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I have found a new favorite place in Boston—the comfy, cozy leather bench-seat at the end of the bar at The Citizen.  Just a 10 minute walk from my office, for two weeks in a row I have retreated to The Citizen with friends to relax from the stress of work.  And that fabulous seat at the end of the bar has awaited and welcomed me with open arms—is it possible to fall in love with a chair? As a short woman who has issues with bar stools, this is a perfect perch for me—no chance of falling off this thing (yes, I did fall off a bar stool once and no, I was not drunk when it happened), it is pretty comfortable, and I get a great view of the entire bar from this end.

But a bar is of course about more than seating.  John satisfied my request for something bitter and rich (it was quite a damp day here in Boston today, so I wanted something with intense flavors) with a cocktail called Johan goes to Mexico (a creation by Drink bartender Josey Packard).  Paying homage to Dr. Johan Siegert, the 19th century doctor who created Angostura bitters, this drink includes a half ounce of Angostura (yum!) alongside Mezcal Vida (hello, Mexico!), lemon juice and demerara syrup.  Wow, what a fabulous drink!

Your whiskey club card is like an adult library card

And then I took the leap and joined The Citizen’s Whiskey Club.  The concept is simple: explore the wonders and variety of whiskey by trying about 100 options on the bar’s list. And when you’ve made your way through the list, you get a special single barrel Four Roses bourbon and an engraved glass to use on each visit.  Its important to have goals, right?  I started off with Black Maple Hill.  Made in Bardston, Kentucky, this small batch bourbon is aged for an average of 8 years in oak casks.  The result is a butterscotchy sweetnesss which makes this go down pretty easy.

If in the months to come you are looking for me, check the leather bench-seat at The Citizen and most likely I’ll have a whiskey in hand–I do have about 90 more to try.  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.

The posts were light last month. I only managed to write one—sorry, faithful readers.  I temporarily let my heart replace my brain, but I am back on track.  So, here are some highlights from February:

A little birdie told me…Nightcapped has finally joined the 21st century and is now tweeting.  Not only do I like vintage cocktails, but I am also technically behind the times.  But the time has come for me to embrace the possibilities. So, follow Nightcapped on Twitter for frequent updates on what I’m drinking, where I’m hanging out and whatever other tidbits I decide to share. Tweet Tweet.

Gold Rush— A couple weeks ago, what I thought would be a regular Saturday evening at Craigie on Main turned into one of the most memorable dining experiences I’ve had.  Not only was every bite of the 6-course tasting menu delectable—Essex clams, prosciutto pasta, beef cheeks, crispy quinoa, and Campari sorbet to name a few of the memorable items—but the company was wonderful and the cocktails were fantastic.  Our bartender Anna happily took up our request for an all bourbon evening and mixed us up a number of delicious concoctions.  One of my favorites was the Gold Rush.  I loved it for it simplicity— 1 ½ oz bourbon (Black Maple Hill), ¾ oz honey syrup and ¾ oz lemon.  The honey and lemon temper the sweet richness of the bourbon, allowing it to shine.

The old Old Fashioned (that’s the one with no muddled fruit) became a staple of my libation consumption this past month.  While I have always enjoyed this drink, I came to better appreciate the flexibility and beauty of this cocktail.  I am still pretty sure that my preference is for an Old Fashioned with rye and a combo of Angostura and orange bitters,  but I enjoyed experimenting.  The possibilities seem endless with all the various whiskeys, bourbons, even tequilas, and all the bitters now at our disposal.

Really? I love the leftover milk from a bowl of sugary cereal as much as the next gal, but in a cocktail?  By the way, in my opinion Fruity Pebbles yields the best sweet milk!  DC bartender Derek Brown discusses the prospect in this article.  I’m skeptical.

That’s February’s last call. Cheers!

For the 4th year in a row, I traveled to New York City to spend Thanksgiving with my two best guys, Brian and Jeff.  And for the 4th year in a row, we cooked up a feast complete with all the Thanksgiving staples, as well as some new dishes.  My favorites were the maple roasted brussel sprouts (Those little guys really have a false bad rep. They are delicious!) and popovers with acorn squash and pecans.  Of course the meal would not be complete with out a few cocktails and paired wines.  For one of our pre-dinner cocktails, I mixed up Cranberry Smashes.

The Smash, the Whiskey Smash in particular, has a long history.  It is mentioned by Jerry Thomas in his 1862 How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon-Vivant’s Companion: “This beverage is simply a julep on a small plan.” His recipe consists of ½ tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon water, and 1 wine-glass of whiskey.  Since 1862, a smidge more sweetner, mint and lemon slices have been added.  For my Thanksgiving smash, I then added cranberries into the muddled mix.  The cranberry is, after all, a quintessential part of Thanksgiving—what is Turkey Day without cranberry sauce? (By the way, I made the most delicious cranberry sauce this year with Grand Marnier.)  A handful of the little red fruits join forces with the muddled lemon to add a nice tart/bitter quality that along with a little sugar and mint create a perfect compliment to the warm richness of bourbon.  Now this is a boozey drink, so I recommend (as I did with Brian) that you make the gravy before you down that smash.

Cranberry Smash (recipe used at Drink)

Muddle 15 cranberries

Add 2 slices of lemon, 1 ½ tsp of sugar, and mint. Muddle some more.

Add 2 ½ oz bourbon (I used Elijah Craig 12 year)

Shake with ice

Serve over crushed ice and garnish with cranberries and mint.

Happy Thanksgiving! Cheers!

A beauty shot of our gorgeous Thanksgiving table

Saturday Drink hosted its 2nd Annual Run for the Roses Derby Party.  There were fabulous hats galore, lots of bow ties, even a little seersucker, and best of all much bourbon.  There was a list of Derby-appropriate drinks to chose from, but it seemed only right to start off with a Mint Julep—it’s as much a part of the Derby as the hats and the horses.   A little mint, a little sweet, a lot of bourbon.  Delicious!

I had to show off my hat and Mint Julep

The first mention of the julep in print was in 1803; it was described as a “dram of spirituous liquor that has mint in it, taken by Virginians in the morning.”  The origins of this drink can be traced to the Arabic world and a drink called a julab, made with water and rose petals.  As the drink moved around the globe, the rose petals were replaced by mint, a spirit was added and the Mint Julep was born.

I found this description of the Mint Julep by Joshua Soule Smith (1890s) and thought these poetic words about this venerable drink say it better than I ever could:

Then comes the zenith of man’s pleasure. Then comes the julep—the mint julep. Who has not tasted one has lived in vain. The honey of Hymettus brought no such solace to the soul; the nectar of the Gods is tame beside it. It is the very dream of drinks, the vision of sweet quaffings. The Bourbon and the mint are lovers. In the same land they live, on the same food they are fostered. The mint dips its infant leaf into the same stream that makes the bourbon what it is. The corn grows in the level land through which small streams meander. By the brook-side the mint grows. As the little wavelets pass, they glide up to kiss the feet of the growing mint, the mint bends to salute them. Gracious and kind it is, living only for the sake of others.

Derek Brown’s recent piece in the Atlantic gives you a bit more about the Julep: The Mint Julep: ‘The Very Dream of Drinks’

Donning my fabulous hat, I sipped my Mint Julep and cheered on the horses.  Congratulations, Super Saver!

Cheers!


Tonight I met Susan at Craigie on Main and we decided to do the Cocktail Whim—four half-sized cocktails that our bartender Carrie chose for us beginning with a French 75 version and ending with an Italian-inspired flip.  I have done this before and really love it for a number of reasons:

1. You really don’t have to make a decision;

2. You try drinks you might not normally chose for yourself (and if you’re not crazy about it, hey, it’s only a small drink);

3. You get to enjoy your drinks in super-cute mini-glasses.

Susan and I had lots of catching up to do and were talking a lot, so my thoughts on the drinks a bit more cursory than my usual reviews.  Admittedly, I was more focused on talking than on drinking.  So, I guess this post is like the cocktail whim itself, a little taste to pique your interest.

The Kingston 75

We started with a Kingston 75—a version of a French 75 with Appleton rum, triple sec, lemon juice, topped with Champagne.  Its a warmer version of one of my favorite cocktails.  A really nice light beginning.

Susan with our 2nd drink-- look at that beautiful pink color courtesy of the Aperol

The second drink, which both Susan and I really liked, is a creation of Carrie’s and it had yet to be named.  It was made with mezcal, Aperol, grapefruit juice, lime juice, agave syrup, Fee Bros Whiskey Barrel bitters, and a pinch of salt.  The mezcal made it smoky and the Aperol added that citrus bitterness that I love.

#3 The Mediterranean Union

Our third drink, the Mediterranean Union, was my favorite. This had Fighting Cock bourbon, house-made amer picon (a French bitter liqueur), and Cynar.  The bitterness of the amer picon plays very nicely with the bourbon and the buttery artichokey Cynar.  I love this kind of thing of a cold winter evening—it warms you from the inside.  Yum!

A Florentine Flip for the finale

We finished with the Florentine Flip which was Susan’s favorite (she loves flips!).  This herbalicious flip has lots going on—Punt de Mes, Amaro Nonino (a wonderful Italian herbal liqueur that was a new one for me), Benedictine, Angostura bitters, a dash of orange blossom, an egg (of course), finished with flamed essence of mint.  A delicious ending to our cocktail quartet!

Cheers!

Monday night Julie and I went to Drink.  We settled into the small ice station bar and began chatting with bartender Joe Staropoli about what we were in the mood for.  Julie told Joe that she wanted something spicy—cloves spicy, not jalapeno spicy.  This is what led to our introduction to allspice dram which I kind of fell in love with.  This amazing stuff, also known as pimento dram, is made with rum and pimento berries, or as we know it, allspice.  British explorers in the 18th century thought the dried pimento berry tasted like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, all in one, so they called it allspice.  But it’s more than that just clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg flavors.  There is also a distinctive peppery note that lingers on your tongue.  It is just so yum!

At Joe’s suggestion, Julie enjoyed a Lion’s Tale, a cocktail featured in Café Royal Cocktail Book published in London in 1937.  The spiciness of the dram was supported nicely by the warmth of the bourbon.  Absolutely delicious!

Lion’s Tale

1½ oz bourbon

½ oz St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram

½ oz lime juice

¼ oz demerara syrup

2 dashes Angostura bitters

For my second drink, I asked Joe what he could make me with my new favorite ingredient.  Do you like ginger, he asked.  Yeah, I like ginger.  What he mixed up was so good.  He calls it Smile at Smolak.  He originally created this drink to satisfy a request for something with autumnal flavors.  The name references a farm in North Andover where you can get all your fall staples—apples, pumpkins, etc.  [I think there might be more to the story behind this drink, but that’s what I remember.]  The apple brandy and Punt de Mes are a solid base upon which the ginger syrup and the allspice can stand and shine.  From the first sip, my mouth was tingling with yum spiciness.

Smile at Smolack

1½ oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy

½ oz Punt de Mes

½ oz St. Elizabeth All-Spice Dram

½ oz ginger syrup

2 dashes mole bitters

Here’s to falling in love with allspice dram. Cheers!

I was standing in my kitchen tonight deciding what to mix up to end a great weekend that included lots of good cocktails.  My jar of Luxardo maraschino cherries caught my attention.  (Note: these are not those neon pink/red cherries we know from childhood.  These are the real deal.)  And I thought, “What can I do with those? Duh.  An Old-Fashioned of course?”  I pulled together all the ingredients and grabbed my muddler.

Since we have enjoyed many together, I will always think of my friend Maura when I have an Old-Fashioned.  It’s a favorite of hers and she has made it a favorite of mine.  It’s a classic that has been pleasing drinkers for a long time. In Jerry Thomas’ 1862 How to Mix Drinks, he identifies a cocktail as a strong spirit of any kind, with sugar, water and bitters.  In that way, some identify the Old-Fashioned as the original cocktail.  The muddled fruit I so enjoy was added later in the early 20th century.  Like with most cocktail recipes, the exact moment of origin is a bit fuzzy, but many credit the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky with the bourbon version most of us enjoy.

I really like the potency of this drink—it’s mostly bourbon.  The caremelly, sweetness of the bourbon is nicely matched with the muddled cherry and orange.  And the Angostura bitters (Of course, I am using these sparing these days, but this is a worthy cause) amp up the whole thing.  Perfect end to the weekend.

Even though I have made many with no recipe, I followed Dale DeGroff’s recipe in The Essential Cocktail.  It’s pretty much the same as what I learned from Maura.

Old-Fashioned

In an old-fashioned glass (what else would you possibly use?), muddle together:

1 tsp superfine sugar

3 dashes Angostura bitters

1 maraschino cherry

1 orange slice

Splash of club soda

Remove fruit pieces

Add 2 oz bourbon and ice

Stir

Garnish with orange slice and maraschino cherry.

Thank goodness old school drinks like Old-Fashioneds never go out of style.  Cheers!

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