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Even though I was in NYC for less than 10 hours, I had to carve out a little time for a cocktail.  So after exploring kitchen design and a Jackson Pollock painting that took my breath away at MOMA, I decided to end my day at Forty Four.  The recently reincarnated lobby bar at the Royalton Hotel boasts a great menu that is the brain child of the Cocktail Collective—Eric Alperin (Varnish, LA), Richard Boccato (Dutch Kills, NYC), Simon Ford (global cocktail ambassador for Pernod Ricard USA), Misty Kalkofen (Drink, Boston) , John Lermayer (Florida Room, Miami Beach, and Woodward in Boston), and Willy Shine (Contemporary Cocktails).  On their own, each of these people are rockstars; put them all together and whoa!

The bar space is something else.  From the exterior you might think the Royalton is a bank—a heavy granite façade with large columns flanking the entry way.  As you walk through the large black doors, a second set of doors slowly glide open revealing the dimly lit length of the lobby, complete with dark furniture, wooden screened walls and two large fireplaces that look like walls of flames (a bit unnecessary on our visit since the temp was in the 60s).  There is something ceremonial about the whole thing—I imagined this is what entering an ancient Egyptian temple might have been like.

The cocktail menu is fabulous—classics, new creations, and even bowls of punch (we would have a needed a few more people in our posse to justify the $250 bowl of punch).  There were so many interesting options, I wished I had time for more than one drink, but alas a bus full of museum volunteers awaited my arrival.  Since I have yet to meet a Last Word variation that I didn’t like, I chose The Other Word made with single village mezcal, lime juice, agave nectar, Yellow Chartreuse and maraschino liqueur.  Once my palette got used to the smoky mezcal, the other flavors–herbaliness, nuttiness, tart, and earthly– emerge.  Really delicious.  Brian’s Reconciliation was also quite memorable.  An homage to the Old Fashioned, this drink features rye, Amaro Lucano, orgeat and a Sambucca rinse and its like nothing I’ve ever drank before. Warm and rich, and slightly sweet.

 

right to left: Maiden's Prayer (No. 2), The Other Word, The Pharaoh Cooler, Reconciliation

The seating –modern, comfortable couches, benches, and chairs– create many seating nooks. Perfect, as Jeff commented, as a place to rest after a long day in the city or for a rapper’s entourage to hang out late night.  Since we had been exploring the city since 10 am and at various times have referred to our little posse as Swizzle and the Bone Crushers or Yani Kohani and the Mulyatz (Don’t ask. I don’t even think I can explain.), we fit right in.  Cheers!

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Karaugh and I got together after work at Deep Ellum to discuss Sleep No More—an amazingly powerful A.R.T. production which I saw Sunday night.  Discussing incredible theater needed to be matched with equally high quality drinks.

Karaugh's Germination and my Hemingway Daiquiri

For our second round, I handed my list of 100 must-have cocktails to Jen and asked for a suggestion.  She chose the Hemingway Daiquiri.  I hesitated for a moment because until recently, my vision of a daiquiri was one-sided—I could only think of the frothy, strawberry variety that are perfect to enjoy poolside on a hot summer day.  Before those frozen, fruity versions gained popularity (due in part to the invention of the home blender), the daiquiri, developed in the late 19th century in Cuba, had been enjoyed as a simple concoction of rum, lime juice, and sugar.  In the early 1930s Ernest Hemingway went to Cuba.  After a long day of writing and fishing, he would enjoy a cocktail (or two).  Hemingway especially enjoyed those mixed by Constantino Ribalaigua at La Floridita Bar.  Cocktail legend tells us that one version of the daiquiri, with grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur added to the rum and lime, was Hemingway’s favorite.  Whether that story is true or not, what Jen mixed up for me was delicious—sweet and tart at the same time.

Ernest Hemingway enjoying a cocktail

While I sipped my daiquiri, Karaugh chose the Germination off the menu.  She’s a big fan of St. Germain, so was immediately drawn to this drink.  And it did not disappoint.  Does anything with the deliciously sweet elderflower liqueur ever disappoint???  I look forward to making this one at home soon, and I suggest if you like St. Germain to try this.   Here’s the recipe:

Germination (from Deep Ellum)

2 oz gin

¾ oz St. Germain

½ oz lemon juice

2 dashes orange bitters

Shake over ice. Strain.

Cheers!

There’s nothing like the first sip of a favorite cocktail to melt away the stress of a long, exhausting week.  I met Maura at Green Street tonight and felt that magic happen as I took a sip of the Last Word. This Prohibition-era drink developed at the Detroit Athletic Club always hits the spot.  How is it that I have yet to write about this fantastic cocktail? It’s a perfect combination of sweet, tart, and herbal—it’s just brilliant.  And this formula of equal parts of gin, maraschino liqueur, green Chartreuse and lime, can also be used to make some equally delicious variations.  Two particularly good ones are the Final Ward and the Monte Cassino.

On paper the Last Word is a battle of flavors.  In reality, however, there is no fist fighting amongst these four ingredients for top billing.  They blend together perfectly, while each still holds its own.  You taste the botanicals of the gin, the tart maraschino, the amazing herbals of the Chartreuse and the sharp freshness of the lime.

One of my favorite liqueurs is Chartreuse.  In this cocktail it shines.  I first drank this wonderful stuff as I watched, Into the Great Silence, a documentary about Carthusian monks who in addition to living a solitary existence have also have been making Chartreuse at the Grande Chartreuse monastery, France since the 18th century.  Legend has it that no one monk knows the entire recipe; instead its distributed amongst three different monks.  Originally made for medicinal purposes, over 130 herbs and plants give this liqueur layers upon layers of flavor.  It adds herbal complexity to the Last Word, but is also delicious with a little sparkling water and fresh citrus.

Here’s the recipe: (I enjoyed one at Green Street and then came home and made myself one.)

¾ oz Plymouth gin

¾ oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

¾ oz green Chartreuse

¾ oz fresh lime juice

Shake over ice. Strain. Enjoy!

The Last Word is well, the last word in cocktail complexity.  Cheers!

Rye whiskey is not a spirit that I have much experience with, especially not mixing myself.  But it has crossed my path a number of times over the last week , so I thought I should take a hint and try out a couple whiskey recipes.  This also gave me an excuse to use some of the new cocktail “toys” (new juicers and strainers) that I got for Christmas.  The two drinks I made both came from the New York Times (I’ve included the article links below).

For the last few months, I have been slowly making my way through The History of the World in Six Glasses (Tom Standage, 2005) and I just finished the section on whiskey.  Here are the highlights of what I learned. As our nation expanded westward in the late 18th century, Scottish and Irish settlers started making spirits from cereal grains like rye, wheat, corn or barley.  Whiskey quickly overtook rum which had dominated as the most popular booze in the colonial period.  Whiskey became such an important part of American life that it even caused a military skirmish in 1794.  Problems started when Alexander Hamilton thought it would be a good idea to tax whiskey production, even for private consumption, to raise money to pay off the debt from the American Revolution.  A small band of farmers in Pennsylvania fought against the whiskey tax collectors sparking the Whiskey Rebellion.  President George Washington brought together federal troops to handle the situation, but not before deaths on both sides.  The rebels were weakened and eventually the excise was repealed.  Interesting this moment in American history also contributed to the development of another spirit—as rebels moved farther west into Kentucky, in particular Bourbon County, where they took advantage of corn, an indigenous group, making a drink we now call bourbon.

Now that we’ve had our history lesson, onto the drinks…

The Red Hook

My first cocktail, the Red Hook, was inspired by an article in today’s New York Times (Thanks for the article, Jeff!).  The drink features rye whiskey (2 oz), Punt de Mes, or sweet vermouth (½ oz) and maraschino liqueur (½ oz).  It’s pretty heavy on the whiskey, so if I make this again, I might amp up the maraschino a bit to try and mellow out the whiskey.  I guess I need a little something to cut my whiskey.

The Monte Cassino

For my second drink, I made a Monte Cassino, another drink recipe I found in the NY Times in an article about the 500th anniversary of Benedictine.  This cocktail is spectacular!  Developed by Damon Dyer of Louis 649 in NYC, it follows the formula of The Last Word (and I have yet to meet a variation of this drink that I did not like)—equal parts of 4 ingredients that combine bitter, herbal, sweet and sour.  The Monte Cassino is ¾ ounce each of rye (the recipe called for Rittenhouse 100-proof, but I used Old Overholt), yellow Chartreuse, Benedictine, and lemon juice.  The Chartreuse and Benedictine both add a fabulous herbaliness and spiciness (between these two liqueurs there are almost 160 herbs and spices in this cocktail!), while the rye brings in a slight bitterness and the tart lemon rounds the whole thing out.  I love the complexity of the disparate flavors, and the way they come surprising come together in perfect harmony.  Spectacular!

Salute!

Wednesday night I went to Craigie on Main with Julie, Bridget, Chris and Phil for their Cocktail Whim—four half cocktails decided upon by the bartender.  Carrie took us on a fun cocktail adventure that began with a light appley sparkling cocktail and ended with a rich, dessert-like sherry flip. Along the way she shared lots of little tidbits about the yum ingredients in our cocktails.  This bartender’s whim is a great way to experiment and try some new stuff and maybe you’ll discover a new favorite—my new find was Becherovka.

Our first drink was the Tavern Sparkler.

Apple cider and honey syrup are matched up with Becherovka, and a little champagne tops it off.  This was my first experience with Becherovka, and it may soon become a favorite.  Like many of these traditional liqueurs, this bitter one from the Czech Republic, was traditionally used as a home remedy for stuff like toothaches and arthritis.  Cinnamon is the most prominent of the over thirty two herbs and spices in this secret recipe.  In this drink that cinnamon-herbal flavor perfectly compliments the apple cider and honey.  Then the champagne adds just enough sparkle to make the cocktail even more interesting—it’s bubbly, but not too bubbly.  Apple, cinnamon and honey are such familiar flavors and for me made drinking this cocktail a comforting experience.   Especially on a cold winter evening it warmed the soul.  This wonderful start was Julie’s favorite.

For drink #2, we had the Final Ward.  And this picture does not do this amazing drink justice.

This is a variation of the Last Word—one for my absolute favorite drinks—which is equal parts (3/4 ounces to be exact) gin, maraschino, green Chartreuse and lime juice.  Carrie explained that this version was developed by New York bartender Phil Ward.  Rye replaces gin and lemon replaces the lime.  And while I didn’t think you could improve on a drink as good as the Last Word this is pretty damn good.  The spiciness of the rye adds a depth to the already delicious mix of herbally Chartreuse and maraschino. And anything served with one of those Luxardo maraschino cherries is delicious!

Next came the 3-2-1.

This one has Fighting Cock bourbon, Aperol, sloe gin and whiskey barrel aged bitters.  The woody flavor of the savory bourbon and bitters are a solid foundation for this drink.  But the real punch comes from the Aperol.  Like Campari, Aperol is a bitter liqueur made from citrus (oranges to be exact), and it’s the most prominent part of this drink—which I really like.  The sloe gin adds not only sweet berriness which slightly mellows the bourbon and bitterness, but also makes the cocktails beautiful with that rich red color.   I loved the orange aroma and flavor that bookend this drink—I was drawn in by the robust orange fragrance and loved the way the orange bitter flavor lingers in your mouth long after the sip has been swallowed.  This may have been my favorite.

We finished with the Jerez Flip.


While I am getting over my fear of eggs in cocktails and am really becoming a flip convert, this was my least favorite of the night.  There was a lot going on—oloroso sherry, Pimm’s, Benedictine, demarara syrup, angostura and mole bitters.  I loved the Benedictine and really enjoy the richness thatan egg adds to a cocktail and who doesn’t love trying to get every last drop of foam from the glass.  Although I admit I am not as patient as Chris was in making that happen.  The reason for my hesitation with this particular flip was the inclusion of oloroso sherry—I am not a huge fan of sherry.  This was, however, one of Bridget’s favorite, which is the beauty of the Cocktail Whim, one person’s least favorite is another’s favorite.

Four yum cocktails, some good bar food (shoe string fries, thinner than any shoe string I have had,  were reminescent of those potato sticks in a can from childhood), and friends, of course, made for a good Wednesday.  And I can’t forget to mention how much I loved thetotally adorable mini-glasses.  Salute!

After the four hour ride to NYC and a cheese shopping adventure, we were thirsty for some good cocktails. So, my very good friends and fellow cocktail enthusiasts Brian and Jeff took my sister Allie and I to the fabulous Pegu Club to begin our Thanksgiving festivities. I was impressed by more than just the amazing drinks.

 

Round 1 at Pegu Club

The dark, moody (but not creepy), Asian-influenced atmosphere is inspired by the 19th century British Colonial Officers club in Burma of the same name.  And the bar snacks are really good.  The highlight was chicken lollipops, which totally deserve their name as they are covered in a sweet scotch-syrup that made me wish I had a spoon in my purse to get every last drop off the plate.

 

The Kill-Devil-- Look at the beautiful, rich carmel color

For my first drink, I ordered the Kill-Devil. How could I resist a cocktail with that name? I was also enticed by the combination of rum and Chartreuse. The waitress warned me that it was a “serious” drink—who do you think you’re talking to? She was right that it was a serious cocktail, but I am no amateur, I could handle it and really enjoyed the complex, potent flavor.

The Kill-Devil features Rum Agricole, green Chartreuse, demerara simple syrup and Angostura bitters. The drink gets its name from rum’s early nickname. In the 17th century, rum production was just beginning as sugar producers in Barbados realized they could make a very potent drink from the by-product of the sugar-making process. This new drink, what we now call rum, caused a nasty hangover and was affectionately called “kill-devil.” My Kill-Devil didn’t cause a hangover.  Instead it offered an interesting combination of sweet and herbal flavors. The dark rich color hinted at the carmel fragrance. The drink began with a sweet start—the rum is matched nicely with the demerara syrup—and is quickly followed by the herballyness of the Chartreuse and bitters.  Really good.

 

Brandy Crusta and the amazing lemon peel

For my second cocktail, I ordered a Brandy Crusta. I am working my way through a list of 100 Cocktails to Drink Before You Die (from a bar in Houston; more on the list later) and this is one on the list that I have yet to try. Invented in the early 19th century by a New Orleans bartender, the recipe was first published in 1862 in Jerry Thomas’ Bar-Tenders Guide. Featuring cognac, Cointreau, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice and Peychaud’s bitters, this is a very drinkable cocktail. All of the flavors meld together and are complimented by the crust of sugar on the rim of the glass, which gives the drink its name. Nothing overly complex, but really tasty. The most impressive part of this drink was the full lemon peel garnish that filled the glass—imagine the Guggenheim as a lemon peel!

Another great night of cocktails in New York. Salute!

Welcome to Nightcapped! I look forward to sharing my stories about all things cocktail.

My first  post has to be about the JDP–How many people can say they have a cocktail named after them? The honor was bestowed on me by Sam Treadway at Drink. For months, I have been enjoying this fabulous drink known only as the “no name” until the JDP was born…

Enjoying the first official JDP with Sam

It all started when I asked Sam what he could do with Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, my summer obsession. I am totally in love with this bittersweet liqueur. Forget what you think you know about maraschino cherry flavor from those neon red cherries of childhood. This stuff has been made from the Marasca sour cherries since the 16th century. First produced by religious orders in Zara– this is present day Croatian, but back in the day it was closely aligned with the Republic of Venice, hence its present Italian connection. Since 1821 the Luxardo family has been creating this delicious product that features the sourness of the cherries, but also suggestion of almond from the crushed pits.  It is just absolutely delicious!

My request was met with a cocktail that featured not only Luxardo Maraschino, and so much more. The tart cherry flavor and the sweet apricot is tempered by the lime juice and bitters. Totally yum! I guess ordering the “no name” for months paid off, I now have a cocktail named after me.  Next time you are in Drink, order a JDP. Or make one for yourself at home (I’ve included the recipe).  You won’t be sorry. Salute!

The JDP

1 oz gin (Junipero or Bombay Sapphire)
3/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz apricot liqueur
2 dashes angostura bitters

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