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According to the calendar, summer is now officially over!  I took a little summer vaca from writing, but not from imbibing.  Here are a few cocktail highlights from my summer.

My favorite summer cocktail

My friends Brian and Jeff introduced me to the Intro to Aperol and I fell in love at first sip.  It is the perfect combination of bitter, savory, tart and sweet—and it is amazingly drinkable!

Intro to Aperol (from Pegu Club)

2 oz Aperol

1 oz gin

¾ oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

dash Angostura

Old Man Peter

Nothing says summer like a garden full of delicious veggies.  And the thought of a lush vegetable garden reminds me of the childhood tale of Peter Rabbit, the mischievous bunny who gobbles up Mr. McGregor’s crops.  What would the sneaky rabbit sip on in his old age?  When I heard Sam Treadway at Backbar had a Negroni variation that attempted to answer this question, I couldn’t resist. The vegetal qualities of Cold River gin was the perfect choice to combine with the carrot-infused Aperol.

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Old Man Peter (created by Sam Treadway, Backbar)

1 oz Cold River gin

1 oz Cinzano Sweet vermouth

1 oz carrot infused Aperol (created with pickled carrots, blended into Aperol and fine strained out)

Shake and double strain into a chilled rocks glass, rinsed with chartreuse.

Sex on the Beach

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I celebrated a friend’s 25th anniversary of his arrival in America by going back in cocktail-time.  Arriving at the 80s themed party, I thought “what cocktails were people drinking in the 80s?”  From an interesting list that included White Russian, Tequila Sunrise, and Alabama Slammer, I chose Sex on the Beach.  I’m not going to lie, the vodka, peach schnapps, orange and cranberry juice combo was kind of delicious.  Time travel can be fun.

To the memories of beautiful summer day and to the wonders of fall ahead. Cheers!

Once again, I joined the masses, the cocktail masses, that is, in New York City for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic.  And once again, I had a fabulous weekend.  There were familiar friends and new faces, the laughs seemed endless, and of course, there were more cocktails than I can (or care to) count.  This year my adventures took me all over NYC from the Gala at the NY Public Library to the Lower East Side then to Queens and Brooklyn and then back to the upper West Side.  Here are some moments and cocktails that stand out amongst the rest:

Napoleon House

My MCC experience began Friday evening at Napoleon House—a penthouse suite party at the Andaz Hotel hosted by Mandarine Napoleon.  With the bar manned by the fabulous San Francisco bar trio known as The Bon Vivants, the party was the perfect way to kick off the weekend.  I mean, who doesn’t want to hang out on an 11th floor balcony sipping delicious cocktails? Look at the view:

Josh, Steve and Alex, The Bon Vivants, are super nice and mixed up some great drinks.  Mandarine Napoleon, is new to me. Although I recently got a bottle, I haven’t experimented much with it.  Well, now I know what to do.  The Leroi Crusta, my first official cocktail of MCC 2012, with its combination of sweet, tart, spicy ginger, and bitter Fernet, stands out.

Leroi Crusta (created by The Bon Vivants, San Francisco)

1 ½ oz Mandarine Napoleon

½ oz Fernet Branca

1 oz lemon juice

½ oz ginger syrup

Shake and serve over crushed ice with a sugar rimmed glass.

Angostura Bitters

The miniature army of Angostura bottles that came home with me

Yes, Angostura is a classic that can be found on just about every bar, even the home bar of a cocktail neophyte, but sometimes we need a little reminding of the wonders of something right in front of our eyes.  As sponsors of the “Official Bar” at the Andaz, home base for industry folks (a new feature to this year’s festivities), Angostura showcased the versatility of this venerable bar staple in both cocktails and food.  I took the taste test and agreed that a gin and tonic is improved by Angostura. And it is also good in brunch classics, hello, biscuits and Hollandaise.  One of my favorite drinks of the weekend was the Angostura Eye Opener, the perfect cocktail to get us going after Friday night’s gala.

Angostura Eye Opener

1 ½ oz white peach puree

½ oz Aperol

¼ oz St. Germain

2 dashes Angostura orange bitters

1 dash Angostura bitters

Mix over ice. Strain into a flute and top with 4 oz sparkling wine.

Experimental Cocktail Club

We took a break from MCC events Saturday night and made our way down to the Lower East Side to the newly opened Experimental Cocktail Club.  Inspired by its European counterparts, the vibe is comfortable, sophisticated, cool.  The hospitality is fantastic—and I’m not just saying that because my friend CoCo took excellent care of us.

One of the best and most interesting things I drank all weekend was the Mancora that I had at ECC. [The entire menu looks amazing, we sampled five drinks, but I wish we had more stamina and could have tried the entire lot.  Next visit to NYC, I will definitely make another visit.]  The Mancora was made with Chai Roiboos-infused La Diablada Pisco, Malbec wine syrup, lime juice, Dolin Rouge sweet vermouth, and a Fernet rinse.  I admit on the menu this drink looked to be a bit much—how would all those flavors work together? But CoCo suggested I get it and I was not at all disappointed.  It was earthly and rich, slightly tart and herbally.  Really unique. Really delicious.

Hendrick’s Gin at Dutch Kills

Our Sunday began in Queens at Dutch Kills for a Behind the Bar event.  We were greeted by owner Richard Boccato, grabbed seats at the back bar and were quickly shaken a delicious Harvard Veritas, a yummy Sidecar variation with Hendrick’s (the event’s sponsor), Combier, lemon and a barspoon of Cassis.  We then heard a bit about the story of how Dutch Kills came to be, an overview with tastings of the components that make up Hendrick’s gin from Jim Ryan (who I should note has been nominated for a Spirit Award at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail for Best International Spirits Rep), and quite a bit about ice from Zac Gelnaw-Rubin of Hundred Weight Ice, whose shop is next door to Dutch Kills.

Harvard Veritas

1 ½ oz Hendrick’s gin

1 oz Combier

½ oz lemon

Barspoon of Cassis

Shake over ice. Strain into coupe.

These highlights just scratch the surface of the many delicious cocktails and good times had—wait, I just remembered our cab ride up the West Side Highway singing “And She Was” by Talking Heads. Best cab driver ever!  Until next year MCC, Cheers!

Jim Meehan of PDT, the popular speakeasy bar in NYC (yes, its the bar you enter through a phone booth in a hot dog stand) came to Boston a couple weeks ago to celebrate his new book, The PDT Cocktail Book, with a party at Hawthorne.  The book is a great addition to any bartender’s or cocktail enthusiast’s bookshelf.  It begins with a thorough run-down of tools, glassware, and technique, and then continues with recipe after delicious recipe.  In addition to all the drink goodness to read about,  the pages are adorned with playful illustrations by Chris Gall.


The cocktail menu for the evening’s festivities featured drinks from the book. My favorite of the evening was Albert Mathieu, created by Boston’s own Kevin Martin of Eastern Standard, who did a guest stint at PDT in 2009.  Named for the French engineer who proposed a tunnel under the English Channel that eventually led to the Chunnel that now connects England and France, this cocktail brings together spirits of the two countries.

Albert Mathieu (created by Kevin Martin)

1 ½ oz Plymouth gin

¾ oz Lillet Blanc

¾ oz green Chartreuse

1 barspoon St. Germain

1 dash Regan’s orange bitters

Stir with ice and strain into coupe. Garnish with an orange twist.

Cheers!

Last week I was in DC visiting my sister and her family.  In addition to some fabulous family time, I was happy to have the chance to spend time with my friend Paula who has recently moved to the Capitol.

Our first stop was PS7 where we quickly became fans of the daily happy hour punch made with gin, allspice dram, grapefruit juice and Peychauds bitters.  It was light and refreshing while also providing a rich mouthful of flavor.  It was the perfect way to relax after a long afternoon of wandering the hall of the National Gallery looking at fabulous works of art.

Under the direction of Gina Chersevani, PS7’s cocktail program takes inspiration from the farm.  The menu features drinks with ingredients like coriander, cilantro, rhubarb and pickled asparagus.  I was immediately drawn to the B&B (&b)—Maker’s Mark bourbon, beet syrup and bitters.  Before I say anything about the taste, check out the gorgeous deep red color.

I loved this drink. It didn’t taste as “beety” as I imagined it would. Instead the beet syrup functioned to bring an earthiness that mellowed the boozy taste of the bourbon, while producing a slightly viscous quality.  Vanilla used in the creation of the syrup adds a sweetness that rounds out the flavor.  Earthy, sweet, and rich—this was a uniquely delicious drink.

We then moved on to Proof.  The first drink on the cocktail menu caught my eye—the Root Cocktail with Partilda Blanco Tequila, Ramos Pinto White Port and Chartreuse.  I was intrigued by the combination of three ingredients that each have quite a bit going on on their own, but they all played nicely together sharing the class as cleverly and collegially.  It went down quite easily as I chatted the night away with Paula and nibbled on amazing sweet potato gnocchi.

Cheers to DC and its cocktails! See you again soon.

Summer weather has finally arrived in Boston which means a shift in my drink preference.  Now I crave cocktails that are light and bright—for me that means primarily gin and tequila with lots of citrus and fresh herbaliness.  The Gimlet fits the bill perfectly and is one of my favorite summer cocktails.  I love it for its simplicity, its tart limey-ness, and its ability to be transformed by the addition of a herb like basil (I love the basil version at Via Matta).  And this drink it is quite a crowd-pleasure.  We enjoyed pitchers at Julie’s birthday last night and last weekend at my brother’s wedding I discovered that it’s my uncle Dave’s cocktail of choice (I’ve always known he was great guy!).

We can thank the vitamin-C deficient British seaman of the 19th century for the gimlet.  In 1867 the British government established the Merchant Shipping Act, a law that required all merchant ships to carry rations of lime juice for its crews as a preventive measure against scurvy.  In the same year, a man named Lauchlin Rose developed a way to preserve lime juice without the use of alcohol creating that product we know today as Rose’s Lime Juice.  The officers cut their tart lime juice cordial with some gin creating the gimlet.

Fresh juice and syrups are all the rage in cocktails right now.  This is one instance when non-fresh juice may be preferred. I personally like to use fresh lime juice along with a little simple syrup, but cocktail guru Dale DeGroff advocates for the use Rose’s in his The Essential Cocktail.  I’ll provide you with both recipes, and you decide which you prefer.

Two gimlet options:

Option 1 (Dale DeGroff’s recipe)

2 oz gin (or vodka)

¾ oz Rose’s lime juice

Shake and serve over ice.  Garnish with a cucumber or lime wedge.

Option 2 (my version derived from various recipes and trial and error)

2 oz gin (or vodka)

¾ oz fresh lime juice

½ oz simple syrup (here you could infuse with basil or mint)

Shake and serve over ice. Garnish with a lime or a basil leaf (if you’ve gone the herbal route)

Happy Summer!  Happy Gimlets!  Cheers!

One of my 2011 goals is to get rid of excess (of all kinds) in my life.  This weekend that meant a major cleaning and organizing of my spare room that has become cluttered with clothes I will never wear again, books I won’t read and tchotchkes that no longer are of interest to me.  A gin and tonic is my go-to libation to get me through less than desirable household tasks like cleaning, so today I continued my gin and tonic experiment with Blackwood’s Distillery Small Batch gin and Fever-Tree tonic.

I recently received a fabulous thank you gift in the form of Blackwood’s Distillery Small Batch gin.  Of course this gin contains juniper berries, as well as other typical gin ingredients such as coriander, citrus peel, and orris feature in the mix.  However, the juniper flavor is lighter than many gins.  Instead, its potent flavors come from the plants that flourish in the distinctive northern maritime environment of Shetland, such as wild water mint, angelica root, sea pink flowers (that grow along cliff tops that are a favorite hang out of puffins in the summer) and Meadowsweet.  It is good stuff.

For my tonic I chose Fever-Tree Tonic Water.  Made in England since 2005, this tonic features a high quality quinine sourced from the Rwanda Congo that is blended with other botanicals including marigold extract and Tanzanian bitter orange.  The company takes it name “Fever Tree” from the colloquial name for the Cinchona Tree, the source of its quinine.  Aside from a deliciously bitter quinine flavor complemented by subtle yet noticeable citrus notes, a distinct characteristic of this tonic is its bubbles—this is one heavily carbonated liquid.

Combining these two very distinct and abundantly flavorful liquids (in a 1:3 ratio gin to tonic) made for an overtly botanical drink.  There are a lot of flavors going on here, making it a G&T that is sipped more slowly than most.  Unlike all the unwanted stuff in my spare room, I wanted to savor the various aromas, tastes and bubbly sensations so it sustained me through a couple hours of work.  Part 2 of the experiment was a success. Cheers!

A conversation I had on Sunday inspired me to begin a little project I have been thinking about for a while—the Gin & Tonic Experiment. Perhaps one of the most well-known and well-beloved libations, the gin and tonic is simple to make, refreshing, and depending on which kind of gin and tonic you use, the level of flavor and complexity varies greatly.  My little project will play with and test out a variety of combinations.

A G&T, as the Brits call it, was first imbibed as a preventive measure against malaria in the 19th century.  The tonic water of two centuries ago contained much more quinine (which was believed to both prevent malaria and ward off mosquitoes who carried the disease) than our modern tonics.  Quinine can actually taste quite bitter so to make it more palatable gin was added.  Yes, the gin was added to make the tonic more drinkable.  Most modern tonic water contains very little quinine, and some brands add, in my opinion, too much sweetener, leading us far away from the original.  As a fan of bitterness and authenticity in ingredients, I am happy to have found some tonics that contain ample quinine that will hopefully make my gin and tonic more akin to what my predecessors drank.

I chose to begin the experiment with my favorite gin, Plymouth.  With its origins in the Black Friars distillery in Plymouth, England way back in 1793, this gin combines juniper (of course), angelica root, cardamom, coriander, lemon and orange peels, and orris (the root of the iris plant).  It is a bit drier than most London gins and has a subtler juniper flavor. I really like the aromatics, the smooth quality, and the almost fruity and spicy finish.

To the Plymouth, I added Fentimans Tonic in a 1:1 ratio (well,  maybe there was a smidge more tonic than gin).  Brewed in England using centuries old methods, this tonic combines quinine bark with lemongrass to create a wonderfully woody, bitter and herbal flavor.  This is no ordinary tonic water; even on its own it is really tasty.   I combined it with Plymouth gin in a tall glass full of ice, and a squeeze of lime and enjoyed one delicious gin & tonic  while puttering around the house.

With so many varieties of gin and tonics out there, I have feeling this is going to be a fun project. Cheers!

After a day of post-Thankgiving art viewing and shopping, Brian, Jeff and I escaped the hubbub of Manhattan and ventured out to Long Island City in Queens to Dutch Kills.  The minute I walked in the door, I knew this was my kind of place.

 

Even the menu has an old timey look and feel

 

The spacious bar has deep, dark wooden booths, with a menu attached to the wall reminding me of those individual juke boxes in your booth at family friendly restaurants of a couple decades ago.  We went in past the booths to discover the fabulous little bar complete with vintage phone and cash register—I definitely felt like I was in another time, in a good way.  It was nostalgic without being specific, although supposedly 1890s saloon is what I should be thinking.

Before we get to the drinks, let me answer the name question—what does Dutch Kills mean?  The bar takes its name from the neighborhood in which it resides.  The native inhabitants called it Canapaukah (“bear’s watering hole”) after the Newton Creek, a distinguishing feature of the area.  Dutch settlers arrived in the early 1640s; their word for creek, was, you guessed it, kill. The area would become known as Dutch Kills–the perfect place for a fabulous watering hole.

We enjoyed quite a few menu options, and our bartender, Matt, also graciously and skillfully indulged our requests to go off menu.  He even convinced me that it was time to cross the Stinger off my list of 100 must drink cocktails.  I fully admit I was a bit hesitant—cognac and crème de menthe, can you blame me?  But Matt was right, it’s a nice combination of warm and cool.  Something great to sip during the holidays.

 

The Stinger

The creation of bartending masterminds Richard Boccato and Sasha Petraske, this place’s drink menu and bartenders’ attention to quality and detail, and their ability to execute delicious cocktails is outstanding.  Here’s one of the many deliciously unique creations Matt stirred for us.

Spruce Goose

1 ¾ oz gin

1 oz Cocchi Americano

¼ oz apricot liquer

couple dashes Dandelion & Burdock bitters (by Adam Elmegirab, Scotland)

If I lived in NYC, I think I would quickly be on a first name basis at this place. Cheers!

Dear Tom,

How are you?  Brian, Jeff and I enjoyed spending time with you this weekend. Hope you enjoyed the cabin.

Has anyone ever told you that you are just perfect? Well, you are!  I got stuck in commuter hell today thanks to some gigantic hole on 93.  I couldn’t even make it to meditation (boo!).  I arrived home annoyed and stressed and frustrated.  Then I thought of you—full of botanicals, tart, sweet and fizzy—and I started to feel better.  And as the ice clanged around in the shaker, I knew it would all be okay.  I took a sip, and your yum sweet-tart combo hit the spot.  The stress of the ride home slowly melted away.

Hope to see you again soon.  Enjoy the summer!

Love, your friend, Jenn

Tom Collins

1 ½ oz gin

1 oz simple syrup

¾ oz lemon juice

Shake.  Strain over ice and top with club soda.

I think a Tom Collins is a perfect summer drink. Stressful commute or not—it’s delicious! Cheers!

The Negroni is one of my favorite summer drinks.  I just love sipping the potent bitter complexity on a warm day.  The end of my week-long vacation was sadly in my sights, so I thought what better way to savor the afternoon in the sun than with this delicious drink.

This was my view as I sipped my Negroni

The legend of the Negroni tells us that it was created in the 1920s in Florence, Italy when Count Camillo Negroni asked a bartender to stiffen his Americano, which consists of sweet vermouth, Campari and soda water.  A splash of gin was added and the Negroni was born.  While it is served in various fashions, I agree with Dale Degroff that its best over ice with an orange twist.

It was pretty hot Friday afternoon so I made good use of one of those freezer mugs, so my Negroni stayed icy cold. I know its not the proper glassware, but when in the woods you need to get creative.

Negroni

1 oz gin

1 oz Campari

1 oz sweet vermouth (I used Carpano Antica which is pretty flavorful stuff, so I actually cut this to ¾ oz)

Shake and serve over ice with an orange twist.

Cheers!

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