean, you all out there. And yes, I know, not you. But those others.)

Right now on my bar I have some Maker's 46 bourbon, Amaretto di Saronno, Bacardi Gold Rum, St-Germain, Patron Citronge, Patron XO, Noilly Prat Sweet and Dry Vermouth, Fee Brothers bitters, Chambord, Frangelico, Poma, and four cheesy liqueurs to (probably not as I mainly use them in cooking) be named later.

In the freezer (people do disagree on this, but really, shhh,) Hendrick's gin, Effe Black Cherry Vodka, and Absolut vodka.

The only constants are the Hendrick's and the Noilly Prat Dry. All else is negotiable.

Anyway. Someone gave me a portion of maraschino liqueur, and it leaked out of the container and made a mess. I keep wishing to use it, remember I can't, and then I make a drink with something else instead. I'm trying to branch out, people, without putting much more money into the thing.

Tonight I started to make a not-Aviation, and then a not-Martinez, and so I ended up with this. If it already has a name, well, allrighty.

80 ml Hendrick's gin
40 ml Amaretto di Saronno (it does have a certain similar profile to the cherry liqueurs)
20 ml sweet vermouth
20 ml Meyer lemon juice
2 dashes of "regular" bitters, which may not be necessary for balance in this case, but I like the cinnamony nature of the Fee Bros. mixed with amaretto.

Shaken, strained, with a wee lemon almost-wedge, which is my current cool garnish. 2011-03-07 18.30.46
It's much sweeter than my usual martini or gibson for winter or gimlet for summer. But not cloying or girly. And I'm digging it.

old-fashioned new cocktail

(regular-type food post later tonight)

This website has some cool old genever recipes, but I can't keep a lot of special little bar items around, so I, as usual, modified the Gin Daisy recipe—as follows:

2 oz Bols Genever
2 tsp St-Germain
2 tsp almond (orgeat) syrup
juice from 1/2 Meyer lemon
2 shakes Fee Bros bitters

Shake, strain, pour over ice with a splash of soda and a thin lemon wedge.

I like it; it's very mild in flavor, but has a nice strong underbelly. It definitely tastes old-fashioned. It needs the tiniest bit of brightening, gonna think on that.

Here you go:

2011-03-03 17.57.51
You see I have a tiny bottle of St-Germain? Well. I ran out of the big beautiful expensive one, and put off replacing it. And then Joe Canal's had a 99 cent special on the samples, so I bought four of them. The lovely things will last through to summer, probably, for 4 dollars instead of 32.

2011-03-03 18.05.03

I've struggled to fully appreciate the Bols Genever, though I could tell I was tasting something kind of awesome when I first tasted it almost straight with just the tiniest squeeze of lemon. But it's rather fermented in character, and doesn't mix well with my usual combinations. It's cool, though, because it's forcing me to try some new things, and I'm liking them so far. It mixes just beautifully with the almond syrup. And I prefer it over ice; maybe I'm just not man enough to enjoy it up! For that, I need my usual Hendrick's gin. It's lovely to have both to choose from.

A Cosmo-style cocktail for gin lovers

This is a somewhat large and strong drink. A little sweeter than my usual taste, but not cloying.

3 oz gin (I used Hendrick's. Tanqueray Ten or Miller's would be good. Not so sure about Sapphire, since I don't like that, but it does work with fruity mixes. Probably not Junipero, though that makes a swell martini.)

1 oz orange liqueur (I used, and usually have, Patron Citronge.)

1 oz cranberry juice cocktail (Try one sweetened with sugar, not corn syrup, so it's cleaner on the palate.)

1/4 oz fresh or bottled unsweetened lime juice (I use Nellie & Joe's when I don't have fresh limes.)

I shook this with ice and strained it into a cute little wine glass. Of course, a regular cocktail stem is fine. Or you could pour it into a short glass over ice and add just a splash of soda. Garnish with orange or lime wedge; last night I was too lazy, but that is not a good excuse at all.


Oh—I don't enjoy pointing this out, but you could use vodka. Only you'll want a citrus-infused one, to parallel the floral essence of the gin. And then it's just a plain ol' Cosmopolitan, which you probably already knew how to make, anyway...!

Let's take it nice and easy

x-posted to other side of this blog. a singular occurrence from now on.

I've been so excited to share this! You know I love the glory of garnish. How about in a delicious shake?


Surprise! It's soup. You've drunk soup from a mug, right? Tomato, or something brothy, perhaps. Did you ever drink it through a straw? Maybe when you were small and very ill your mother gave it to you that way.

I bet you're glad, thinking back, that there were no little ragged bits of chicken or mushroom in it. Also, Mama made it just hot enough to soothe, not too hot for the tongue.

Of course, people (other than me) do enjoy cold potato or beet or melon soup in summer. I'm not sure they shake it with cold milk until frothy and serve it up like ice cream, but I guess there's no rule which says they can't. Only, if you sat down for supper or a snack, and your mom or partner brought you a delicious-looking glass sweetly decorated with some attractive mint leaves, I bet your mouth would get all stirred up in excitement for a smoothie, perhaps pineapple-coconut? She'd smile as you took a big gulp, and as you realized you were tasting salty cream of chicken soup instead, I'd like to be watching in the background, ready to snap a photo of the moment to follow. I'd post it here to share.

Speaking of gimlets...

Weren't we just? I know schmope and I often are, and I mentioned them in the post below this one. There was a Twitter discussion, marginally, about whether to use Rose's for a gimlet or make your own syrup. It used to be absolutely de rigueur to use Rose's Lime. 

But that was when it was made with sugar. In this country, at least, that is no longer so. In my blog, I will never get into the complexities of why I think high-fructose corn syrup is more bad for you, or why I loathe the corn industry. I'd rather talk about aesthetics. Drinks made with any corn syrup leave phlegm in your throat and have a very slightly metallic flavor. Yuck. I admit I'm *almost* a super-taster. I can tell the difference, often, between beet sugar and cane sugar, for example. Artificial sweeteners give me the crawls. But whether or not you can taste the difference between all these sweeteners, I'm sure you can feel them. 

Anyway. A gimlet is 4 parts gin to 1 part lime syrup. Use Rose's, if you like, but if you use a "jug gin," it'll be extra cloying. A gimlet made with premium gin will be crisp and sharp. Depending on the one you choose, the varying botanicals will lend more spice or more floral to the drink. A cucumber garnish is lovely with a Hendrick's or Martin Miller gimlet. I first learned to love a gimlet made with Tanqueray Ten, and though I rarely buy it these days, I would recommend it for this drink. 

A vodka gimlet, same principal. Now, it must be apparent that they're not my thing at all. I firmly believe vodka should usually not be a substitute for gin. I think it's better for other stuff; mainly fruity or fizzy tall drinks or short drinks with intense liqueurs. Or if you're a drunk and want a quick alcohol delivery. But it would lend itself to some interesting gimlet garnishes; strawberries, for example, or nearly-frozen raspberries or blackberries. 

I do feel gin sometimes can be an interesting substitute for vodka, but not always. It's good in a Bloody Mary, for example, but I wouldn't use it for a White Russian. 

Here's the magazine that ad came from, and another ad from the same issue. 

Apropos of—not much—gonna stick this here because I don't want every post in this blog to be about cocktails—here's a neat two-page cocktail recipe spread from a coffee cookbook sponsored by Maxwell House (it's downstairs; I'll properly cite later.) It's fairly large when you view it full-sized.
The next post will feature another unpleasant old cookbook photo, but it's getting on toward cooking season so soon I'll share some more of my own recipes, as well. 

Classic for a reason

This is the only brand of vermouth I buy. Some things are too good to mess with.

This ad is from the May, 1964 issue of Playboy Magazine. I will probably share more scans from it at my other blog, liliales.


Classic Martini: 3 oz premium gin, 1/2 oz (1 tbs) Noilly Prat dry (French) vermouth, shake and strain and garnish with a lovely lovely olive. And an onion, if you're me. This is the contemporary standard of six parts gin to one part vermouth. People who sneer at vermouth probably aren't tasting the best stuff. It's not a martini without it. 

Mer's Perfect Manhattan*: 3 oz premium bourbon, 1/2 oz Noilly Prat dry vermouth, 1/4 oz Noilly Prat sweet (Italian) vermouth, shake and strain into a cocktail glass or pour over a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with two cherries, because the bourbon makes them delicious, and you can share one.

*Usually a Perfect Manhattan has equal parts sweet & dry vermouth. A regular Manhattan has only sweet vermouth, and a Dry Manhattan only dry, both traditionally with a couple of shakes of bitters, which you leave out of the Perfect. I like my own balance best. However you make it, the proportion of four parts bourbon to one part vermouth works nicely.