Monday, December 8, 2014

Cocktail: Reckless Originality

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

There is a haunting quality of artisan eau de vie that brings me to the table again and again.  Perhaps that’s why you drink eau de vie after a meal.  It is a digestive and it is meant to help you digest a good meal. 

In the brilliant little book: The Craft and Culture of Artisan Schnaps, the author Kirk Ross brings you to the table filled with marvelous anecdotes about this most unknown way to finish your meal.   He calls it the Schnaps Culture and for good reason.  Schnaps is good for you because it has enriched the native habitat in both Germany and Austria. 

There is a rather long word for what Schnaps do for digestion in a cultural sense of the word.  It is called Verdauungsschnaps.   This long word simply means digestive Schnaps.  The word you may be most familiar with in English is the French word, digestif.  According to the author, this is the same thing. 

Verdauungsschnaps is the opposite of an Aperitif!  An Aperitif is meant to stimulate your appetite, whereas the Verdauungsschnaps is for after a meal.  In other words, you drink Schnaps after the work of eating is done and digestion needs to be stimulated.  To put yourself into the historical context for drinking such important liqueurs, you must first imagine a time without electricity or refrigeration.  That time is easily forgotten in the modern vernacular.  As Americans, we have forgotten the bad old days when water was poisonous and most food could kill you.  Products in the “bitters” world were originally used for water purification and also to heal the gut when food poisoning was not an uncommon affliction.   Most people walked around in a constant state of pain from eating rotten food.  This wasn’t a surprise with the lack of sanitation in kitchens and in the fields.  Vinegar based Shrubs were not used just for pleasure, they provided a marvelous way to rid the body of food borne illness.  The same holds true for Schnaps, except Schnaps are not metered out like bitters, drop by precious drop- they are imbibed in small thistle shaped glasses, packed full of alcohol and bursting with fruit flavors.  They are as much a part of the culture of Austria and Germany as the wines that grace dinner tables.  Schnaps are an essential part of enjoying a filling meal because they help you pass food through the digestive tract.  Very important indeed!

In 250 AD, St. Florian was born in the Roman city of Aelium Cetiumin.  His first and most famous task was to organize the local firefighting brigades.  (He is known to this day as the patron saint of firefighters)  The long and the short of his life are well known.  He was persecuted for his religion and ended up becoming a martyr for his cause, which created a need to celebrate his life in a holiday, known as St. Florian’s Day in Europe.  This day of heavy eating and drinking is traditionally finished with a few shots of Schnaps to help digest the heavy food.  Some of these foods include bread, eggs, lard and of course Schnaps!

Schnaps play into the word “religious experience” more often than not because many of these festivals take place in the colder months where a nice flask of Schnaps tucked into the pocket of a pilgrim offers powerful warming along with healthy digestion of the traditionally heavy foods.  Whatever the case may be for Schnaps, they are part of the social thread and have been popular for hundreds of years.  Schnaps are indeed a way of life and they are certainly part of the Germanic culture. 

Schnaps and their cousins- Eau de Vie are life giving potions because they work!  Schnaps are not about getting drunk, nor are they purely about digestion.  What they are- is a way of life.  Schnaps are cultural and because they are part of life, Schnaps are edified as essential in life itself. 

If you can find a copy of The Craft and Culture of Artisan Schnaps I recommend it highly.  Not as a mere metaphor for drinking, but as part of a greater good, the appreciation of life.  White Mule Press in Hayward, California is the publisher of this marvelous little book with just under eighty pages… That certainly makes it little!

One of my favorite Schnaps- or as it reads on the label, Eau de Vie is produced by Clear Creek in Oregon.  This magnificent “tree-spirit” is no more than a couple of ingredients.  Brandy, fresh off the still is infused with freshly picked buds of the Douglas fir tree, long known as a flavorful and colorful medicinal in folk practices.  The Douglas fir possesses magical qualities and flavorings.  It becomes essential when added to the classic Gin and Tonic, made with Barr Hill Gin from Vermont and something like the Q-Tonic water from Brooklyn, NY. 

The Douglas fir Eau de Vie is added drop by drop as if you are adding bitters to heal your aching belly.  This marvelous liquor can also be enjoyed alone in a snifter with a lemon zest coating the rim and a large hand cut ice cube. 

The combination of citrus to fir tree essence is most beguiling indeed. 

I also like to add an ounce or so of the Clear Creek Eau de Vie of Douglas fir to a portion of Casa Noble Reposado Tequila.  In this case the lightly smoky and citrus tinged Tequila is made slightly green and even more aromatic and haunting with the addition of the Eau de Vie. 

I suggest trying it soon because this is a most marvelous and complex way to bring the high quality of Casa Noble Tequila to an even higher level. 

Reckless Originality
1 oz. Eau de Vie of Douglas fir
2 oz. Casa Noble Reposado Tequila
1 oz. Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
1 oz. Jasmine Simple Syrup from Royal Rose in Maine
3-4 drops Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
Lemon Zest

Chill a Snifter with ice and water- when well chilled, pour out the ice and prepare your drink
To a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with ice:
Add the Casa Noble and the lime juice with the Jasmine Simple Syrup
Cap and shake hard for 15 seconds or so
Rub the lemon zest around the rim of the pre-chilled snifter
Pour the Douglas Fir Eau de Vie into the pre-chilled snifter
Top with the Casa Noble Tequila and Jasmine Simple Syrup that you’ve shaken in the Boston Shaker
Garnish with another lemon zest, pinched over the top to reveal the citrus elements essential to this digestive. 
Dot a couple (or more) drops of the Bitter Truth Orange Bitters over the top to finish…..

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

About Warren Bobrow
Author of: Apothecary Cocktails-Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today- Fair Winds Press- Beverly, Massachusetts. Apothecary Cocktails was nominated for a Spirited Award, 2014 Tales of the Cocktail.  His forthcoming book, Whiskey Cocktails will be released October 14.  Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails follow with publication in spring ’15.  Warren is a master mixologist for several craft liquor companies.

Warren consults about mixology and spirits, travel, organic wine and food.  He’s written for web-blogs and magazines like: Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods: Dark Rye, Distiller, Total Food Service Magazine, Beverage Media Group, DrinkUpNY, Edible Publications, Foodista, Serious Eats, Mechanics of Style and Beekman1802.  He was in the Saveur-100 in 2010.

Warren is a former, mostly self, trained cook from the pot sink on up.  J&W and ACF were thrown in for good luck.  Warren was the former owner/co-founder of Olde Charleston Pasta in South Carolina: *Dissolved his business after Hurricane Hugo in 1989* - to a career in private banking, (nearly 20 years; “a very grand mistake”) to this reinvention in 2009 as the Warren he's finally become.

Warren is available to do highly personalized, interactive mixology events, local, national and international.
PS: Warren's second book, Whiskey Cocktails is on the market now!

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