Friday, March 30, 2012

The Ramos Gin Fizz, or, the Perfect Cocktail for April

The Ramos Gin Fizz is an odd cocktail. For one, it's complicated: this drink goes well beyond the basic formula of base spirit + citrus + bitters. It's time consuming: preparation takes minutes, not seconds, and orange flower water is a pain to find. And it's decidedly not party friendly: you'd have to have an industrial equipment to make it in batches, and your arms will feel like you just lost a weightlifting competition if you try to make more than a few in one go. 

So, why is it still so darn popular? Why has such a seemingly antiquated drink persisted? Why do mixologists keep putting up with it? Well, in spite of all this complication, risk to your person, and the hermit-like lifestyle it seems to promote, this gorgeous drink just can't be matched. It's whipped texture from the egg and cream components is simply heavenly, like a delicious, lightly boozy meringue. The light carbonation keeps it surprisingly refreshing, while the lemon and lime juices add bright acidity. The orange flower water adds a delicate, lovely, and unmistakable note - the small amount the recipe calls for makes it beautifully reminiscent of Springtime. And, sure, while egg + alcohol might leave you thinking the eggnog of cold months past, the Ramos Gin Fizz's egg white component makes it just about the perfect drink for the adults to sip while the kids are off on a long Easter egg hunt - really, it's only fair if they're getting all that chocolate.

This drink was a Victorian-era invention, perhaps unsurprisingly originating in the cocktail mecca of New Orleans. Created by Henry Ramos, the recipe was a closely guarded secret for years, while his bar employed teams of men to man the shakers. But with the rise of Prohibition, the fizz-slingers lost their legitimate jobs, and rumor has it, Ramos was furious - so as a small act of rebellion, he got a lot more generous with that secret recipe in hopes of undermining the movement. In any case, this delicious drink survived those very dark days, and we can still enjoy them served by weary bartenders.

So while it might not be the most practical, or shareable, or efficient drink, in the modern day, it's a beautiful reminder to slow down, to stop and smell the orange flowers.

Ramos Gin Fizz

2 oz. Gin (We like Plymouth, but a good London Dry will do)
1 oz. Heavy Cream
1 Egg White
½ oz. Lemon Juice
½ oz. Lime Juice
2 tsp. Superfine Sugar
2 or 3 drops, Orange Flower Water

Add all of these ingredients with ice into a cocktail shaker. Now, get ready to rumble - this drink takes some serious dedication. Some insist it requires just two or three minutes of vigorous shaking, though some more hardcore folks - perhaps those looking for, well, a Shake Weight substitute - will keep those shakers going for much longer. Generally, you're looking for a particular, thickened texture, and if you've ever had a proper one made for you, you're likely to know it when you see it. Many describe the feeling within the shaker as "ropey". While that might seem a bit inscrutable for the uninitiated, you'll know it when you get there. Pour the whole deal into a Collins glass and top off with seltzer water.

Chicago Fizz

1 oz. Dark Rum (We recommend Gosling's or Cruzan)
1 oz. Ruby Port
½ oz. Lemon Juice
½ oz. Superfine Sugar
1 Egg White

Shake all ingredients with ice until is reaches a proper fluffy consistency. Pour into a Collins glass and top off with seltzer water.

Elks Club Fizz

Same deal as a Chicago Fizz, but swap out rye whiskey for the rum. Delicious!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Q&A with Derek Grout of Harvest Spirits

Since we first met Harvest Spirits' Derek Grout, we've been impressed. Though he speaks calmly and deliberately, his passion for his products is apparent from word one. At the time, he was pounding the pavement to introduce CORE Vodka to New York City, and was still was experimenting with different balances of apple varieties for making this 100% Hudson Valley fruit-based spirit. This experimentation has paid off - the delicious, aromatic CORE has since (appropriately enough) won best in class for vodka at the 2009 New York Spirits Awards along with an array of other medals, and he hasn't stopped there. Since the release of this excellent spirit, his experimentation hasn't stopped - he's released aged apple spirits and mouthwatering pear brandy. Fiercely dedicated to working with other local growers, he's creating delicious products with a distinct sense of place. We contacted him recently to learn more.

DrinkUpNY: What got you started with distilling? How did you learn how to do it?

Derek Grout: My background is in graphic design and apple farming. I got started in distilling after taking a distilling seminar with Christian Carl GmbH [Germany's oldest distillery fabricator] in New Hampshire in 2005. It was there that I met the founders of Tuthilltown Distillers, Ralph and Brian, who were looking for apples to start making vodka. I formed Harvest Spirits in 2006 with a business partner, Thomas Crowell, who had a background in brewing. In 2007 we converted a cold storage room on my family's farm into New York's first "class D" Farm Distillery. We started selling our first product, Core Vodka, in 2008. The training in distilling largely came from Christian Carl.

DrinkUpNY: Are there any other distillers you look up to, or that you've learned a lot from?

Derek Grout: I am a great admirer of Chris Weld, at Berkshire Mountain Distillers. We have worked closely together since we've started and his guidance has lead to great improvements in our products over the years. His tireless dedication to the craft shows in the quality of his products. Also, Finger Lakes Distilling's Thomas McKenzie is an incredibly accomplished distiller. Everything he makes, especially his whiskey, is just great.

DrinkUpNY: Your company started out with a very strong sense of place through distilling local apples, and you work with other New York farmers to create other products like your Pear Brandy. Have you drawn any other inspiration from New York agriculture, or created anything else that is distinctly of New York?

Derek Grout: We just launched our Black Raspberry Core Vodka and later this year we're coming out with Peach Applejack. I think there are a lot of locally grown ingredients that could inspire new spirits, such as currants for cassis, cherries for kirsch, plums for slivovitz, hops for gin, honey and maple syrup for liqueurs, and of course local corn for bourbon.

Check back here for more Harvest Spirits releases - there are more incredible spirits on the New York horizon. But in the mean time, try some of these delicious cocktails developed by NYC mixologists:

Swoon Kitchen Bar, Hudson, NY
3 oz. Core Vodka, 1 oz. Campari, splash of lime. Shake with ice and strain in a chilled martini glass.

Thom Pitts, Dumbo General Store, Brooklyn, NY
1 oz. Core Vodka, 1 oz. Bison Grass vodka, 2 oz. Martinelli's sparkling apple cider

James Frederic Rose, Temple Bar, New York, NY
Muddle 6 fresh sage leaves, 4 slices of fresh apple, 2 oz. lemon juice, and 3 tsp. of fine sugar. Add 4 oz. of Core Vodka. Shake with ice and strain in a chilled martini glass. Garnish with slice of apple.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Friday, March 16, 2012

It's Still Cold Outside, Enjoy Something Warm

Spring officially starts on March 20th, but here in New York City, we're still experiencing some chilly weather. Though we've gone on sipping many of our go-to libations - ice and all - through this unseasonably warm winter, it's time to squeeze in a few more winter beverages before the season changes.

This boils down to one simple, delicious equation: base drink + heat + delicious wintriness = a drink you'll put up with hail, sleet, snow, and those puffy sleeping bag jackets just to get at. Yes, we've already covered the Hot Toddy, but this is just the tip of the (warm, melting) iceberg. Take this as a mixology homework list to complete before Spring has sprung. 

Hot Buttered Rum
This is one of the most gloriously unhealthy cocktails in the common mixology cannon we come back to again and again (no, we're not counting a glass of bacon grease with a shot of whiskey as a cocktail). "Buttered" isn’t figurative here - one of the primary ingredients is full-blown dairy fat that's melted, spiced, and served up piping hot. Enjoy alongside a slab of pork belly to show your arteries who's boss.

1 tsp. butter (we recommend salted, though some would argue otherwise. Go with your palate.)
2 tsp. brown sugar (you could probably substitute maple syrup here)
5 oz. boiling water
2 oz. rum (gold or dark being preferable)
Grated nutmeg

Put the butter and sugar into your mug. Add the hot water and stir. You're almost done! Add the rum, and put a little sprinkle of nutmeg on top. Sip happy.

Non-Holiday-Beholden Mulled Wine
Mulled wine, or Glühwein, might seem most suited to the weeks leading up to the holidays. But with pine needle injuries and seasonal family feuding now a distant memory, mulled wine is still absolutely delicious and totally seasonally appropriate. And while you're at it, get a little more mileage out of that decked-out reindeer sweatshirt - those beads, sequins and blinking LED lights will blind onlookers just as much now as back in December.

Glühwein roughly translates to Glow wine, which in our estimation, is roughly what you'll feel like after a cup of it.

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange
10 whole cloves
1 bottle of red wine (750ml)

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, sugar and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer.
2. Cut the orange in half, and squeeze the juice into the simmering water. Push the cloves into the outside of the orange peel, and place peel in the simmering water. Continue simmering for 30 minutes, until thick and syrupy.
3. Pour in the wine, and heat until steaming but not simmering. Remove the clove-studded orange halves. Serve hot in mugs or glasses that have been preheated in warm water (cold glasses will break.)

Irish Coffee
This is a pretty straightforward one, but there are few things as surprisingly delicious as a nice cup of hot coffee with a splash of warming whiskey. Recommended: A medium-roast coffee like a nice Guatemalan Huehuetenango, ideally prepared in a French press. But, heck, in a pinch, grab a large from your local convenience store and go to town. 

1 cup of coffee
1.5 oz. Irish whiskey

In our estimation, optional:
1 tbsp. Brown sugar

A popular variation, of course, is Mexican coffee with tequila. Some less obvious, less recommended variations: Scandanavian coffee (with aquavit), Greek coffee (with ouzo), Belle Epoque Bohemian Coffee (with absinthe). Experiment at your own risk.

Safety tip: For all of the above recipes, make sure to pre-heat those mugs or glasses you’ll be serving in by running hot water over them first. Pouring a hot drink into a cold glass can result in a very unpleasant situation.

Happy mixing from DrinkUpNY!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Spotlight on Dumante Verdenoce

Handcrafted in small batches in southern Italy, Dumante Verdenoce is a unique premium liqueur produced in a facility along the Amalfi Coast that has been making natural spirits since the 19th century. Real pistachios, vanilla, and other natural ingredients are infused in an Italian molasses-based spirit, creating a rich, aromatic liqueur with a long, complex finish.

Dumante is the brain-child of Howard Sturm, a tax attorney and certified public accountant who lives in Louisville, Kentucky. He decided to take advantage of living in the "Bourbon Belt" and set out to make the first-ever ultra-premium pistachio liqueur. Says Sturm, "My market research showed me that no one had really done this before, and my passion drove me to create the first-to-market pistachio liqueur." Sturm and his business partner, Paul Paletti, feel that living in Louisville gave them an advantage. "With lots of industry professionals in the area, it helped us to procure talent to help realize our goal," he says.

However, creating the right formula took patience. They first tried to do the infusions with neutral grain spirit, but there was something lacking from the final product. Someone who worked with a vodka brand suggested using molasses-based alcohol, which not only produced the ideal flavor, but also made the product even more authentically Italian. The molasses base helps to integrate the flavors and also reduces the sugar content, which prevents the liqueur from being overly sweet.

The pistachio dates back to the Palaeozoic period, where it was found in settlements in the Neolith that existed around 6760 B.C. Since these ancient days, pistachios have been associated with royalty and have been considered a liaison to love. Legend has it that young lovers met on late summer nights in the pistachio grove, hoping it was the night that the nuts had reached perfect maturity. If they sat beneath the trees and listened to the sound of the pistachio shells bursting open, it would bestow upon their love the multiple blessings of good fortune, happiness and abundance. Dumante has embraced this history, presenting their exceptional liqueur in an elegant glass bottle decorated with an ancient mystical fertility symbol.

Although Dumante is delicious when sipped and savored, its distinctive flavor adds a unique twist to both classic and modern cocktails. It's excellent when mixed with coffee or espresso, and is delightful when drizzled over desserts or baked into cakes and pies. Enjoy!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!