Tuesday, April 30, 2013

That's Amari

By Amanda Schuster

Have you ever felt bluch? That's not a real word, but you know what it means, don't you? My family made it part of their vernacular years ago, but everyone says it from time to time without meaning to. Especially at the end of celebratory meals like Thanksgiving or Christmas, or that time you went on a dumpling tasting in Chinatown, or when a bunch of "small plates" become a giant platter in your belly. Way too much consumption - bluch!

The Italians know a thing or two about indulgences and living life to the fullest, which is why they figured out a way around this problem centuries ago and created the digestivo called Amaro. Amaro, meaning "bitter", is a concoction of herbs, citrus rinds, botanicals and spices, all infused in alcohol or wine, and finished with a bit of sweet syrup to make it all go down. One of the best methods for producing a flavorful Amaro is through percolation - much like making a good iced coffee. The herbs and botanicals are placed in a part of the still and distillate is pumped over and through it, usually several times. An Amaro's alcohol content may fall anywhere between 16% and 35%, and these are often aged for several months to a few years before release.

Amari (in plural form) were originally procured from your local Medieval pharmacist, but things have gotten easier, more palatable, and thankfully less leechy since then. The recipes vary regionally and the exact ingredients are often considered protective property, some number of "secret herbs and spices" that have been passed down through a lineage of faithful cousins, and more often than not, monks.

Some Amari require a bit of palate conditioning to get used, but it's worth every effort. They really do help calm the stomach and aid digestion too. Amari only refers to this style of digestifs produced in Italy, however, there are several Amari-like styles found in the states as well, blending herbs like gentian root, chamomile and citrus for an authentic take on the classic. Other root liqueurs take the Amaro esthetic and use specific herbs and botanicals to create a distinctly American, soda jerk take on the genre. Then there are producers who go global, gathering their ingredients from several international sources at once to create a true world summit of a digestif.

Amaro style digestifs are most commonly consumed neat at the end of a meal, or at other times with a splash of soda (most ideally while sitting at an outdoor cafe in the sunshine and watching the world go by). However, they are now very much on trend with cocktail enthusiasts as substitutions for vermouth in riffs on classic cocktails, or as starring ingredients in their own right.

Give them a try. You don't even need to wait for your next bluch, though it would certainly help.

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, April 26, 2013

La-Morte in the Morning

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

You cannot escape the citrus tinged aromatics of Nolet's Dry Gin. They envelop your personal space, spilling down your forehead and onto your nose, eventually filling your head and your memory with their passionate aromas. Grasp the top and twist it off. It's got serious heft to it. Stainless steel in weight, marked with a seal of authenticity and a bottle number. I know you cannot drink great packaging - what's inside the bottle is the most important feature, and the Holland distilled Nolet's is amongst the best botanical style gins out there.

My tasting notes ran the gamut from "Genever-like" to "herbal and botanical in nature" and back to the classic crisp finish and herbal characteristics that say very finely made gin. There's a bit of citrus in there that reveals itself along with the mouth coating finish that goes on and on. I smell freshly cut hay in the nose and the ever-present heat from the 95.2 proof level of alcohol. This you cannot escape. It's very dangerous in a Negroni and absolutely mind erasing with lemon zest infused ice cubes nursed on by a bit of The Bitter Truth Lemon bitters.


I love The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters. They remind me of the bitter pith of the lemon without the sweet candy flavors that mar many other lemon bitters on the market. Bitters are not supposed to be like gummy bears.  They are meant to add a blast of sour to balance out the sweet! Historically speaking, bitters were originally used as health concentrates. They would be added to a bit of alcohol (ok, maybe more than a bit) and healing would begin.

I can remember the first time I tried gin. I was in the Ivory Coast of Africa with my family. It was 1976. I remember getting off the Pan Am 707 in Abidjan and being assailed immediately by the humidity. The first drink I was given by my "understanding" parents was a tall gin and tonic. I think that it was the first gin and tonic I'd ever enjoyed "for medicinal purposes only"! Why was this for medicinal purposes? Basically, there was a malaria outbreak and not only did I take quinine tablets against this insidious mosquito borne illness, but the relentless heat (100 degrees and 100% humidity) made for a perfect storm of sweat off my young brow. And why not enjoy a gin and tonic with lime? If there was any cocktail that signifies refreshment in equatorial climes, it is the gin and tonic.

Of course my gin in this recipe is a far cry from the traditional G&T cocktails that heralded the coming of neocolonial marauders in formerly wild French West Africa. I wouldn't remember how they made them other than tall and cold. With a lime please. Oh, no lime? Then a lemon will have to do to cure the scurvy.

This cocktail that I call La-Morte in the Morning is named for a very specific reason. It's a play on the classic Ernest Hemmingway Death in the Afternoon cocktail and not just because it's the morning when you imbibe them. A couple of these in the late morning and you won't have a chance to "die again" in the afternoon. They are tall mind erasers and they do the job efficiently and with merit.

But what is the basis for this drink?

The basis for this cocktail is the fruit forward (instead of juniper forward) Nolet's Gin. It's said that Nolet's has made this gin since 1691 so they are quite experienced in the gin world. I said above that this gin tastes like aged gin or Genever. This is my first impression right out of the gate. Instead of attempting to sway your palate towards tonic, I'm hoping you would consider using the lemon variety of the ever-popular Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral water. It's crisp, aromatic and very refreshing with a fruit forward gin like Nolet's. I also add a portion of ice, made with water filtered through a German-made Mavea "Inspired Water" Pitcher. I've written that my water, although from a well, is high in minerals, so my ice freezes dull and listless. When I filter it though the Mavea filtration pitcher system, it freezes nearly crystal clear.

This cocktail demands the best ice and the Mavea filtered ice is the best you can use.

I also zest about a dozen lemons and add these zests to the filtered water. Then I freeze this amalgamation overnight using a Tupperware gallon container in the freezer, then hand cut the cubes to the desired shape with a wood working chisel and a rubber mallet. As the ice melts, the flavor of the zest works its way into your subconscious. The citrus perks up your sense of taste and the gin slowly puts a smile on your face. The use of The Bitter End Lemon Bitters deepen the experience and the Perrier Sparkling water with the lemon essence makes for a play on the romance of zesty to crisp to vividly sensual.

The aromatics of the fresh lemon juice will limber up your throat and raise your ardor. This is a cocktail that is meant to loosen (and remove) your clothing when enjoyed on a blistering hot and humid day. It can also make going back to bed easier if you are enjoying with a like-minded friend who appreciates the fullest potential for certainly more interesting morning activities other than going to work.

The La-Morte in the Morning Cocktail will souse TWO of your most sturdy friends.

Ingredients:

• 6 oz. Nolet's Silver Dry Gin (shooting for about 3 oz. of liquor per drink, so it's not a 99 pound weakling of a cocktail.)
• 3 oz. Simple Syrup
• 2 oz. Freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 3 oz. Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in lemon flavor
• 5-7 shakes of The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
• .50 Darjeeling tea for the wash
• A few handfuls of the Mavea (lemon zest) infused ice into a Boston Shaker
• Fresh Kentucky Colonel Mint

Preparation:

1. Add the liquor, simple syrup and lemon juice (making a quick and easy lemonade) to your Boston Shaker that already has been filled ¾ with the lemon zest infused ice.
2. Wash two Collins glasses out with the Darjeeling tea (then discard the tea).
3. Fill the glasses with a couple hand-cut chunks of the infused lemon zest ice.
4. Shake your Boston Shaker 15 seconds at least for greatest frosty effects.
5. Strain the gin mixture over the infused ice and add a few shakes of The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters over the top of each glass.
6. Garnish with a lemon pinwheel and a sprig of the mint.
7. Finish with about an ounce of the Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral water (Lemon).

Sip carefully!  This is certainly a danger level 5 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.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Cocktail for Baudelaire

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

The Aylesbury Duck is an intriguing vodka from The 86 Company. They also produce a white rum, a gorgeous blanco tequila, and a lush, aromatic and refreshing London gin. From the very first sip poured with ease from the bartender-designed neck, (it has two lines extruding from the glass for added security) to the gradations on the side (for the measurement of a punch, no doubt) I know that this product is carefully made. The size and shape of the bottle is equally important. It's circular in dimension and is a bartender-pleasing one liter in volume. It would fit easily into a speed rack or grace the shelf of the back bar with its handsome labeling.


The label looks like handmade paper with Victorian-esque fonts with the depiction of the Aylesbury Duck and curious writing about the duck and hunting, as well as what it is made of, in this case wheat and water.  But you don't drink writing, nor do you drink fancy bottle styles. What you do drink is a carefully made vodka unlike any other on the market. But what does this mean?

This is what I would call an ultra-luxury product. This vodka is of such high quality that there is very little of it to be attained. But you my friends are in luck. Not only do you have the good fortune to read my words of wisdom attesting to the quality of this product, but also you are able to find this ultra-luxury vodka at DrinkUpNY!

This is your lucky day!

It's also your lucky day that you cooked some sweet, golden beets last night to accompany your roasted chicken. But instead of tossing them into a salad with a tangle of Mache lettuce and goat cheese like you usually do, this time you've pureed them with a touch of freshly squeezed lime juice and simple syrup. This gives the pureed beets a bright and citrus driven flavor when mixed with this pristine wheat based vodka. 

Then, as if by magic a frosty Martini glass appears in front of you.  And trailing down the sides of the Martini glass is the most elegant of bitters. In this case, I've used the historic Jerry Thomas Bitters, comprised of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and dreams. They smear down the side of your cocktail glass and lend plausible amusement for your taste buds.

The Aylesbury Duck is indeed a real duck. I'd say it is quite a bit larger than a normal duck and is usually hunted for sport, although it's not really a sport when this large breed of duck is the size of a golden retriever. It's hard to miss. There's a phrase that says: "like a sitting duck"...

I do hope drinking this imaginative vodka is more amusing than hunting the Aylesbury Duck! 


Tasting notes for the Aylesbury Duck Vodka:

A nose of sweet vanilla and candy sugar melts away into a vaguely floral scent of the grains. Notes of white chocolates melted around freshly cut French herbs and hints of Asian spices caress the palate. This iconic vodka finishes warm and lush with a mouth coating sweetness that goes on and on.

Quite mixable or perfect served over a hand cut ice cube made with water filtered through a Mavea "Inspired Water" Filter pitcher. (ESSENTIAL!!!)

I love to make infused ice cubes for this drink.

A Cocktail for Baudelaire


(Each recipe makes one drink)

Ingredients:
• 3 oz. Aylesbury Duck vodka
• 2 tablespoons roasted and pureed golden beets
• ½ oz. simple syrup
• ½ oz. fresh lime juice
• A few shakes of The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters
• One large chunk of hand cut Mavea and Jerry Thomas infused ice

Ice Preparation: 
1. In a gallon Tupperware container, add at least twenty shakes of the Jerry Thomas Bitters.
2. Cover with Mavea filtered water and mix together.
3. Freeze overnight.
4. Cut ice to your desired shape and serve with your Aylesbury Duck Vodka in the cocktail of your choice, such as the vividly amusing Cocktail for Baudelaire.

Cocktail Preparation:
1. Fill a Boston Shaker ¾ with bar-ice (Do not use the infused ice here.)
2. Add the vodka and the pureed golden (or red if you wish) beets, lime juice and simple syrup.
3. Shake for 10-15 seconds.
4. Strain into your Martini glass and sip to getting drunk… (While reading Baudelaire's infamous poem about drinking to inebriation and beyond.)

Of course you should always practice mindful drinking…

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, April 16, 2013

The Wines of Argentina

By Amanda Schuster

For many years, wines from Argentina have been considered among the top values for your glass. Chances are, when perusing a menu at a bar or restaurant, you've chosen the Argentinian one over the others. Well done. If you haven't, here are some reasons why you should give it a try.

Argentina is now one of the top five wine-producing countries in the world. For a long time, most of it was made strictly for local consumption, enjoyed in casual home or restaurant settings, the bottles never traveling much farther than a few miles from where they were produced. But in the last half of the 20th century, an increasing number of vintners took notice of Argentina and its star red grape Malbec, which has become the most widely planted grape in the country. It has its origins in France, in Bordeaux as part of the classic grape blend, as well as in the Southwest where it is produced in the inky, often rustic and funky wines of Cahors (there are always exceptions, of course). But in the sometimes dizzyingly high altitude regions of Argentina, it becomes a different thing altogether - more dependably balanced, plush, fruity and velvety. By the late 20th century, Malbec wines made a big splash on the international scene, winning awards, garnering high ratings and amassing enthusiastic disciples.

Gaining traction is Torrontes, the star indigenous white grape, now also found on many restaurant menus for its refreshing, aromatic qualities and affordability. Other international grape varietals are also grown in Argentina, most notably Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda (that's a whole other interesting story out of Italy, we'll tell you about it sometime), Merlot, Pinot Noir, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Tocai, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Despite the excellent reputations of Argentinian wines, most of them, even the Malbec, are produced at considerably low costs, providing an excellent value for the consumer compared to wines in the same price range from places like California or France.

All styles of wine are produced in Argentina - from dry whites, reds and ros├ę to sparkling to late harvest dessert and even fortified wines.

Argentina also boasts an impressive collection of winemakers under the age of thirty-five, and a growing number of women innovating the field, as well as many wineries dedicated to organic farming and sustainable production practices. This is clearly a country that has learned that investing quality and precision to winemaking is worth the dedication.

There are several microclimates swirling within the country, and there are many different regions and subregions.

• Cuyo is the largest and most productive region, divided into three subregions, who in turn are further subdivided (it's a bigger country than people give it credit for). This is the heart of Malbec country, also known for excellent examples of the Italian grape Bonarda, plus many more. Mendoza, in the west near the Andes, is considered the top region, which divides into Lujan de Cuyo, Maipu, San Rafael and the Uco Valley, among others. San Juan is home to the Tulum, Pedernal and Zonda Valleys. La Rioja is the smallest section of the region, but still a big contender in the wine world.

• To the south lies Patagonia, which grows many cooler-climate international varietals such as Pinot Noir, Gew├╝rtztraminer and Riesling. This is divided into the Neuquen and Rio Negro.

• Catamarca, Juju and Salta are part of the region simply referred to as the North-West. These are known for some of the highest altitude vineyards in the world, with close proximity to the equator. Here, vineyard workers are often chosen and compensated according to their capacity and training to work under the steep, sometimes treacherous conditions in the fields, and ability to transport grapes back to the main production site safe and sound.

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.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Charred Paloma Cocktail

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

Lately I've been experimenting a bit more with the classics. With the sudden burst of deliciously warm weather, I've created a take off on the Paloma Cocktail. Instead of the traditional use of grapefruit soda, I've taken some lusciously aromatic and juicy grapefruit and sliced them into thick rounds. I've heated the outside grill with some hard wood charcoal and set the grapefruit rounds just off the heat. Alternatively, you can sear your grapefruit rounds in a stainless steel pan or cast iron. Don't use aluminum, it reacts to the citrus and will ruin your cocktail. You will want to make the citrus somewhat charred. What this does is bring the natural sugars out in the fruit. Sure it will be slightly bitter, but that's the point. There is plenty of time to make this cocktail sweet/sour/bitter because I'm adding a bit of simple syrup to the mix. 

This drink has got all the stuffing for a perfect mind-eraser or spirit-lifter if you wish. As with all my drinks, caution should be the starting point - but should you get too enthusiastic, remember for every drink you imbibe, please be sure to drink two glasses of water. I learned this secret (quite by accident) out in Santa Fe. If you want to remain standing, it's really important to hydrate yourself. But I digress. This twisted take off on the Paloma is delicious, thirst quenching and bold in a tall glass with hand-cut Mavea "Inspired Water" ice infused with Lemon Bitters from The Bitter Truth and grapefruit zest, finely chopped and frozen into the cubes. 

How buzzed you get is completely up to you!!


I've been completely charmed by the USDA Certified Organic Casa Noble Tequila of late. My tasting notes run the gamut from milk chocolate to spicy chilies to a bit of almond croissant! When the Casa Noble Tequila is mixed with the charred grapefruit juice, the grapefruit zest/lemon bitters ice, and the ever-marvelous Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in the lemon essence, then the twisted/charred Paloma cocktail is born!

Charred Paloma Cocktail

Will take the edge off for two.

Ingredients:
• 4 oz. Casa Noble Blanco Tequila
• 6 oz. grilled grapefruit juice (or charred if you will)
• 2 oz. simple syrup
• Mavea "Inspired Water" Filtered ice infused with grapefruit zest and The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters to taste (You'll need to experiment a bit to find the right balance of bitter to ice.)
• An egg white
• Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water (Lemon)

Preparation:
1. Fill your Boston Shaker with the infused ice to ¾.
2. Add the Casa Noble Tequila.
3. Add the charred grapefruit juice.
4. Add the simple syrup.
5. Add your egg white.
6. Shake for 15 seconds.
7. Add some more of your infused ice into an old fashioned glass.
8. Strain the Tequila mixture into the glass making a nice foamy top.
9. Finish with a grapefruit zest and a splash of the Perrier Sparkling Water for added fizzy qualities.
10. Add a couple drops of the The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters to finish if desired. 

A perfectly refreshing springtime drink! Danger Level 5 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.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Bubble Tea Shakeroo!

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

Greenhook Gin made in Brooklyn is a most persuasive and charming liquid libation. I've detected Asian aromatics in the form of exotic cinnamon in each sip of this well-balanced gin, made right in Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn. I cannot help but get inspired from a mixology standpoint when I open the top of each uniquely styled bottle of the Greenpoint Gin. My inspiration for a few tall cocktails that speak of exotic ingredients comes from the multitudes of Bahn Mi sandwich restaurants that have made their way across the East River seeking the hip crowd and the much less expensive rents. My palate is also charmed by Korean Fried Chicken, the "Belgian French Fry" of the fried chicken world. (In Korea, the chicken is cooked twice for maximum crispiness.)

It seems like Bubble Tea is in everyone's hands this spring. Bubble Tea is a quite modern, perky beverage. It's lip smacking and the tapioca pearls, soft and chewy against your teeth seem to encourage eating and drinking. Bubble Tea is not just a kid's drink... all kids grow up at some point and their tasty pleasures of childhood evolve right along with their drinking tastes. I think gin works really well with the Jasmine scented Bubble Tea. This cocktail is more than what it appears to be - it's not meant to be taken too seriously, but it's adult fun.

The origin of Bubble Tea comes from Taiwan where the fluorescent hued drinks with the large tapioca pearls are all the rage. I experimented with Bubble Tea and rum last summer. The coconut Bubble Tea goes beautifully with Rhum Agricole from Martinique. This year I'm looking for a different grade of flavor and gin seems to fit the bill. I'm also using The Bitter Truth Bitters in their orange essence to give a bit more spice to the drink. The addition of bitters finds its way into the finish for a sharpness and depth missing from the original intent. It's Brooklyn, no it's the Orient, no, it is really a lovely little cocktail with the soft tapioca pearls balancing out the sharpness of the gin.

 I imagine that this drink would appeal to a sophisticated Asian crowd who are always on the cutting edge of cool and uber-hip. This drink has a perfect combination of flavors that just seems to work with Bahn Mi, the impossibly delicious Vietnamese sandwiches or perhaps a the crunchy and steaming hot Korean Fried Chicken that seems to be in everyone's hands in town. Korean Fried Chicken comes doused in garlic and sweet/sticky soy. I recommend taking sips of the Greenhook Gin woven through carefully measured slurps of the sensuous Bubble Tea. I also add a good splash of Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in the Natural Lemon variety to this drink to give some needed lift. Fizzy goodness! And if this wasn't too much already, The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters will practically tie this drink into wanton submission.

But before you dismiss this drink as just a trendy one shot deal, imagine how refreshing and thirst quenching this drink really is. The Perrier Sparkling water adding a certain fizz to your soon to be fuzzy world.

Enjoy one during a cool spring day, the green hue of the jasmine tea, a mysterious bit of coconut milk with a few shots of the cinnamon tinged Greenhook Gin, plus those dark, sumptuous pearls of tapioca making their way up the wide straw? Now we're talking real fun!

And isn't that what drinking is really about?
Having fun and sharing new flavors? Sure it is.
Just do me one favor, take your time drinking this cocktail. It's deceptively powerful!

Bubble Tea Shakeroo!

For two lovely (refreshingly sweet, yet highly potent) cocktails.

Ingredients:
• 4 oz. Greenhook Gin (each drink gets 2 oz.)
• 10 oz. Freshly made Jasmine Bubble Tea with Tapioca Pearls - sweetened coconut milk base (each drink gets about 5 oz. of the Bubble Tea)
• The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
• Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in Lemon essence

Preparation:
1. Pour 4 oz. of Greenhook Gin into a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with ice.
2. Add 10 oz. Jasmine Bubble Tea (with sweetened coconut milk base).
3. Shake for 15 seconds, let settle a bit so the pearls drop to the bottom.
4. Add a few hand-cut cubes of ice to two Collins Glasses.
5. Fill to ¾ height with Bubble Tea and Greenhook Gin mixture.
6. Top with an ounce or two of the Perrier Sparkling Water
7. Finish with several shakes of the Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
8. Garnish with a wide straw for sucking those sweet and gummy pearls up into your mouth where they will charm your tongue!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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