Archive for February, 2009

Tonight’s Cocktails, 27th February

Posted in Left Coast Libations on February 28, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

OK, I’m deep into proofing now. I thought I’d start making briefer posts, simply listing what I’m drinking each night with some brief notes (in brackets).

David Wolowidnyk (West, Vancouver)

[Yummy aged rum, orange, coffee bean goodness on the rocks. I’m inquiring about whether the blood orange quarters used during muddling need to be peeled or not.]

Montresor and Fortunato
Damian Windsor (Gordon Ramsay at the London, Los Angeles)

[Amontillado sherry with carpano and grand marnier complemented by the salty counterpoint of an olive garnish. Damian says to use “Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge.” How many people know about the Cordon Jaune?]

And because I also wanted to “test drive” the gomme syrup I made the other day (for one of Erik Adkins cocktails), I ended tonight’s cocktail session with an Old Fashioned using Fee’s Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters and a home-made ice block. Ice blocks are pretty simple to make at home, BTW, and are perfect for drinks like an Old Fashioned. I plan on including the steps for making ’em in the book.


I Think I’m Turning Japanese

Posted in Cocktails on February 26, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

21st Century Tinkering with a 19th Century Cocktail

A month or so ago I attended the press opening of Heaven’s Dog in San Francisco. Jennifer Colliau (among other SF bartending luminaries) was behind the bar and I asked her to make something for me using her artisanal orgeat syrup. (Nothing on the drink list that night used it.) There was a pause and then a flurry of mixing behind the bar. Less than a minute later Jennifer placed a small drink in front of me and introduced me to my first Japanese Cocktail.

The Japanese Cocktail was created by Jerry Thomas and the recipe is one of the ten cocktails* in his 1862 Bartender’s Guide. The recipe is pretty simple:

Japanese Cocktail

2 oz. brandy
1/2 oz. orgeat
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

(*) – The guide contains many more than ten recipes, but only ten are proper cocktails, the remainder being punches, juleps, smashes, and cobblers.

The suggestion, made by Jerry Thomas himself as a note following the recipe, is that the drink had been created in honor of a (then) recent visit by a Japanese diplomatic delegation to New York. No more than this is know about the drink’s inspiration.

In the days that followed my visit to Heaven’s Dog I made a number of Japanese Cocktails at home, using the orgeat I had made just a couple of weeks prior (my first attempt, passable but not yet over the top). And then I decided to start tinkering.

I tried both bourbon and rye in place of the brandy and found both to be quite acceptable alternatives to the brandy. I also started upping the amount of bitters I was using, choosing to add 2 – 4 heathy dashed after the drink had been built and chilled. (My memory is that Jennifer put a pretty serious dollop of bitters in the one she served me.)

Then I decided to see what adding a bit of triple sec would do. I think almond and orange is a great combination so it seemed like it should work in this drink as well.

Japanese Cocktail #2

2 oz. Rye or Bourbon
1/2 oz. orgeat
1/2 oz. triple sec

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass. 2 – 4 dashes of bitters on top. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Not quite what was I was after. By adding in the triple sec (I tried both Cointreau and Luxardo Triplum), I was also increasing the sugar. So the drink, already kind of sweet from the orgeat, became a bit too sugary for my palate. Something acid was called for so I started experimenting with citrus.

First I tried adding 1/2 oz. of fresh squeezed orange juice. The orange flavor deepened but the drink was still too sweet overall. So I figured that I’d let the triple sec carry the orange note by itself and I’d add lemon juice to tart things up. That got the drink’s sweet/sour balance right where I wanted it. Yes! One more detail remained: the garnish!

Fortunately, this was something of a no brainer: an orange peel, flamed and then left in the drink added a teensy bit of burnt caramel and looked lovely floating in the glass afterward.

My new cocktail in hand, I started musing on a name, something more original than “Japanese Cocktail #2” and then it came to me and it was perfect:

I Think I’m Turning Japanese

2 oz. Rye or Bourbon
1/2 oz. orgeat
1/2 oz. triple sec
1/2 oz. lemon juice

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass.
2 – 4 dashes of bitters on top.
Orange peel garnish, flamed and then left to float in the drink.


I Think I'm Turning Japanese Cocktail

P.S. In the days since I wrote the original post two thoughts worth sharing, I think, crossed my mind:

1- This drink does make me think of a Sidecar (brandy, lemon, triple sec), though with more spirit, the addition of the orgeat and without the sugared rim.

2- It might be interesting to try shaking one of these up with an egg white!

Busy, busy, busy…

Posted in Left Coast Libations on February 25, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

With all the drinks now cataloged and the photo shoot scheduled for late March, I’ve been extra busy finishing up home made ingredients. In the last week alone I’ve completed: cardamom tincture, chili-infused orange bitters, thai chili tincture, two lavender syrups (one with sugar and one with honey), hibiscus infused vodka, demerara syrup, gomme syrup, and lastly kesar sharbat, a saffron and rosewater potion for Anu Apte’s delicious Saffron Sandalwood Sour. The syrup is so beautiful I took a picture so that you could all see it. It’s the crown jewel of my ever growing collection of potions. (Oh, and I also put up a jar of brandied cherries since we want to include a recipe for making them in the book.)

I’ve also started testing the cocktail recipes in earnest, “proofing” over 10 drinks alone in the last three days. Tonight, in fact, I’m taking a bit of a breather from all that stirring, shaking and drinking. Got to give my poor liver a rest sometime. Back in the saddle again tomorrow though. And then there’s a bunch of new liqueurs to pick up…to make more drinks. What a life, eh?

Now here’s that photo I promised you. Those are saffron threads you see suspended in it. Lovely.

Kesar Sharbat

Apricots, Strawberries and a Hundred Cocktails!

Posted in Left Coast Libations on February 20, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

A few days ago, Ted sent me the recipes from Eric Carlson for cocktail catalog numbers 99 and 100. We’re are now “cocktail complete” and done collecting recipes. Our next step is drink photography, scheduled for mid-March. We are pleased to be working with the talented Jenn Farrington and to be able to shoot ‘on location’ at Flora in Oakland, CA. Whoo Hoo!

Last week I also put up the last of the “long lead” home made ingredients. They were the dried apricot infused pisco (for Ryan Fitzgerald’s ‘Il Terzo’) and strawberry-infused reposado tequila AKA “Tequila Por Mi Amante” (for Jim Romdall’s ‘El Globo Rojo’). Here’s a photo to show you how pretty they are, now a few days old. They smell amazing as well!
Apricot Pisco and Strawberry Reposado Tequila

Tinctures, Syrups and Foams…

Posted in Left Coast Libations on February 4, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

Of the 79 drinks I’ve got logged as of this writing, 27 call for one or more ingredients that have be made from scratch and in advance. Much as no Jedi’s training is complete before they make their own light saber, it would seem that the “rock star” bartender must prove her or his own worth sooner or later by concocting a cocktail (or two) dependent on a home made ingredient.

As a cook, I’m of course attracted to these particular recipes. I like drinks with lots of esoteric ingredients and I’m always excited to make these, eagerly anticipating the day when I’ll be able to build my first drink using a tincture I made at home. What I don’t like, however, are poorly written instructions which leave out steps, don’t clearly identify ingredients or which are vague about quantities (“a few” or “a handful” in relationship to chilis, being my favorite). Notes someone makes remind him or herself how some infusion was made are not the same as a recipe which can be followed again and again by others. But then again, writing a good recipe is a skill which not even the best chefs possess (which is why cookbooks must be carefully proofed or even ghost written). Net/net: I am working with Ted and our crew of star bartenders to make sure everything is clear as it can be before we go to print and you start making these drinks.

OK, enough ranting. Below is the list of things I’m going to be making for the cocktails in this book. I’ve already got most of the “long lead” items done or soaking. Some things, of course, can only be make fresh, an hour or more before they are needed at best.

And then there’s the smoked ice. Hickory smoked ice.

Basil Foam
Cardamom Tincture
Celery Juice
Chili Tincture
Cinnamon Tincture
Costus Root Bitters
Demerara Syrup
Dried Apricot Pisco
Dried Chili Infused Orange Bitters
Fig Puree
Hibiscus-infused Vodka
Honey Syrups (five strengths)
House Chocolate Liquor
Kumquat Marmalade
Jasmine Syrup
Lavender Syrup
Lime/Whey Mixture
Lime-Thai Chili Tincture
Maple Syrup Gastrique
Pear Foam
Prickly Pear Juice
Simple Syrup
Smoked Cider Air
Smoked Ice
Strawberry-Infused Tequila

LCL Tinctures