Breakfast in a Glass

IMG_20150709_094305Eggs in a cocktail? Raw? Preposterous! Well, no. It would be preposterous if the eggs were cooked perhaps, but there is a long history of eggs in cocktails. Lots of drinks, like whiskey sours, combine egg white with citrus to provide a frothy, creamy texture. When you use the whole egg, it’s called a “flip,” variations of which go back to the 16th century. Flips are mentioned in some of the works of Dickens. Jerry Thomas, in 1887, said that a flip “gives strength to delicate people.” Well, I was feeling a little delicate earlier this morning, and now I’m feeling as strong as a race horse. Of course, there is always some risk in consuming raw eggs. That’s our disclaimer. However, if you know where your eggs come from, that’s half the battle. We get farm fresh, free-range, hormone-free eggs every week from our CSA, and I try to pull out the smallest ones for cocktails.

One variety of flip that is still popular around the holidays is eggnog. A lot of people dont’ realize you can make eggnog by the glass with milk, an egg, sugar, and (optionally) the spirit of your choice (we like ours with brandy). But a flip can be enjoyed any time of year, particularly when you are hung over. Fortified wines are great in flips. These include sherry, port, madeira, marsala, and vermouth. Our favorite flip, is made with a combination of gin and sherry, and we make it thusly:

IMG_20150709_095020Solera Gin Flip

  • 1 oz London dry gin
  • 1 oz solera sherry
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 1 small farm-fresh egg

Put all the ingredients in a shaker and shake for 30 seconds with NO ICE. This will make it fluffy. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with fresh-grated nutmeg.

A note on sherry: There are many varieties of sherry and also great disparity in quality. We picked solera sherry for this drink because it has a sweet, but not too sweet, nutty flavor that we enjoy.

Corpse Revivals

IMG_20150628_103144A Corpse Reviver is more of a family of drinks than an actual drink. As a category, it includes any of many cocktails that have been used over the decades as a hangover cure or eye-opener, such as the Bloody Mary, the Michelada, and tiki favorites like the Zombie. The name Corpse Reviver goes back to the mid-1800s, but the most famous recipes that go by that moniker are the two that appear in Harry Craddock’s 1930 bar manual, The Savoy Cocktail Book.

Craddock’s recipe for the Corpse Reviver #1 uses 1.5 ounces of brandy or cognac, .75 ounces of calvados, and .75 ounces of sweet vermouth. All the ingredients are shaken over ice and strained into a glass. Calvados—a type of apple brandy made in Bordeaux, France—is what makes it interesting. There are a couple of brands available in Alabama and a few other varieties that you can find in neighboring states (not that we condone bootlegging liquor across state lines, of course). If you can’t find calvados, Laird’s Applejack can be subbed to provide apple flavor, but it will be slightly different animal. While they are similar products, calvados is more subtle. Applejack, though technically also an apple brandy, drinks more like a whiskey. For the cognac, we’re not partial to a brand, but wouldn’t use anything except VSOP or XO.

It’s a very tasty drink, but the Corpse Reviver #2 seems to show up more often on modern menus. It uses equal parts of gin, lemon juice, Cointreau, and Lillet Blanc, with a wash of absinthe in the glass. The original recipe calls for Kina Lillet instead of Lillet Blanc, but that product is no longer made, and most people seem to think Lillet Blanc is a reasonable substitute. Cointreau is mentioned by name in the book, but any dry curacao liqueur will work. The Pierre Ferrand dry curacao seems to be gaining currency of late.

In The Bartender’s Bible from 1991, Gary Regan lists a drink called the Corpse Reviver that has 1.5 ounces of brandy, 1 ounce of white crème de menthe, and .5 ounces of Fernet Branca. Brave souls that we are, we have tried this and found it not altogether horrible. In fact, we are drinking one right now. If, for some reason, you have white crème de menthe at your house, this is a decent way to get rid of some of it. Top it off with a lemon twist if you’re feeling fancy. It’s really a slightly more drinkable variation on an old-style highball called a Stinger, which just uses the brandy and crème de menthe. The bitterness of Fernet helps to balance it out and make the crème de menthe less cloying.

The internets contain a plethora of recipes laying claim to the name of Corpse Reviver #3. Some are variations on Regan’s recipe. Others are similar to the recipe for Corpse Reviver #2 but with some kind of substitute. For example, we found one that subs Swedish Punsch for Lillet (a terrible idea, if you ask us). Another uses lime juice instead of lemon. Still another uses brandy, Campari, triple sec, and lemon juice. There seems to be no limit. The lesson here is: It’s fine to come up with your own corpse reviver recipe, but please PLEASE come up with an original name for it.

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.

The Gin Experiments

A couple of years ago, I stumbled across a recipe for making your own gin at home, safely and legally. No bathtubs are involved. You see, at heart, gin is really just a neutral grain alcohol that has been infused with juniper berries and other botanical ingredients. It’s been said that gin is the original flavored vodka, although it was once something more like flavored moonshine.

A little history:
IMG_20131106_195152_294
In the 18th century, whiskey and gin started off in generally the same way, by distilling whatever grains happened to be around. In those days, distilling methods were pretty low tech — think your typical backwoods moonshine still, not terribly clean, perhaps infested with bugs. To improve the flavor of their product, whiskey makers started aging it in wine casks or oak barrels. In Holland, they used some commonly found botanicals to add flavor–most notably, the juniper berry. The Dutch word for “juniper” is “genever,” so Dutch liquor became known by that name, later shortened to just “gin.”

Genever, still made today by the Dutch company Bols, is maltier, sweeter, and earthier than the dry gins most of us are more familiar with today. English distilleries in the nineteenth century created a more filtered gin, still slightly sweet, called Old Tom.  In the twentieth century, a drier and even more heavily filtered version of gin gained popularity, London Dry, which was the only gin most Americans knew about for decades. More recently, older styles of gin have become popular again, and some companies are making a wide variety of gins. The only common factor is the trusty old juniper berry.

If you think you don’t like gin, you probably just haven’t had the right one yet.

GinMost commercial gins include the juniper and other botanicals before distilling, which is why the result is a clear liquor. However, without access to a still, you can simply infuse the botanicals directly into already distilled liquor. Because the berries and other stuff goes straight into the liquid, it will end up with some color to it, but don’t let that scare you.

There are a lot of recipes online for homemade gin. I started with something similar to the one I found here and gradually experimented with some other recipes. For all of these recipes, I leave the botanicals in the alcohol for 3 days and then filter out the solids using cheese cloth.

The first gin we made here at the Whiskey Thief is something we now simply call Gin #1. It uses a lot of spices that you might associate with Indian food–cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, etc. It tastes like Christmas morning.

Gin #1

  • 750 ml of 100 proof vodka
  • 2 tablespoons of dried juniper berries
  • 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon of allspice berries
  • peel of half an orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick

I have also used whiskey as a base for Gin #1, instead of vodka. It makes for an interesting spiced whiskey, but I don’t think it’s really gin unless you start with something more neutral.

Jen likes Gin #1, but I find the coriander overly intense. When I revised the recipe, I cut way back on the coriander and added some clove. I also switched from vodka to a white (unaged) whiskey, aka moonshine, hoping to achieve a sweeter Old Tom-like gin. Having compared the result to some Old Tom gins purchased in another state, I think ours is a contender.

Old Tom #1

  • 750 ml of white whiskey (I like to use Prichard’s)
  • 2 tablespoons of dried juniper berries
  • 1 teaspoon of clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon of allspice berries
  • peel of half an orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick

After that, I decided to see what it would be like to concentrate just on juniper without any other flavor components. Juniper actually has a really complex and interesting flavor on its own, with subtle notes of cinnamon and vanilla that can easily get covered up by citrus peel and other spices.

Super Juniper

  • 750 ml of 100-proof vodka
  • 4 tablespoons of dried juniper berries

That’s it!

The most recent and possibly most ambitious experiment has been to try and make a cucumber gin. Commercially, the only thing on the market like this is Hendrick’s, and it’s rather expensive. For my first attempt, I used too much cucumber, and I neglected to peel them first. The peel of the cucumber left the gin tasting bitter. With some trial and error, I came up with a recipe that we think has a similar flavor profile to Hendrick’s, but it’s much stronger. We had to cut it with more vodka to achieve the desired result.

As a bonus, we had gin-flavored pickles at the end. They still needed to be sweetened, but putting them in a mason jar with some sugar for a couple of days did the trick.

Cuke Juke Gin

  • 750 ml of 100-proof vodka
  • 2 tablespoons of dried juniper berries
  • half a small cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • peel of one lemon