Friday, March 29, 2013

Mint Julep Season

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

There comes a time in the early spring that the old julep cups get taken off the top of the cabinet and polished. Not just shined - but really given a thorough going-over. By polishing them deeply it shows care and concern for this well used pair of julep cups. I bought them in New Orleans at a culinary antique shop on Royal Street. Even in the mid-80's they cost me a pretty penny. Evidently, these cups are traceable to the 1930's. They're made of sterling silver over a solid copper core. If you know about heat/cold transfers, the copper makes the silver frost up very quickly and then the deep cold is captured deeply inside your memory. The first time your fingers stuck to the silver metal, the pungent smell of the mint - the power of the bourbon whiskey - the tang of the raw cane sugar - it's all too delicious to imagine.

Sure, I've made a few mint juleps in these venerable cups this year, but the cups were not showing their inner luster until I gave them a thorough and deep cleaning. The silver was dull. Some would say they were tarnished. Badly tarnished at that with dark black spots and yellowing areas in others. 

My Southern friends would rue the day that a Yankee like myself would even own a set of fine mint julep cups, then let them tarnish to such a state of wretched physical affairs.

I apologize in advance for my boorish behavior towards the cups and their auspicious history.

I took them outside into the glimmer of spring sunshine, a bucket of cool water at the ready and prepared my work surface with couple clean bar cloths. Paper towels seem to be the best at the heavy tarnish removal; I didn't want to scratch them by using a toothbrush. Then there is the elbow grease necessary to clean the many layers of dark stain. I think much of this has to do with the humidity in the house. I like to use baking soda and water made into a paste for removing the stains from these nearly 80 year old julep cups marked Sheriden - Silver over Copper.

When you stir freshly picked spring mint with crushed, filtered water ice, kiss it with the sweetest Bourbon like Four Roses Small Batch Whiskey and then sprinkle Demerara Sugar over the frosty layers of bourbon, sugar, ice and mint, magic happens. First the cup will get cold in your hand. Next it will begin to show frost. The next thing that happens is the silver will get sticky to the touch from the cold. White frost will appear on the outside of your Julep cup, the thicker the frost the better because you want to keep your drink icy cold.

You are becoming one with your cup. Your drink will emulate every perfect mint Julep made in that same cup since the first time the sweet flavor of the mint folded elegantly into the char of the Four Roses Small Batch Whiskey and the sweetness of the sugar tapped against your tongue. You've made the perfect drink for spring and summer… And since you control the amount of alcohol in the drink, how smashed you become is completely up to you!

The Classic Mint Julep

I like my Julep cocktails strong, I suggest adding more sugar if you like yours sweet and strong, I don't advocate using simple syrup instead of raw sugar. Simple syrup doesn't release the oils from the mint the same way as rough sugar does.

• 3 oz. Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey
• Crushed (Mavea Filtered Water) ice (I use a hand-cranked ice crusher)
• Demerara Sugar (Sugar in the Raw works fine)
• Freshly picked Kentucky Colonel Mint
• A lovely Sterling Silver/Copper Core Mint Julep Cup - or vessel of your choice

In a highly polished Sterling Silver (Copper Core) Julep Cup:
1. Add a splash of the Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon.
2. Add a bit of ice and some mint leaf, then some more bourbon….
3. Stir with a wooden chopstick or small wooden spoon… NEVER mix with a metal spoon..  Stainless against silver is very unpalatable.
4. Continue to add mint, sugar, ice, and Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon until drink is complete and well frosted.
5.Garnish with a sprig of the mint and sip to the gentle charm of the South in the early spring!

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, March 22, 2013

The Marching Soldier Punch

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

If there is one thing that I love more than most, it's a well-prepared punch. Historically speaking, punch is part of our experience of being Americans as much as enjoying an ice-cold beer, if not more so. Punch is part of our social thread because everyone loves punch!

But what is punch and why is a bowl of the stuff so darned pleasurable when imbibing with a crowd?

Fruit juices woven around a core of intoxicating beverages make up a punch. Punch originally came from India and was introduced to the British in the 16th Century. Punch was to be enjoyed by a crowd and usually had a bit less alcoholic content than a mixed drink. They can be made from any number of liquors and they all have the ultimate goal of acting as a social lubricant.

Whatever the case may be, or the history for that matter, punch is delicious with food or without and certainly enjoyable as part of a social gathering. Imagine my delight when I combined pomegranate juice with Sorel - the brilliantly hued and aromatic liquor from my friend Jack From Brooklyn, Barrow's INTENSE Ginger Liqueur, brimming with the essence of fresh ginger, from my friend Josh Morton and the Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters from The Bitter Truth. It was to be a punch beyond my wildest dreams.

Blood Oranges are at their peak right now and their zest is packed with the kind of orange oil that coats the inside of punch bowl with a hauntingly sweet/spicy amalgamation. I then added a portion of Sorel and a portion of Barrow's Intense to the punch bowl along with a hunk of hand-made ice. Next, I added more than a few swigs of The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters and sliced grapefruit, blood orange, lemons and limes. I call my punch the Marching Soldier punch after the soldiers who patrolled the woods behind my home during the Revolutionary War, under the command of non other than General George Washington.

The Marching Soldier Punch is a bit sweet, a bit tangy and certainly easy going on the palate. I like it because while the infantry would have been starving, making soup from their boiled boots, the officers often ate and drank like the landed gentry. The officer's drinks were potent reminders of cold winters and colder beverages.
The Marching Soldier Punch

• 1 Bottle Jack From Brooklyn "Sorel" Liqueur
• 1 Bottle Barrow's Intense Ginger Liqueur
• 1 Qt. Pom Pomegranate Juice
• 1 Bottle Sorelle Casa "Secco" Sparkling Wine
• Blood orange or regular orange zests
• Sliced citrus fruits, oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits
• Filtered water ice made from the MAVEA "Inspired" Water pitcher
• The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters

1. To a punch bowl, add a large chunk of your Mavea filtered water ice.
2. Add the Sorel (Jack from Brooklyn).
3. Add the Barrow's Intense Ginger Liqueur.
4. Add the Pom Pomegranate Juice.
5. Add the bottle of Sorelle Casa "Secco" Sparkling Wine.
6. Add 4 - 6 shakes of The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitter, taste, then add more if necessary!
7. Add the fruits.
8. Taste and adjust flavor as necessary.
9. Let sit for an hour or so to combine the flavors, add more ice as necessary!
10. Serve to an appreciative friend, and then have another… followed closely by 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, March 15, 2013

The Jimi Cocktail

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

There is a private club in New York City's West Village that caters to an artsy crowd. It's located in a historic building on a gritty commercial-looking street. You can walk by the place a hundred times and never notice that it's just down the way from the spot that once held the famous Luchow's Restaurant.

If you are invited - and that's the only way to get in the front door - it's possible to bump into the next hot director working on a movie, or the latest ad agency sensation. This is a smart, social networking/internet savvy crowd. Over on the couch you'll see a group of giggling, well-dressed couples reading the extensive menu from the excellent farm to table restaurant upstairs.

The spectacular landmarked town house, where I found myself on a recent weekday night, is arranged over five floors and houses a sixty-five seat restaurant, two lounge bars, a forty-five seat screening room, event space, as well as a subterranean dining room for up to twenty four people, plus a walled garden. There is very little public information about this club. One has to dig rather deeply into the National Trust for Historic Places website for any information on the original owners, or the property for that matter.

The club keeps its landmark designation hanging inside the entrance to hide its status from peering eyes and paparazzi. Add the fact that the Federal-style architecture blends into the earth colored brownstone homes surrounding it and you can rest assured that should you desire it, you'll have some measure of privacy.

Once inside, the rooms feel like someone's private lair - a mansion from another age, in this case 1845. I felt like I had entered a well-orchestrated theatrical tableau. Hipsters abounded, dressed in cool clothing like those created by designer Billy Reid, dripping with bespoke Southern Heritage-styled duck hunting outfits? There is nary a Brooks Brothers preppy to be found. If this crowd had been a bit older, they would have hung out at the club named Danceteria, where I worked back in the day.

The building has narrow staircases (an elevator is available) and gracious public spaces, floor to ceiling (sound insulated) windows were reminiscent of the Adam period architecture found in Charleston, S.C. Old, wide hand-stripped plank wood flooring and heavy pocket doors frame the rooms. The cocktail bar and lounge, lit with intimate shaded light, was located on the main floor. Curved in the corner, glass backlit shelving held exciting-sounding liquors in even more exotically shaped bottles.

The classically dressed bartender works with a speedy efficiency and with an almost Buddhist-influenced calm, possessing a sense of grace that causes one to remember his or her own manners. The members and their guests smiled, drank their well-prepared libations and spoke of dreams and possibilities well into the night. Twitter is part of the scene, with iPhones at the ready, but the ongoing conversations into the omnipresent cell phones are conducted in very hushed tones.

As the background sounds dissolved into present tense all I could think about was the Jimi Cocktail, which our bartender was preparing in front of us.

History & Prep: Jimi Cocktail
The true history is muddy at best. It is an amalgamation of the famous Mojito Cocktail containing mint, white rum, ice, simple syrup and freshly squeezed lime juice. The Jimi Cocktail's name is derived from Hendrick's Gin and Jimi Hendrix, guitar legend and Woodstock protagonist. And with the 40th anniversary of Woodstock having just passed the cocktail is now called the "Jimi".

The ingredients for a Jimi Cocktail are very similar to a Mojito with a pseudo-psychedelic twist - Hendrick's Gin. It has properties that are known to be mystical like its namesake and contains the essence of rose petals, cucumber oil, botanicals such as juniper and the ever-present, brooding alcohol at nearly 100 proof. There are also bitters in the cocktail and a wash of Tenneyson Absinthe to keep the psychedelic potency not just a reality, but also somewhere in a dream-state.

Our bartender muddled chunks of seedless cucumbers in a pint glass creating almost a pulp as he released the cucumber essence. Then, he added freshly squeezed lime juice and muddled a bit more. A splash of plain simple syrup, more muddling, then 3-4 generous ounces of Hendrick's Gin. He added some cracked ice, shook the cocktail and strained into a martini glass that had been pre-chilled with a wash of Tenneyson Absinthe. His garnish was a perfect cucumber slice, some grapefruit bitters - and voila, the Jimi Cocktail!

I sipped slowly, tasting fresh, cooling cucumbers and the almost watery quality of the Hendrick's Gin. It went down very easily, too easily, in fact, on a hot night. The slice of cucumber, floating in the off-clear liquid had the element of a Japanese Mineral bath potion. I slipped away into contentment and started hearing the strains of Jimi Hendrix in my mind - purple haze all in my brain. Lately things just don't seem the same – a slow throbbing, and then the attack!  The room spins, the hipsters pack up their iPhones and they wander out into the night.

I offer my Jimi Cocktail recipe:

• 3-4 oz. Hendrick's Gin
• 1 oz. Tenneyson Absinthe for the washed Martini glass
• 2 oz. Freshly squeezed lime juice
• A few coins of English (seedless) cucumber
The Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters

1. In a Martini glass add 1 oz. Tenneyson Absinthe, Ice and Water.
2. In a Boston Shaker muddle the lime juice and the cucumber coins until you have a nice flavorful mush.
3. Add the Hendrick's Gin to the Boston Shaker.
4. Add a few handfuls of ice.
5. Shake for 15 seconds.
6. Pour out the Tenneyson Absinthe ice and water (into your mouth?).
7. Strain the cucumber, lime, Hendrick's Gin mixture into the pre-chilled/washed Martini glass.
8. Garnish with a round of cucumber and a shake or two of The Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters
9. Offer one to your friend. Turn up the tunes.

Sip carefully and order another immediately, followed (in my case) by another. Start hearing guitar riffs from Jimi Hendrix in your head…..(queue the guitar!! MAXIMUM VOLUME!)

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, March 12, 2013

Your Mission: Drink More Carmenère

By Amanda Schuster

Carmenère is somewhat of a special secret double agent of wines. It has lived different lives during the course of centuries, transcending continents. It's an Old World varietal that reinvented itself by hiding out in the New World until it caught on.

The story begins in Spain and Portugal, then France, with what is thought to be its great grandparent, none other than that famous powerhouse varietal, Cabernet Sauvignon. "Vidure" is a lesser-known synonym for Cabernet, and Carmenère also sometimes goes by the alias "grand vidure". (Check for that next time you're looking for it under a hotel guest registry. Shhhh!) It was once widely planted in Bordeaux's Medoc, lending its deep color and unique gaminess to the structure of the classic blends of the region. But then, phylloxera happened. Once that devastating vine affliction hit Bordeaux, wiping out most of the vineyards for several years, Carmenère became all but extinct. After all, it's a needy grape - requiring a lot of sunlight to grow, and precise pruning and observation to maintain. So once the "cure" was discovered and widespread re-grafting of vines took place, France was faced with the decision whether to replant Carmenère. They decided "non" in favor of less difficult and more popular varietals.

The story could have ended there.

Cut to: Chile, 19th century. Before phylloxera struck, many Vitis vinifera vines were exported to vineyards in that part of South America, which somehow escaped the devastation that the rest of the world had suffered. Carmenère was among the grapes planted, but because the varietal shares many of the same characteristics with Merlot, and because many of the vine cuttings were not labeled, it successfully went incognito for many years. However, wine experts began to notice distinctions between what was most definitely Merlot and other wines which were merely using Merlot's identity. Merlot that was the same… but different.


In 1994, French oenologist Jean Michel Boursiquo, decided to run DNA tests on this so-called "different Merlot". He arrived at the astonishing conclusion that Carmenère - yes, the very same species now all but extinct in France - had been happily thriving in the sunshine of Chile this whole time! Since this discovery, Carmenère was embraced as Chile's signature varietal, and now enjoys success in other parts of the New World as a favorite go-to value wine. It can be found in Australia, New Zealand, California and Washington, and has also re-gained popularity in Europe in Spanish and Portuguese blends.

Carmenère is best characterized as plush, rich and dry, with soft tannins and fruit flavors of blackberry, blueberry and dark cherry. Some versions of it possess pleasant herbal notes of sage, mint and rosemary, finishing with dark chocolate, espresso and/or tobacco. It's a natural sidekick for red meats, pairing beautifully with burgers and steaks, as well as rich cheeses. Some of its stunt-pairing capabilities allow it to match stews and sauces with bell peppers, and even spicy fare such as chilis and burritos. It's even delicious served with a slight chill in warmer weather.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Amanda Schuster is a native New Yorker, but without much of the accent. The mobile landscape of the city has taken her on a whirlwind journey from Medieval historian, photo archivist, jewelry designer and invitation specialist to earning her sommelier certification in late 2005. After working as a retail wine and spirits buyer and freelance brand promoter, she turned to the one thing that has stayed a constant all these years – her love of writing. She has published dozens of articles on cocktails, spirits, wine and other culinary interests, and is currently working on her first novel. Her favorite cocktail is a Manhattan.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Lightning Slim (and the Teardrops) Cocktail

By Warren Bobrow

When I think about true refreshment, what comes to mind immediately is something clear, pure and thirst quenching. I'm lucky to have at my disposal a variety of spirits from around the world. This combination of sweet to aromatic to the blatantly intoxicating may shock the casual observer. But in my case, at least the case that comes with drinking for a living, I've found that flavor takes president over sheer power.

Oh please don't get me wrong. I like a strong cocktail more than one that requires several applications before that utopia is experienced.  The emotional boundary of drinking to get drunk or drinking for flavor balance is very fine indeed. But as I say, with this business comes the application of lots of water. I recommend at least two glasses of water for every drink consumed. This is not just prudent - it's necessary behavior when drinking for a living. So if you see me and I'm drinking a large amount of water, please be assured, I'm readying myself for more drinking.

Recently I had the good fortune to spend some time with Todd Hardie, beekeeper, farmer, and holistic spirits distiller at Caledonia Spirits & Winery. He's a highly pragmatic man, brimming full of ideas and positive, healing energy. There appears to be a ray of sunshine that pierces the room around him even in the dark. This illuminates him as if from a hidden source. He is passionate about the earth, bees, honey and hand made spirits distilled from honey.

Caledonia Spirits & Winery
The use of honey in the distillation process goes back certainly to the ancient Egyptians. Mead was produced through the Dark Ages and the techniques for distillation using honey are well established. Barr Hill, produced with careful attention to detail, is pristine in nature, just like the method of harnessing nature to produce it. I'm especially fond of the vodka, aromatic, bold and grassy with an underlying layer of caramelized honey. This vodka is gorgeous stuff, worthy of your time and your hard earned dollar. I recommend doing very little to it.  My preference is on the rocks with a splash of Perrier Sparkling Water, but it's up to you. I don't think it can take corn syrup tonic water, so do yourself a favor and pour that awful stuff down the drain.

Do it now!

What I do think it can take is the tonic water from Q-Tonic, if you need to have it like they drink them on the Ivory Coast. Tall glasses, packed with ice against the 100-degree temperature and 100% humidity. Refreshing? But of course - a vodka and tonic is always refreshing. However Barr Hill is lost in a V&T. Don't even waste your money on vodka of this caliber when contemplating diluting it with cheap, cloying tonic water.

But I digress. A favorite way of enjoying Barr Hill Vodka is in a tall glass with filtered water ice, infused with lemon zest. I filter my water using a Mavea "Inspired Water" pitcher - and this is no surprise given the quality of my well water. You need to filter it, lest the ice freeze cloudy and dreary. I filter the water and then freeze it in an ice cube tray with zests of lemon and shakes of the lemon bitters from The Bitter Truth. This application of bitters right into the ice changes the character of the drink as the ice slowly melts. It's sophisticated from a flavor perspective and you can easily do it at home. Peel a lemon, chop that lemon zest up finely and sprinkle it over the ice cube tray. Reserve a bit and do it again when the ice starts to form. This is very classy indeed. Get yourself some fresh mint and some Perrier Sparkling Water in the lemon essence and prepare to transform from a boring vodka and tonic to something that speaks clearly to the aromatics in both the ice and the lemon zests, perked up by lovely French water.

This is such a simple preparation compared to a few of my past cocktails.

Lightning Slim (and the Teardrops) Cocktail

• 3 oz. Barr Hill Vodka (per drink)
The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
• Lemon
• 1 oz. Perrier Sparkling Water in Lemon Essence
• Ice made with filtered water from a Mavea "Inspired Water" pitcher, infused with lemon zests and several shakes of the Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters.

1. Fill a Collins glass with large, hand cut cubes of your filtered and lemon zested ice.
2. Add the Barr Hill Vodka to the Collins glass.
3. Add a sprig of slapped mint. (How do you slap mint? Put it in one hand then slap the other into it, like you are clapping - this releases the oils.) 
4. Top with the Perrier Sparkling Water, about one ounce per drink.
5. Revel at the deep notes of honey careening and spiraling over your tongue and adding to your soon to be hyper-lucid state.

Danger Level 5 out of 5.  Danger!  Danger! 

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, March 1, 2013

The Smashed Sazerac

By Warren Bobrow

The Sazerac is a classic cocktail that somehow finds its way into my heart year after year. Perhaps the ingredients have something to do with it. Certainly the time I've spent in New Orleans makes me want to seek out perfectly made Sazerac cocktails in the most unlikely places. It's easier to order a Sazerac in an airport bar, than say a Ramos Gin Fizz. You are more likely to be able to get a decent cocktail instead of a blank stare.

What goes into a Sazerac Cocktail? Well it depends on the location of your drink. If you order a Sazerac at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, I can just about guarantee that the drink will have Peychaud's Bitters, Rye Whiskey, some type of Absinthe like Herbsaint, and of course an orange zest.

You can mix this drink up a bit by using different ingredients in the same vein. I ordered a Sazerac in Paris last fall with the idea that the French wouldn't know what I was talking about. How wrong could I have been? The bar not only knew how to craft a Sazerac, but they used Chartreuse instead of Absinthe in the glass wash. Rye whiskey of course was used, and Pechaud's Bitters graced the glass along with a beautifully twisted length of orange. Of course the honor of drinking a perfectly gorgeous American style cocktail in Paris comes with a price (about 45 dollars) but you can craft this drink at home for much, much less. Of course, ordering an American style drink in Paris is worthwhile because of the taste of the place. There is a certain terroir to Paris and drinking simple cocktails is all part of the experience of being there.

I took this knowledge of using Chartreuse in my Sazerac cocktail back home with me where it percolated for a few months in my subconscious. Chartreuse VEP graces my bar and although very expensive for a mixed drink, I do like it in a snifter after a good meal as a digestive. But I digress. You can make a Sazerac with regular Chartreuse and I recommend using the less powerful yellow variety, but the green one will work in a pinch. Whatever Chartreuse you use, make sure it's the real thing. This is no time to skimp on good ingredients.

The ice I use to mix my Sazerac is equally important. If it were up to me I'd carry a travel-sized pitcher from Mavea to filter all my water on trips abroad or here in the States. But I don't always have that luxury. It's possible to get bottled water for your ice, but good luck doing that in a foreign country. Ice is a most difficult beast to harness in a strange land so chose your cubes carefully if possible.

Dad's Hat in Bristol, Pennsylvania is crafting some gorgeous American Rye Whiskey. I prefer the charred barrel, aged variety to the "white dog" un-aged rye in my cocktails, but if there's one thing I recommend, it's experimentation. You should do any mixology at home with friends around so you can compare your results.

Sweet Vermouth is equally important in my recipe. Sure this is not what the original recipe calls for. Far from, but I'm very fond of Boissiere Sweet Vermouth in my Sazerac, even if it isn't the classic preparation.

What is mixology all about anyhow? I think that it is modern day alchemy.

I am most fond of Peychaud's Bitters, but in a pinch, the Bitter Truth Creole Bitters work just fine along with some of the Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters (in place of the Angostura Bitters). Whatever your decision is, The Bitter Truth Bitters are available at DrinkUpNY.

The Smashed Sazerac is my unique take on this classic cocktail. Heavily influenced by the classic Sazerac, I made mine with ingredients that speak clearly of the romance and beauty of Paris, with a twist that can only be Chartreuse.

The Smashed Sazerac

(For two people)

• 4 oz. Dad's Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey
• 2 oz. Boissiere Sweet Vermouth
• 2 oz. Chartreuse Green or Yellow (your choice)
• The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters
• The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters
• Ice made with your Mavea "Inspired Water" pitcher - Ice is IMPORTANT!

1. Fill two Old Fashioned glasses with regular ice and wash each glass with 1 oz. of the Chartreuse yellow or green. Set aside to chill. After the glasses are thoroughly chilled, pour this liquid into your mouth - no need to waste good spirits!
2. To a mixing vessel, add two handfuls of Mavea "inspired water" ice.
3. Add the Rye and the Sweet Vermouth.
4. Add 2 shakes each of the Creole and Jerry Thomas Bitters.
5. Stir briskly to mix.
6. Add a couple of orange zests and continue to mix.
7. Strain into the pre-chilled Old Fashioned glasses.
8. Garnish with a long orange zest.
9. Drink to the Carousel Bar!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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