Archive for the Left Coast Libations Category

B is for Bergamot, C is for Calabria

Posted in Cocktails, Exotic Citrus, Left Coast Libations with tags , , , on January 29, 2010 by Mr. Manhattan

Another in a series of posts about exotic citrus.

Those of you who follow my tweets (@manhattan_up) know I was recently blown away by a cocktail made for me by LCL contributor Brooke Arthur at Range. It was called the B-Line, a variant of their Third Rail cocktail, made with fresh squeezed Bergamot oranges. I left Range on a mission to find Bergamot oranges so I could re-create this amazing cocktail at home. Over the next few days I scoured the markets I know carry unusual citrus. When I inquired about them at my favorite Berkeley Bowl I was told only that they had come and gone. [See UPDATE at the end of this post.] However I persisted and finally located Bergamots at Monterey Market in north Berkeley. Joy!

What are Bergamots?

First, a bit of 411 for you straight from wikipedia:

The bergamot Citrus aurantium subsp. bergamia (Risso & Poit.) synonym (Citrus bergamia Risso) is a fruit the size of an orange, with a yellow color similar to a lemon, and has a pleasant fragrance. The juice tastes less sour than lemon, but more bitter than grapefruit.

The real magic in Bergamot however comes from the peel in the form of the oil it contains. This oil is not all all sweet or particularly citrusy (in contrast to orange or tangerine oils) and has a rather distinct rosiny character, which is not to everyone’s taste. It’s this oil which is used to give Earl Grey tea its unique aroma. (Actually, people are often surprised to learn this since orange is NOT what one thinks of when they smell Earl Grey.)

The best Bergamot fruit are grown in the province of Calabria in Italy, where the juice is used as a folk remedy for malaria. Reggio Calabria, the capital, is in fact sometime called “The city of Bergamot.” The fruit may also be made into marmalade, which after tasting the fruit, I could see being delicious.

NOTE: just after posting this I found a wealth of additional information about Bergamot oranges. Rather than simply re-state what someone else did so well already, I’ve elected to include a link for those interested in learning more to follow at their leisure. Here you go:

http://www.practicallyedible.com/edible.nsf/pages/bergamotoranges

My Creation: Calabria

While I loved the B-Line (see recipe below), I felt the intensity of the Bergamot would be further complemented by additional spice and complexity, specifically a higher-proof bourbon than the Bulleit and an amaro in place of the Lillet (which is pretty lightweight). After a bit of tinkering, I came up with this libation named for the region in Italy where the best Bergamot fruit are grown.

NOTE: I wanted to continue the tradition of giving train-related names to derivatives of The Third Rail. Unfortunately, the tram system in the capital of Calabria, Reggio Calabria, doesn’t have a distinctive name. Here is a beautiful old photo of the capital with a tram to go with this delicious cocktail anyway.

Calabria

1 1/2 oz. Old Grand Dad 114-proof bourbon
1 oz. Bergamot orange juice
3/4 oz. honey syrup (2:1)
1/2 oz. Amaro Averna
4 drops Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
2 small pieces of Bergamot orange shell (after juicing)
A very long thin strip of orange peel, tied with an overhand knot, for garnish

Shake everything, but the garnish, hard over ice.
Double strain into a chilled coupe.
Garnish with the knotted orange peel.

B-Line

1 1/2 oz. Bulleit Bourbon
1 oz. Bergamot orange juice
3/4 oz. Lillet blanc
1/2 oz. honey syrup (1:1)
1 – 2 dashes orange bitters
1 piece Bergamot orange peel or a small chunk of orange*
A thin strip of orange peel, for garnish

Shake everything, but the garnish, hard over ice.
Double strain into a chilled coupe.
Garnish with the orange peel.

NOTE: This cocktail just got a nice write up on sfist.com. Here’s the link.

(*) – The recipe outline on the Range blog “Cocktail of the Day” calls for the chunk orange but I am pretty sure Brooke made it for me with a piece of peel in the shaker.


UPDATE: A few days after first writing this, here’s what greeted me at Berkeley Bowl:

The moral of the story, I guess, is to take what the produce people there have to say with a large grain of salt.

Shsssh! Secret!

Posted in Left Coast Libations with tags on October 15, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

I really shouldn’t show this to ANYONE but the image below is the cover page of the just completed reviewer’s version of Left Coast Libations. It doesn’t look like much by itself but behind that page are over 150 more pages of bartender biography and cocktail recipe goodness. I will say that again: over 150 pages. 150. 150. 150. Makes me a bit giddy. Sorry.

What, you might ask, is the reviewer’s version? It’s the completed text of the book put together for the purpose of soliciting some early feedback and (we hope) praise from selected luminaries in the cocktail world. All part of our master plan. Mwah-hah!

LCL Reviewer's Version

TBD: An Indian Summer Refreshment

Posted in Cocktails, Left Coast Libations with tags , , on September 25, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

Ingredients for the TBD

Inspired by Alex Day’s Tinker’s Stand No. 1 and the Balaton cherries which I put up a few weeks ago, I created this Indian summer refreshment which, for lack of a better name, I have called “TBD”. This either stands for “To Be Determined” or “To Be Drunk.” I leave it to you to decide. TBD incorporates cherries with candied ginger, bitters, and lime slivers, the flavors of which play joyously against bourbon and Lillet. Make it at the end of a warm day, as the sun is going down. Sit outside and enjoy!

TBD

2 quarter-sized slices of candied ginger, minced
4 – 5 brandied cherries (see note below)
1 – 2 healthy dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
1/4 of a lime, cut into thin slices
2 oz. bourbon (I recommend Evan Williams single barrel)
3/4 oz. Lillet Blanc

Put the ginger, cherries and bitters into a mixing glass.
Muddle hard, turning everything in the glass into a pulp.
Add the lime slivers, muddle some more to express the juice.
Leaving the muddler in the glass, add the bourbon and Lillet.
Swish the muddler about to loosen and remove any pulp which may be stuck to it.
Remove the muddler.
Fill the mixing glass with ice and shake vigorously for 20 seconds.
Fine strain into a chilled coupe.

Notes:

If you don’t have brandied cherries then you may substitute Italian candied amarena cherries. As these are much more intensely flavored, I would recommend using no more than 4 of these per cocktail.

There’s a tendency for the ginger to stick to the bottom of the mixing glass after muddling. Be sure you shake hard enough so the stuck bits get dislodged and mixed up with the rest of the cocktail.

Pulping cherries and candied ginger for TBD
TBD

[Apologies for the crappy photo of the drink itself. I had great light but nothing was quite in focus. Grumble, grumble. grumble.]

An LCL Update

Posted in Home Made Ingredients, Left Coast Libations with tags , on August 19, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

So Ted is finally done writing the biographies for all 50 51 bartenders (and for those of you keeping score, yes, we added one more bartender to the LCL fold since Tales of the Cocktail: David Shenaut in Portland OR, currently satisfying customers at Teardrop Lounge) and I have completed organizing the recipes for 100 102 cocktails and the associated homemade ingredients. Everything has now been handed over to editorial staff (OK, we don’t have any real staff but we do have real editors to help us out). Book production should to being soon.

I must say it was lots of fun going over all of the recipes again. I think I had forgotten how many great cocktails were made last winter and spring in the run up to the photo shoot. I’m also quite pleased with the level of detail I was able to provide regarding the more arcane and complex homemade ingredients. For example, below are the instructions for making “Smoked Cider Air,” an ingredient in Daniel Hyatt’s Still Life with Apples, After Cezanne. Because this turned into such a total disaster during the photo shoot it was super-important to me to figure out where I had gone wrong and how to avoid doing so in the future. That’s all rolled up into the recipe notes.

Smoked Cider Air

Still Life with Apples, After Cezanne, Daniel Hyatt

1/4 tsp. liquid smoke concentrate
1 liter pasteurized (clear) apple cider
1 1/2 gm. soy lecithin granules
1/2 gm. xanthan gum
An 8-quart food-grade plastic container
An immersion blender

1. Pour cider into the plastic container.
2. Add liquid smoke, soy lecithin and xanthan.
3. Mix and froth the mixture using the immersion blender, keeping it just below the surface to form a thick layer of foam (“air”).
4. Skim the very top (driest part) of the “air” and add to the cocktail.
5. Re-froth as necessary to make more foam.

Notes:

Let me begin by saying that while making “Smoke Cider Air” requires some odd ingredients, special equipment and new techniques, anyone who undertakes it will be rewarded by being able to savor a most excellent cocktail, one of my favorites in the book. And baring that, you can always visit Daniel Hyatt at Alembic in San Francisco and have him make one for you.

After some spectacular failed experiments in scaling (down) I have concluded that this is one recipe that must be made using the quantities specified by the bartender if it is to come out right. It seems wasteful to make this much unless one is making a lot of drinks (since you can get an almost infinite amount of the “air” from a liter of cider by replenishing the lecithin and gum when it stops foaming) however the various problems I encountered trying to quarter the recipe (measuring such small amounts, inadequate foaming and catastrophic precipitation of the lecithin when put atop the cocktail) led me to this conclusion.

It is also very important to do the blending in sufficiently deep and wide enough container. The recommended the 8-quart food grade white plastic container is very affordable and can be purchased at most any restaurant supply store. I’d also get a lid to go with it as well.

Xanthan gum can be found a some specialty spice stores, Indian groceries, cake baking supply stores and of course on the web. If you can’t find xanthan gum, you may try tragacanth gum, which may be easier to find. You’ll probably have to tinker with the amount to use but keep in mind it’s the lecithin which creates the “air” – the gum simply helps to stabilize it.

You will need a precision electronic scale accurate to less than a gram in order to measure the xanthan and the lecithin. These are much more affordable than they used to be but are still not totally cheap. You might ask around and see if you can borrow one.

Finally, unless (or even) when it is very dry, the “air” will have a tendency to precipitate some amount of lecithin into the cocktail once it has been spooned on top. (My conjecture is that this is a reaction with the acid in the Maple Syrup Gastrique, another homemade ingredient used in this cocktail.) In extreme cases, you will have a literal rain of lecithin pouring into the otherwise translucent cocktail. Not much to do but sink it and start again.

Tales of an Outsider

Posted in Left Coast Libations, Musings with tags , on August 5, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

So Tales of the Cocktail 2009 has come and gone. I guess I should spend a little time blogging on though it’s hardly news at this point.

Tales. Hmm… New Orleans was hot and humid and I got out of the Vieux Carre far less than I should have (read: never got out). I also never really got in to Tales either. Most of the time it felt like it was happening all around me (esp. when sitting in the lobby of The Monteleone) but I was not invited in to play. Among other contributing factors was finding most all of the seminars were sold out before I could buy tickets and the lack of name tags. There were literally dozens of people to whom I would have introduced myself: LCL bartenders from Portland and LA whom I hadn’t yet met and writers who’s blogs and columns I had been reading avidly over the past year. Not knowing what they looked like and without name tags, it was a lost cause. If I could pass one note onto the organizers it would be this: have general registration (even if it’s free or close to it) and get people to wear name tags.

Meantime, I did manage to have something like a good time in New Orleans anyway. Here are the highlights:

  • Getting to taste all of the Del Maguey mezcals including the Pechuga.
  • Meeting Tom Bulleit and toasting him with a glass of his fine bourbon.
  • Trying the Bols Genever (mmm, malt) and learning more about how its made.
  • Sampling all the tantalizing goodies from Haus Alpenz and meeting Eric Seed.
  • Meeting Peter Schaf, one of the masterminds behind Tempus Fugit.
  • Trying any number of amazing absinthes on Sunday.
  • Chatting with Scott Beattie (“Artisanal Cocktails”) amongst a throng of drunken bartenders milling about on Boubon Street outside The Old Absinthe House.
  • Meeting the infamous Ted Breaux of Jade Absinthe.
  • Meeting Matt Rowley and yacking with him about creme de noyau.
  • Cocktails at Arnaud’s French 75 by Chris Hannah followed by a round of Cafe Brulot (and accompanying light show) courtesy of “The Fat Man” in honor of Martin Miller.

Cafe Brulot at Arnaud's French 75 Bar

  • Having Chris McMillian of The Museum of the American Cocktail recite Josha Soule Smith’s Mint Julep ode after dinner at Antoine’s (though no Mint Juleps were prepared or served at this event).
  • Hosting a highly successful LCL cocktail party; cleaning up after the same.
  • Trying Mozart Dry chocolate spirit, a bottle of which just appeared (and then disappeared) at the LCL cocktail party.
  • The unofficial underground swag-off (one of several I assume).
  • Meeting Paul Clarke of The Cocktail Chronicles fame.
  • Scoring copies of Charles Baker’s “A Gentleman’s Companion” from 1934 (both volumes) and “Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes” from 1936, thanks to Greg Bohem of Mud Puddle Books.
  • Oh, and having Jackie Patterson make me her award winning “Star-crossed Lovers” cocktail.

Jacking Patterson at Tales of the Cocktail 2009

SF LCL Bartenders Featured at Clock Bar Anniversary

Posted in Left Coast Libations with tags , on July 14, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

Just back from Tales of the Cocktail (will do a bit of blogging on that later) but wanted to report that several of the SF-based LCL bartenders will be working guest slots with Marco Dionysos at the Clock Bar this week as part of celebrating its one year anniversary. Here’s the skinny:

Brooke Arthur (Range) & Neyah White (NOPA) will be there on Tuesday the 14th of July.

Erik Adkins (Heaven’s Dog) will be there on Thursday the 16th of July.

The Clock Bar is located in the lobby of the Westin St. Francis hotel, off Union Square. Marco’s cocktails (if you haven’t had them before) are simply divine. My favorites are the Uptown Manhattan and the English Breakfast (which will be featured in the book by the way). Marco also makes a mean Wibble, created by Dick Bradsell of London fame.

Of course, I am sure Brooke, Neyah and Erik will all be mixing up specialties of their own. Probably best to come early and bring a posse so you can sample all the goodnes.

Enjoy!

Announcing Left Coast Libations Fall 2009

Posted in Left Coast Libations with tags on July 6, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

Scott, Ted and I are just about to leave for New Orleans. We’ll be arriving tomorrow (Tuesday) evening and staying at the venerable Monteleone (with all the other poor fools). We’re hauling a big pile of print collateral (paper is heavy!) which I’ve spent a lot of the last week or so designing and then sending off to the printers. For those of you not fortunate enough to be at Tales where we’ll be handing all of this stuff out and/or simply wishing to save a tree, click on the image below to download your very own PDF version of our announcement… Enjoy! [P.S. It's a BIG file.]

Announcing Left Coast Libations Fall 2009

P.P.S. Don’t forget to ask us about the secret cocktail schmooze…

Oh, That Cocktail Book!

Posted in Left Coast Libations with tags on July 1, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

Yes, I’ve been a busy boy for the past few months, making ice blocks, brewing shrubs, drinking peach whiskey, tasting bitter tinctures and visiting a lot of local bars. But, wait, you say! Didn’t you start this blog to write about the making of a new cocktail book? Whatever happened to that project? Well, I am glad to say, I’ve never stopped working on it! The three of us on Team Left Coast (Ted Munat, Scott Bodarky and myself) have been operating in stealth mode for the past few months while we continued to work on the book, hammer out business details and setup more infrastructure. With Tales of the Cocktail just a little over a week away, we are now ready to move full speed ahead. Meantime a few mesmerizing details:

Our Spiffy New Logo!

Left Coast Libations Logo

It was a long hard road but we finally managed (with the help of our trusty graphic designer Pilar Erika Johnson) to get this baby finished. And just in time too, as we make a mad dash to the printers to get business cards and other collateral printed up to hand out in New Orleans.

Our Website

We are live. We are building a mailing list. We are even taking pre-orders for the book. Check it out at www.leftcoaslibations.com

The Secret LCL Cocktail Schmooze

Team Left Coast will be hosting a cocktail party sometime during our week in New Orleans. We’ll be offering three four select drinks from the LCL100 plus visits from the bartenders who made ‘em. “How do I get to attend this event?” you ask. Well, first you need to get your ass to the conference and then you need to find one of the three of us. Tell us how excited you are about the book and how you plan on buying a copy for everyone in your family this Christmas. Fill our heads with flattering fluff and nonsense. Then, when you think you have us buttered up enough, ask for details on the cocktail party. Hopefully, we’ll remember them too.

See you at The Monteleone next week!

Whence “shrub”?

Posted in Home Made Ingredients, Left Coast Libations with tags , , on May 18, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

Over this past weekend I’ve had several occasions to tell people about the two shrubs which I put up (and blogged about) on Friday. Everyone asks the same thing after hearing about them: where heck does that word come from and what does it mean? I had no good answer till this morning when I finally got around to doing some serious web research. Here’s what I learned.

Our word “shrub” most likely comes from the Arabic “sharbah” (or “sharabb”) which is a syrup made from fruits and/or extracts of flowers and herbs, generally mixed with lime juice which serves as a preservative of flavor and color. This syrup is then diluted with water or evaporated milk before serving. In India this is called sharbat. Interestingly I was already familiar with sharbat as I had to research these flavorings as part of proofing Anu Apte’s recipe for the “Saffron Sandalwood Sour” just a couple of months ago. Having made sharbat and now shrubb, the case for a connection seems pretty strong to me.

Our syrup shrub would seem to be a variation on the sharbah/sharbat where the lime juice has been replaced by vinegar as a matter of practicality, I imagine, at time and place when limes would have been rare or non-existent. Exactly when sharbah/sharbat were introduced to the West is unfortunately lost in the misty “day after” of history.

Here’s a link to more information on sharbat (and sharbat recipes):

http://www.indiacurry.com/faqterms/whatsharbat.htm

Tis’ the Season to be Shrubbin’

Posted in Cherries, Cocktails, Home Made Ingredients, Left Coast Libations, Stone Fruit with tags , , , , on May 16, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

OK…it’s still a little early in the season for local berries to be stacked in low-cost abundance on the shelves at Berkeley Bowl, but raspberries and blackberries from the good old USA are now once again available. That, plus a good dose of the inspiration I received during last night’s seminar on home made ingredients given by Neyah White of Nopa and Jeff Hollinger of Absinthe (part of 2009 SF Cocktail Week) and there was nothing more to stop me shrubbin’ today than finding the right jars.

I’d been wanting to make a shrub for a while now. It was one of very the first special ingredients that caught my eye in the original version of LCL, called for in one of Jamie Boudreau’s contributions to that book. Here’s the recipe:

Clarke’s Conundrum
Jamie Boudreau

2 1/4 oz. Rye
1/2 oz. Pedro Ximinez Sherry
1/2 oz. Raspberry/Blackberry Shrub
3 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice.
Strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist.

[Here's is a link to Jamie Boudreau's own write up on this cocktail and a generally good introduction to the topic of shrub.]

I of course wanted to learn more about shrubs after reading this but by the time I was done with my research (and making bacon bourbon – remember that?), berries were long out of season. Living in northern CA where juicy ripe berries can be had cheaply and in abundance in season, I could not bring myself to buy Mexican or Chilean imports (to say nothing of paying the obscene prices these fetch). I would have to bide my time – which as it turned out was fully consumed making all the things I needed for the 100 new LCL cocktails, sadly none of which called for shrbb.

Anyway, today I started two shrubs, which I am choosing to make without cooking as suggested by Neyah White. One will be blackberry and raspberry (so I can make Clarke’s Conundrum) and one will be black cherry – to which I will also add some cinnamon and use balsamic vinegar when the time comes. Right now I am macerating the fruit with sugar and a little vinegar to control fermentation. (Oh, and I also muddled the cherries before adding the sugar. I just hope I used the right end of the muddler.) I also chose to use Turbinado (AKA Demerara) sugar for the cherries, mostly because I ran out of refined white cane and had a supply of it on hand. (I also seem to recall the Neyah said he favored “really dirty sugar” in his concoctions, so I think I am on solid ground having made this choice). Here’s a photo taken on my back deck of the beautiful macerating fruit:

Shrubs Macerating

I’ll probably let them stand for a couple of days down in my cool basement (it’s getting warm in the house) and then add the vinegar before I leave town for a few days. I’ll filter and try ‘em when I return and let you know how they turned out in a follow up post.

Postscript:

One other thing I was inspired to do after last night’s seminar was to add a whole bunch of fresh orange peel to this bastard chocolate-orange-chili bitters I’ve been tinkering with for the last couple of months. It started life as something of a disaster (the story of which cannot yet be told) exhibiting almost no chocolate character when it was supposedly “ready.” I however could not bring myself to sink it. So I put it away and ignored it until about three weeks ago when I filtered it (dumping what was left of the original ingredients) and added back about 4 oz. of cacao nibs. About two weeks later (and after shaking it almost daily) I noticed it was finally developing a reasonable chocolate nose. I now have hope. I added the orange peel to push that component even further. Oh, and I also snagged what was probably one of the last Seville oranges of the season and threw the peel of that in there as well. I’ll also keep you posted on this. (Here’s a photo. Kind of pretty actually.)

Bastard Chocolate-Orange-Chili Bitters

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