A Rose for Emily

Photos courtesy of the 2014 Eat Drink Read Write Festival, Birmingham, AL

EDRW_4“A Rose for Emily” is a 1930 short story by the American author William Faulkner. In the story, Miss Emily is a reclusive old Southern lady, a symbol of the antebellum years, now faded and marred by history. She never married, though she did once have a suitor who had told his friends he was “not the marrying kind” and disappeared before marrying her.  Miss Emily has now died, and the ladies of the town are eager to see into the house that has been closed up for many years, often emanating distasteful odors. Behind a barred door, they find the decaying corpse of Emily’s old suitor lying in a bed, covered in dust. She had apparently poisoned him. An indention in the pillow next to him contains a grey hair, indicating that Miss Emily had, at least for some time, been sleeping in the bed next to the body.

This story inspired me toward perfume and flowers of the type one might associate with a lady like Miss Emily. The combination of Bristow Gin and Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka would create a perfect base. I added a wash of rosewater at the beginning and lavender bitters at the end to complete the floral notes. The drink needed something to mute its high proof, so I added Lillet Rosé, making this essentially a variation on a classic martini, but with a pretty serious floral twist.

EDRW_2A drink in tribute to Faulkner really needs some bourbon in it somewhere, and the wood notes of the bourbon help to balance the botanical elements. I chose Four Roses bourbon because the name fit the bill, and it’s a tasty, mild, mid-priced bourbon that plays well with others. Naturally, I garnished with actual roses.

A Rose for Emily

In a mixing glass, combine:

  • 1.5 ounces Bristow Gin
  • .5 ounces Cathead Honeysuckle vodka
  • .5 ounces Four Roses bourbon
  • .5 ounces Lillet Rosé

Fill with ice and stir to desired dilution.

Spray the inside of a coupe glass thoroughly with rosewater. Strain the cocktail ingredients into the glass. Add 2-3 drops of lavender bitters to finish. Garnish with a large rose petal or small rose bud.

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Black Peppercorn Cocktails

We made a large vat of black peppercorn syrup for our Bengal Tiger a couple of weeks ago, and we still have leftovers. A quick reminder on how to make the syrup:

Mix 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, and 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until all the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat to low and let it simmer another 5-10 minutes, and then take it off the heat. When the mixture cools, strain out the peppercorns using cheesecloth or a mesh strainer and then bottle.

This syrup makes a wonderful spicy addition to almost any cocktail that would normally include regular simple syrup. We started with the most basic cocktail of them all, the Old Fashioned.

Black Pepper Old FashionedBlack Pepper Old Fashioned

  • 2 ounces of your favorite bourbon or rye
  • 1/2 ounce black peppercorn syrup
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Build in a rocks glass and fill with ice.

This syrup is especially delicious  if there is also citrus involved. Some things we tried:

Black Pepper Daiquiri

  • 2 ounces white rum
  • 1 ounce fresh pressed lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce black peppercorn syrup

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass.

Black Pepper Gimlet

  • 2 ounces dry gin
  • 1 ounce fresh pressed lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce black peppercorn syrup

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass.

Black Pepper Margarita

  • 2 ounces blue agave tequila
  • 1 ounce fresh pressed lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 ounce black peppercorn syrup

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass.

You can see how versatile this is. Try subbing lemon or lime in any of these drinks. Throw in a splash of fresh grapefruit or orange juice if you have it handy.

Secrets of EveFor our final black pepper trick, may we introduce “Secrets of Eve.” Whiskey Girl and I happen to have a fig tree in our back yard, so it’s a virtual fig-topia around here. We’ve made a lot of cool things with the figs, including entrees, desserts, and drinks. But the majority of the stock has gone into fig preserves, which we make with sugar, lemon, and fresh ginger.

We were snacking on our first jar of fig preserves and quickly came to the end, but there was still a lot of delicious reserve liquid remaining in the jar. What do you suppose we did with that?

Secrets of Eve

  • 2 ounces dry gin
  • 1 ounce fig preserve juice
  • 1/2 ounce black peppercorn syrup

Shake with ice and pour into a large rocks glass. Garnish with a fresh sprig of rosemary.

 

The Last Word

The Last Word is a pungent, sweet, and sour Prohibition-era classic. It was invented at the Detroit Athletic Club during Prohibition and was originally made with bathtub gin. The strong flavors of Chartreuse, lime, and maraschino liqueur were basically there to cover up the taste of the bad gin.

Most folks today make this with a London Dry gin like Bombay Sapphire. However, at the Zig Zag cafe in Seattle, which was resonsibile for the modern resurgence of this cocktail, they make it with a house-made “bathtub gin” that has stronger spice and citrus notes. So we tried making with our own house-made Old Tom, which makes it a very different animal. Both versions are really good in their own way though.

Last Word 2The Last Word

  • 3/4 ounces London dry gin or whatever you have around
  • 3/4 ounces fresh pressed lime juice
  • 3/4 ounces Green Chartreuse
  • 3/4 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur

Shake and strain into a coupe glass.

We should also mention one very popular variation called the Final Ward, which was invented by a New York bartender named Phil Ward. Ward substitutes rye whiskey for the gin and lemon juice for the lime. What variations can you imagine?

 

Aviation Cocktail

Aviation 2The storied history of the rise, fall, and restoration of the Aviation cocktail is one of mystery and misfortune. Legend says that it was first made in 1908, the same year that the Wright Brothers took their first passenger up in the air. Its invention is attributed to Hugo Ensslin, a bartender at New York’s Hotel Wallick, who published the recipe in 1916. The drink was reportedly named in honor of the increasingly popular activity in the skies, represented by the drink’s pale blue color.

However, by the end of the 1920s, the ingredient that gave it that sky blue hue, crème de violette, was not being produced commercially anymore. The Aviation cocktail, being one of its only uses, was apparently not quite popular enough to keep the violet liqueur in demand. In 1930, the wildly popular Savoy Cocktail Book printed a recipe for the Aviation that simply omitted the crème de violette. From there, things got weird. During the many decades when crème de violette was absent from the market, some tried to use other blue liqueurs such as creme Yvette, parfait d’amour, and even (blech) blue curacao as a substitute. Although the color was close, the flavor profile was not there.

Fortunately, in 2007, the Rothman & Winter company began importing crème de violette into the U.S. and the original Aviation once again became available, and a few years later, any bartender worth his bitters has it in his repertoire.

Aviation 1Classic Aviation

  • 2 ounces dry gin
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/4 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • 1/4 ounce crème de violette

Shake with ice and strain into a coupe.

As long as you are investing in that crème de violette, here are a few other things you can do with it. One popular variation on the Aviation is the Blue Moon cocktail, which simply omits the maraschino. Another is the Moonlight cocktail, which uses lime juice instead of lemon and Cointreau instead of maraschino. The Jupiter adds a little fresh-squeezed orange juice to the classic Aviation recipe.

You can also sip the liqueur by itself over ice, but it won’t be to everyone’s taste.

Georgia by Jack Wyrick

Photo by Cameron Carnes

Photo by Cameron Carnes

Jack Wyrick, formerly of Octane and Collins Bar, is the inventor of the Georgia, which won Birmingham’s local final in the GQ/Bombay Sapphire “Most Imaginative Bartender” competition. As a result, Jack will be headed to Las Vegas in September to compete nationally. She has generously shared her recipe with us here.

Unfortunately for us, Jack is no longer working in Birmingham. If you want to try her other cocktails, you”ll have to track her down in Nashville where she is will reportedly be working at the Patterson House and other fine establishments.

The Georgia is a refreshing take on a classic Martini or Vesper, adding in Salers bitter apertif to give the drink more body and bite.

Photo by Cameron Carnes

Photo by Cameron Carnes

 

Georgia

  • 1 1/4 oz Bombay Sapphire
  • 3/4 oz Grey Goose Vodka
  • 1/2 oz Martini Bianco vermouth
  • 1/2 oz Salers apertif

Stir with strip of lemon peel, being careful to avoid pith when peeling. Strain into coupe. Atomize Leyland-Cypress-infused orange bitters on to surface of cocktail. Garnish with a blackberry and spruce tip.

The Bengal Tiger

BengalTiger_3This week saw the local final in Birmingham for GQ/Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition for 2014. The winner, Jack Wyrick, will go to Las Vegas in September to compete nationally. We took part in the competition ourselves, and though we didn’t win, we thought we made a pretty good showing. In the coming days, we hope to share recipes from some of the other participants, but today, we’ll give you our own concoction invented for the contest: The Bengal Tiger.

We began our brainstorming with a classic called the Aviation. One thing we have always liked about an Aviation is the velvety texture that the maraschino provides, balanced with the floral notes of the gin and violet. We wanted to create something that had a similar mouth feel and floral qualities but with more complexity, so we started by substituting Yellow Chartreuse for the Crème de Violette.

For additional herbal punch, we added a few drops of a fennel seed tincture. We’ve been getting fennel from our local CSA this summer, and we’ve really enjoyed experimenting with this versatile and flavorful herb.

The star of this drink is black pepper. Although regular Bombay Sapphire doesn’t include peppercorns among its botanicals, its sister product Sapphire East does include them. So we knew pepper would play well with the essential Sapphire flavor profile. We made a peppercorn syrup because the extra spice required a little extra sweetness for balance. Bombay Sapphire has a higher proof than other gins in the Bombay family, which helps it stand up to all these bold flavors.

We added the orange slice and additional fresh ground pepper as a garnish mainly for the colors. We named this drink the Bengal Tiger because of the yellow and black colors or the drink and because it has a serious bite. In addition, South India, including the region of Bengal, is one of the areas where black pepper is native.

To make this drink, there are a couple of things you have to make first, but we think it’s worth the work. Both the peppercorn syrup and the fennel tincture make good additions to a Bloody Mary, and we think there are plenty of other uses, which we’ll be exploring here in future posts.

Black Peppercorn Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns

Add all ingredients to a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves and you have a soft boil. Turn heat to low and let simmer an additional 5-10 minutes, then remove from the heat. After the mixture cools, strain out the peppercorns using cheesecloth and funnel into a bottle for storage.

Fennel Seed Tincture

  • 1 cup 100-proof vodka
  • 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds

Add fennel seeds to vodka in a glass jar and keep in a cool, dry place. After 3-4 days, strain out the seeds. Funnel the mixture into a dropper bottle.

BengalTiger_2The Bengal Tiger

  • 2 ounces Bombay Sapphire gin
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • ½ ounce black peppercorn syrup
  • ¼ ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • ¼ ounce Yellow Chartreuse
  • 6 drops fennel seed tincture

Add all ingredients to a shaker 2/3 full of ice. Shake and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with half an orange slice and fresh cracked pepper.

If you want to be cute, cut the orange slice in quarters to make tiger ears.

Switch Hitters

We were reminded at a recent seminar that switching one base liquor for another is one of the oldest bartender tricks in existence. There is often some other tweaking involved besides just making a substitution.

For example, let’s start with a basic Daiquiri: rum + lime + sugar.

Take that recipe and switch brandy for the rum and lemon for the lime. Optionally, add triple sec for extra citrus and sweetness. Also optionally, add sugar to the rim of the glass. Now you have a Sidecar.

Switch out tequila for the brandy and switch the sugar rim for a salt rim. You can use lemon or lime or a combination. Now you have your basic Margarita.

You may not know that several drinks we associate with whiskey today, notably the Sazerac and the Mint Julep, were originally made with brandy or cognac. The switch was made during a period of grape blight when cognac became much harder to get (and subsequently more expensive). Over the past week, we have been enjoying both of those cocktails with brandy as the base liquor, and the result is delicious. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that brandy/cognac is sweeter than bourbon or rye, so you can get away with using a little less sugar.

We like to use Christian Brothers XO brandy or Hennessy VSOP cognac. You might try substituting other fine brandies or eaux de vie in yours and see what you come up with.

julepBrandy Mint Julep

  • Muddle a few leaves of mint with 1/2 ounce of simple syrup in a rocks glass (or make a batch of mint syrup, if you prefer)
  • Add two ounces of brandy/cognac
  • Fill glass with crushed ice.
  • Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

In the Wikipedia article on the Manhattan cocktail, there are numerous variations that do little more than switch out the base liquor. Some also switch to a different type of vermouth. For example, if you make a Cuban Manhattan, which subs light rum for the whiskey, you might want to use a dry vermouth instead of sweet. The dry vermouth will help counter the sweetness of the rum, and if you are using a white rum, you will still have a crystal clear cocktail (as long as you stir it; don’t shake!)

Or you could try our variation, which uses Punt e Mes, a sweet vermouth with a kind of bitter edge to it. We also prefer an aged rum like Flor de Cana 4-year. If you are feeling really fancy, use the 12-year.

Cuban Manhattan

  • 2 ounces aged rum
  • 1/2 ounce Punt e Mes
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • stir in a mixing glass full of ice to desired level of dilution
  • strain into a coupe glass
  • garnish with lemon peel

The ancestor of the Sidecar and the Margarita–the granddaddy of all “fancy” cocktails–is the Crusta. Though it was originally made with brandy, there was a time around the Civil War era when it was popular with gin. The style of gin you would most likely have found at that time was Old Tom. We recommend buying Ransom’s brand of Old Tom if you can find it. Otherwise, make your own.

CrustaOld Tom Crusta

  • Carve a long spiral of lemon peel, about an inch wide.
  • Cut the lemon in half and rub the rim of a coupe glass with the lemon
  • Rim the glass with sugar (rub the lemon on the glass first, so the sugar will stick)
  • Place the lemon spiral in the middle of the glass.
  • Add the following to a shaker full of ice:
    • 2 ounces of Old Tom gin
    • 1/2 ounce lemon juice (protip: use the same lemon you peeled earlier)
    • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
    • 1/4 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • Shake and strain mixture into the glass.