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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!

Last night at Drink, I spotted a piece of cucumber and immediately knew what to ask Misty to make for me—the Irma la Douce.  Created by LUPEC Boston, this cocktail combines muddled cucumber with gin, citrus and green Chartreuse resulting in a drink that is savory, herbal and refreshing.  I absolutely love the cucumber flavor!

This fabulous drink is named for the 1963 comedy Irma la Douce starring Shirley MacLaine (Irma) as a quirky and charming Parisian prostitute.  Jack Lemmon plays a policeman who falls for Irma.  Because he can’t stand the thought of Irma with another man, he concocts an alter-ego who becomes her only client.  As you can imagine, hilarity ensues as he attempts to keep up this charade.

Interestingly, the drink is named for the bright green stockings that Irma wears throughout the film.  The drink features a green French liqueur and the final color is a beautiful green hue, reminiscent of Irma’s interesting fashion choice.  Here’s a short clip of her dancing in those famous stockings.

Irma la Douce

1 ½ oz Hendrick’s gin
½ oz green Chartreuse
½ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz grapefruit juice
¼ oz simple syrup

½ inch piece of cucumber, peeled

Muddle cucumber. Add remaining ingredient and shake with ice.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of cucumber.

Cheers!

1 ½ oz Hendrick’s gin
½ oz green Chartreuse
½ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz grapefruit juice
¼ oz simple syrup

½ inch piece of cucumber, peeled

Tiki Sundays are fun, but maybe even more so on a long weekend.  After enjoying a Jet Pilot (yum!) I asked Joe for something that was herbally, and Tiki-ish.  What he delivered can only be described as total deliciousness—the Chartreuse Swizzle is herbally, sweet and tart, simple, yet complex.

Paula's Mary Pickford and my Chartreuse Swizzle

Chartreuse Swizzle

½ oz Velvet Falernum

¾ oz lime

2 oz Chartruese

2 dashes Angostura bitters

According to David Embury in the Fine Art of Mixing Drinks a swizzle is “simply a sour-type drink churned with a swizzle stick until it attains a foamy appearance and the container becomes frosted.”  Embury goes on to explain the importance of the swizzle stick, a stick with a forked end that is used to mix the drink, “The bladed end is immersable in the drink, the shaft between the palms of the hand, and the whole stick rapidly rotated by sliding the hands back and forth against one another.”

Swizzles have been enjoyed since the 18th century and traditionally are made with rum, fruit juice like lime, pineapple or orange, and a flavored sweetener like grenadine or falernum.  The rum swizzle is often referred to as the national drink of Bermuda.  I have a foggy memory of visiting a place called the Swizzle Hut while on a high school trip to Bermuda; and I think I may have even bought a t-shirt that said something to the effect of “I got wrecked at the Swizzle Hut.”  The rum variety is good, but this Chartreuse variation is amazing.

Here’s to Chartreuse in a swizzle and another fun Tiki Sunday. Cheers!

In ancient Norse mythology the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, were reflections off the spectacular armor of the Valkyries, the warrior women who escorted the dead across the northern skies to the legendary Valhalla.  For the Romans, Aurora was the goddess of the dawn.  Each day to rejuvenate herself she flew across the northern sky to announce the coming of the sun.  And Finnish folklore tells of mythical foxes that spark fires in the sky with their tales.  You may be wondering what this mythology has to do with cocktails…

Comfortably seated at Craigie’s crowded bar (this is one popular place!), Holly and I enjoyed a Northern Lights while we waited for Maura to join us.  This drink is SO good!  With scotch, St. Germain, lemon and tiki bitters this cocktail has a wonderful range of flavors, like the beautiful spectrum of colors of the meteorological phenomenon of the same name.  The smoky, sweet, and tart flavors are enhanced with house-made tiki bitters which feature ginger, orange essence and baking spices.  One of the things that Holly and I liked best about this drink was the subtly of the St. Germain.  Now, I totally love the elderflower liqueur, but it often takes over a drink.  Here, however, the scotch holds it at bay and the St. Germain just adds a delicate bright sweetness.  A drink that stands up to the legends of ancient mythology– complex, magical, and pleasing.

Maura soon joined us and we moved onto the Cocktail Whim.  This was my 3rd adventure in this cocktail tasting and I love the concept more and more each time.  Once again, Carrie served up four great drinks– three of which featured Benedictine, one of my favorite liqueurs.  We started with a Belle du Jour—brandy, Benedictine, house-made grenadine topped with Champagne.

Maura, Holly and I enjoying our Belle du Jour-- Look at that gorgeous color!

Our second drink was a classic daiquiri— rum, lime juice, and simple syrup.  Deliciously simple. Simply delicious.  Next, we sipped on a Vieux Carre—rye, brandy, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Angostura and Peychaud’s.  The rich, complexity of this drink paired nicely with our delicious burgers.  Our final drink, a Colleen Bawn—a flip made with brandy, Benedictine and yellow Chartreuse (and an egg, of course)– was a nice herbally ending to our tasting.  Then as an extra treat, Carrie let us sample a drink she’s working on for next Sunday’s event at Green Street.  All I’ll say is that it’s heavy on the smoky mezcal and leave the rest for next Sunday.

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!

With Christmas upon us, the nostalgia of holiday traditions has overtaken my sensibilities. I come from a family that thrives on traditions. And I am the first to admit that some are pretty cheesy, but I totally love it! There is comfort and reassurance in the familiar. I do not find it boring or monotonous as some may, but rather I am invigorated by keeping cherished traditions alive. We are who we are because we bring the past to the present. And as time marches on and loved ones are no longer with us we remember them in these family rituals. For example, this Christmas as I felt the sadness of losing my grandfather this past year, I couldn’t imagine not having toutaes (a homemade ravioli/tortellini).  He learned to make these pastas from his mother and he passed along this tradition to me.  As I rolled out pasta dough I thought about him—and in that way he will always be with me.

So, what does all this have to do with cocktails? The past couple nights my adventures in cocktails have been about traditions.  Monday night I continued a pre-holiday outing with my brother and sister.  Then Tuesday night I met friends for a traditional Christmastime drink.

Jess and Nick enjoying their first cocktails at Drink

Monday night, I introduced my brother Nick and sister Jess to Drink for our 2nd annual pre-holiday outing. We had lots of good drinks; I won’t describe all in detail, but instead I’ll share some highlights. Jess realized that maybe she does like cocktails after all while—if any place will convince you that cocktails are fabulous, its Drink. She especially enjoyed her Big Red (raspberry syrup, lemon, Aperol and vodka)—beautiful color for the holidays and it was a really nice mix of sweet and bitter. Nick wanted something a little stiffer so he enjoyed a Sazerac for the first time and then ended the evening with a Manhattan variation—equal parts Booker 127 proof bourbon and Punt de Mes—Aaron called it the Moto Guzzi (after the motorcycle). One sip of that and you realize why people drink booze to stay warm!

Jess with her Big Red and me with my Champs Elysees

I decided to check another drink of my 100 must-have cocktails, and opted for the Champs Elysees.

The Champs Elysees

As I took my first sip, I kind of fell in love—why have I never had this cocktail before? The drink features cognac, lemon, sugar, yellow Chartreuse, and bitters. Just look at that gorgeous golden color. The cognac offers a rich base and the yellow Chartreuse adds a subtle herbalness (its mellow than the green variety) and the lemon brightens the whole thing up. Its very drinkable and also complex in flavor. Really yum! This just may become a new favorite!

For my final drink of the evening, Aaron gave me his Battle of Hastings cocktail.

The Battle of Hastings

This was the perfect way to end the evening. The ingredients here were the inspiration for the name. And for those of you who don’t remember exactly what the Battle of Hastings was, don’t feel bad Jess, Nick and I didn’t either. But I learned it was the 1066 battle between the Saxons and the Normans. The Benedictine and Calvados are from Normandy, while the smoky Scotch is from the British Isle. But before all this yum booze gets added a demerara sugar cube is muddled with 7 dashes of Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Bitters (I previously thought I didn’t like these bitters, but this drink changed my mind). I absolutely loved the smokiness of the scotch and layers of flavors that the Benedictine and Calvados added. A perfect ending.

Tuesday night, I met Molly, Matt and Jeannie at No. 9 Park for a Tom and Jerry, a classic Christmastime cocktail developed in the early 19th century.

Of course this drink has nothing to do with the antics of the cat and mouse pair we remember from childhood. Instead it is a combination of a homemade batter of eggs, sugar and spices—cloves, nutmeg and all spice—served over rum and brandy that are mixed with hot milk. Imagine sweet frothy eggnog that kind of tastes like meringue that is followed by a very boozy warm liquid. Jeannie may have described it best, “Initially you are attacked by a marshmallow, and then you are hit in the face with spicy liquor.” It may take some getting used to for some—the boozy part is really boozy—but on a cold winter evening the warm booze with sweet batter that is filled with all the flavors of the holiday season really hits the spot. Taking a break from the hectic running around that we all do before the holidays to enjoy a traditional Christmastime beverage with friends seems to be a holiday tradition I could get used to.

Happy Cocktailing and Happy Holidays! 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!

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