Friday, November 30, 2012

Cocktail Whisperer's Crusta

By Warren Bobrow

1800's New Orleans was a rough and tumble place. Powerful intoxicants led to ruffian behavior. Not much has changed to this date down in Old New Orleans. There is something about the heat and the humidity that makes drinking heavy liquors very challenging.

The Brandy Crusta cocktail is one drink that actually is so enticing that you may find yourself slurping down this combination of flavors far too quickly. But isn't that the basic idea? I don't recommend turning into a street ruffian, but if you drink too many Crusta cocktails, anything is possible!

The Brandy Crusta cocktail is a combination of flavors inherent to the European continent. It is a permutation of ingredients such as Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur and Combier Liqueur d'Orange. I can picture this cocktail in my hand, a refreshing blend of engaging to tart to congenial.

The cocktail would be prepared in a method very near and dear to my heart, with exact measurements.  The final garnish would be a spiral of grapefruit because I find the traditional method of spiraling a lemon too acidic with the addition of lemon juice in the cocktail.

From DrinkUpNY, this is the classic version of the Crusta…

Brandy Crusta

This cocktail was developed in mid-19th century New Orleans, and has since inspired a wide range of modern creations. It presents a delicious balance of sweet and sour, and the base spirit really shines through. Therefore, we recommend one of our entry-level favorites, Pierre Ferrand Ambre.

1.5 oz. Pierre Ferrand Ambre 10 Year Old Cognac
.25 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
.25 oz. Combier Liqueur d'Orange
.25 oz. Fresh lemon juice

Moisten the rim of a cocktail glass with lemon, and rim with sugar. Build ingredients with ice and shake. Strain in to a cocktail glass and garnish with a spiral of lemon around inside of the glass.

I love to shake up this cocktail by doing an Absinthe wash. But what is an Absinthe wash? You literally wash out the inside of the cocktail glass with Absinthe, ice and water - before the other ingredients enter the glass. There is something about Absinthe when mixed with the other flavors that makes this drink even more mysterious.

The flavor profiles of each ingredient is as follows:

Pierre Ferrand Ambre: Toasty hazelnut fire gives way to caramel and fleur du sel on the front of the tongue, sweet vanilla on the back of the tongue carries through to and notes of white flowers and bittersweet cocoa continue on and on. This is a fine "beginner" Cognac or a "cellar defender" as well. You may want to pour this into your snifter and flame an orange zest over the top into your glass. Just be careful that you don't catch the other spirits on fire!

Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur: This is not your red thing in a jar maraschino cherry liqueur. It is the result of careful aging and a secret blend of spices to reveal the hidden aromatics of these tiny Italian fruits. Luxardo is also known for their brandied cherries. This is a similar flavor but with added zip. It makes a marvelous cocktail ingredient in a Gin Fizz or simply in a glass with seltzer water and lime.

Combier Liqueur d'Orange: If you are accustomed to drinking plain Triple Sec in your cocktails, why not step up to this very French Liqueur d'Orange? It's also delicious in a glass of Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral water with a muddle of grilled orange.

St. George Absinthe: This is unlike any Absinthe I've ever tasted. The aromatics are like wandering barefoot through a Northern California basil farm. You can taste the sweet perfume of the spicy basil as it clings to your pant leg. It is most unique Absinthe - quite powerful and arguably aromatic.

My recipe for the Crusta uses instead of a lemon zest, it uses a grapefruit zest. And in addition to the three liqueurs, my recipe uses a wash of the St. George Absinthe Verte along with the juice of a grilled grapefruit. Here it is for your consideration:

The Cocktail Whisperer's Crusta

.5 oz. Pierre Ferrand Ambre 10 Year Old Cognac
 1 oz.  St. George Absinthe for the wash
.25 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
.25 oz. Combier Liqueur d'Orange
.25 oz. Grilled Grapefruit juice (sear slices of grapefruit over fire then cool and juice) 
Simple Syrup to taste (.50 oz recommended)

Add all these ingredients to a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with ice. 
Shake until well frosted.
Wash your glass with the Absinthe, ice and water.
Pour this out into your mouth after the glass is quite chilled or set aside for later.
Add one gigantic hand-cut ice cube to your rocks glass at least 3x3.
Flame an orange zest into the glass by pinching the zest into a burning match.
Double Strain the liqueurs over the ice cube.
Serve with a ribbon of grapefruit zest over the rim and inside the glass.
DRINK! Then have another!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tenneyson & Nolet's.. Magic.

By Warren Bobrow

I'd like to tell you about a couple of my passions. The first is the Inspired Water pitcher from Mavea. I've been selling them over at Williams-Sonoma in Short Hills and find that the water that comes out of the filter just screams for Tenneyson Absinthe and Nolet's Gin.

I'm not sure why, but every time I drink water from the pitcher at work and especially from my version at home, all I think about is absinthe and gin.

This is strange. There is something about the quality of the water that just screams, "Inspired Water". Tonight I poured a nice shot of Tenneyson Absinthe into one of my favorite glasses. I added a measure of Nolet's Gin, and then added a bit of simple syrup made from charred strawberries mashed into plain, simple syrup.

Then I dropped four drops of The Bitter Truth Celery Bitters over the absinthe, gin and the fruit-infused simple syrup. The Bitter Truth Bitters add a haunting note to the absinthe and the gin. You really must have a bowl of gumbo with this New Jersey version of the classic Absinthe Frappé.

Finally I dribbled pure inspired water over the top of the absinthe, gin and the syrup-bitters mix. I use ice made with water from the Mavea pitcher. What results is pure love.

Tenneyson Absinthe is marvelous liquor from France. Distilled with natural ingredients, this sumptuous slurp is not meek, rolling in at 107 proof! I'm always astonished at the power of this absinthe. Magical stuff. It makes me shiver with anticipation to the eventual buzz. Add to the Tenneyson and the Nolet's Gin a healthy splash of strawberry infused simple syrup, then the Bitter Truth Celery Bitters to finish.

Drizzle, dribble, leak, drip, whatever method you desire. I want the water to go over the top slowly.
A louche forms. It's all at once cloudy yet touched by the darker concentration of strawberries. 

Mysterious turns to magic, the wolves in the forest awaken. All is suddenly electric, aroused, and alive with lust and possibilities.

Did I say that I love Tenneyson? Sure. It's very approachable. It doesn't perplex you with added artificial color of green, yellow or blue dye. This is the real thing my friend.

I am also quite fond of the citrus elements in Nolet's Gin. This is ultra-sophisticated gin with real flavor. It doesn’t taste like vodka, nor does it overpower you with exotic botanicals.

I just love it!

I named this cocktail after my former teacher in food writing, Alan Richman.  Alan tried so very hard to inspire me not to write like a "Southern Boy", but like myself.

I'm just a guy who grew up on a farm in NJ.

Thank you Alan, I've been doing pretty well for myself, I hope you will concur…

It's also possible that my cocktail writing has become dangerous and subversive.

After my trip to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail this year, I'm sure it has - people just get thirsty when reading my words.

It makes you want to get blitzed. 

If you do imbibe, please try to drink in moderation and make sure for this holiday season that you have a designated driver. You'll need one after enjoying a few of these cocktails!

The Alan Richman Cocktail

Ingredients for two extremely potent mind erasers, just the thing when Alan calls you to task over your food writing or lack thereof.

- Tenneyson Absinthe Royale
- Nolet's Silver Dry Gin
- Plain Simple Syrup with added cast iron pan charred strawberries. I use Driscolls.  (Heat a cast iron pan to smoking, slice berries in half and char. Mash into your simple syrup to make strawberry simple syrup)
- The Bitter Truth Celery Bitters
- Sprig of Tarragon

- Fill 1/4 of a Boston Shaker with ice.
- Add Tenneyson Absinthe - 2 oz - 3 if you really want to see the green fairy…
- Add 1 oz Nolet's Gin
- Stir to chill fully, but don't chip the ice, try to use just one hand carved ice cube.
- Add ice and water to a favorite glass to chill, toss out after 3 - 4 minutes.
- Add the chilled Tenneyson Absinthe/Nolet's Gin to the chilled rocks glass.
- Add 4 drops of the Bitter Truth Celery Bitters over the top of the absinthe and gin mixture.
- For each cocktail use a 3:1 ratio of 3 parts Mavea Inspired Water or your choice of spring water to 1 part Tenneyson Absinthe in each glass (or to taste!).
- Add 3 Tablespoons of the charred strawberry simple syrup.

Stir again and garnish with a sprig of tarragon in each glass

Be careful! Danger Level 4 out of 5!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


By Warren Bobrow

Vermouth has its medical roots in 18th Century Italy, France and Spain. Folk healers added wormwood and other healing herbs to wine as an aid to digestion and to rid the body of a multitude of toxins. Herbal tonics involving wine proliferated for over three hundred years and continue today. Vermouth also has culinary benefits along with a place of honor on the shelf of our cocktail bars. Venerable brands like: Carpano Antica Formula, Dolin and even the much loved Cinzano date back to the time when Apothecary shops utilized these bitter liqueurs as a healthful digestive and healing tonic. Wine based tonics were very popular in France and in Italy in the early days of Apothecary arts. They were prescribed originally as medicines, not solely as pleasurable drinks. The reason why these liqueurs exist to the present day is testament to their endurance as powerful herbal elixirs. Vermouth can be imbibed straight or as an augmentation to iced gin drinks like the Martini.

Vermouth comes in two formats, red and white. The red is used for drinks such as the Manhattan and my favorite the Negroni. My friend Gary Regan has perfected the Negroni and I'll leave it to you to discover why.  If you ever find him tending the bar, ask him to make you a Negroni. 

Dry Vermouth is used most commonly in a Martini. I believe, and this is my own personal belief, that the Martini must be made with gin. Others will disagree with me. That is their preference. What I will say is that the quality of the Vermouth makes the Martini, be it made with gin or perhaps vodka. I think that the Vermouth should be well chilled - so keep your favorite bottle in the fridge. Do not be afraid to cook with Vermouth. It is rather sublime with fresh water fish such as brook trout, sautéed with hazelnuts and dotted with Imbue Vermouth-infused brown butter.

Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth

Hailing from Gaston, Oregon, Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth is a thing of rare beauty. They call it a mélange of Northwest flavors from farm to forest. A collection of botanicals dipped in fine Oregon wine. I think it is all of that and much more. Each sip of the Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth refers to me that flavors of a sappy pinecone. Pinecone sap sticks to your windshield, begging you to lick it, tasting the sticky tar, which is Imbue. It's in there, in every sip - I love the way this Vermouth coats the glass. It screams out for a Botanical Gin, like Greenhook Ginsmiths lush product. Perhaps you want something more traditional with your Vermouth from Oregon? Then you should taste another product from Oregon named Aviation. Want something way out?  How about the FEW Spirits Navy Strength? Oh there are so many choices down in my bar.
Tasting Notes for the Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth:

Pine needle nose, dipped in pine sap. Gently dribbled over your windshield then licked. 

Just do it, don't complain!

Wood from the cask reveals itself. Vanilla, maple syrup, salted caramel, white flowers. Syrupy and thick across the back of the tongue with a spine tingling finish. I love this vermouth over a chunk of hand-cut ice with a zest of orange that has been flamed by a wooden match. 

Imbue is golden in color and 16.5% alcohol by volume. Find yourself a bottle and drink it, cook with it, dip your fingers in it. Let it speed-dial a plane ticket to Oregon for you so you can drink it in the place where it is made. Up in those pine forests, where it is foggy, dark and mysterious.

Atsby Vermouth from New York

There are two new flavors that I'm working with right now.

One of them is called Amberthorn, the other Armadillo Cake. These are the most way out products I've tasted this year. I mean that as a big plus. The Amberthorn tastes like the sweet pollen that sticks to your leg when you walk through an herb garden in late spring. Toasted pecans, lemon curd, stone fruits, sage, rosemary and wormwood predominate. I'd love to mix this with a healthy portion of the sublime Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin, just the gin-a block of ice made from Mavea 'inspired' water and the Amberthorn. This would, in a few words be explosive in the glass.

The Atsby Armadillo Cake Vermouth is akin to chewing into a crusted slab of freshly baked cornbread woven with dreamy, Asian spices. A dark steamy, caramelized pool of treacle caramel woven with candied grapefruit peels, dipped in 80% bittersweet chocolate greets your tongue at the next sip. I'd mix this Vermouth with some Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon and a home cured cherry.

Carpano "Antica Formula" Red Vermouth

Carpano Antica in Italy makes the most historic Vermouth of this tasting. Founded in 1786, I imagine that this Vermouth sated many a nobleman and woman - all the while keeping their palate in a state of anticipation. The first notes are of freshly ground coffee - then quickly the flavors of figs wrapped in chestnuts, grilled until soft over wood fire. The flavors of dark chocolate and wood smoke continue to weave a sweater of soft hand spun baby Alpaca over your body. The Carpano Antica is thick against your throat and deeply warming. It makes for a gorgeous Manhattan cocktail with Tuthilltown's Rye Whiskey. I also love Carpano Antica with Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water and a slice of grilled orange mashed into the drink. 

Tasting Notes for the Carpano Antica:

Carpano Antica is elegance in a glass, and a long, stone fruit spice on your palate. The Ancient Formula is chocolate covered cherries on the front of your tongue, vanilla - cedar and mountain herbs on the finish. I love the Antica for the soft finish and deeply aromatic nose. Fine by itself in a glass or with a flurry of ice, I like to use the Antica with a splash of Cynar and Zaya 12 year old rum - neat. It also makes a potent Negroni!

Vermouth. It isn't just for cocktails any longer. You shouldn't feel strangely when you go into a restaurant and ask for sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist. It's a cocktail that has been around since the very earliest days of the apothecary. 

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.