Posts filed under Recipes

One day in June

I've made this point before, but if January 25th can be designated No Name Calling Day and the last Wednesday in April marks Administrative Professionals' Day, then it is only right and proper that the second Saturday of June be set aside for World Gin Day. Instituted by Neil Houston (a.k.a. @yetanothergin) in 2009, today is an opportunity to celebrate a spirit that has had its ups and downs. While the popularity of gin today isn't at the level of the early-to-mid 19th Century - when its widespread availability led to what is now known as the Gin Craze and represents one of those rare occasions where the word 'craze' is a massive understatement - it has never been easier to find as wide a selection of really high quality products. Distillers across the world are finding new botanicals and techniques to bring to bear on production and bartenders and drinks enthusiasts are constantly breaking new ground in finding new ways to taste and explore those differing expressions.

My own contribution to this year's festivities works best, I think, with a juniper-forward, citrus heavy gin like Bombay Dry or Sipsmith, but your mileage, as ever, may vary. I also wanted to include a touch of Kamm & Sons Ginseng Spirit because I know the production and flavour of gin was a definite influence on how that particular spirit was conceived.

chauffeur_driven_dream.jpg

Chauffeur-driven Dream

45ml gin
15ml Kamm & Sons Ginseng Spirit
10ml orgeat
15ml lemon juice
2 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters

Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled 7-8oz cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit zest.

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Though it may represent the opportunity to do so, days like World Gin Day aren't about drinking until you fall over. It's more about finding a fresh approach something that you might find very familiar so if you do one thing today, leave off the tonic water and try something new.

Posted on June 10, 2012 and filed under Mixology, Recipes.

Labwork 3: Fizzy

Once upon a time, I had a notion to write a semi-regular series of posts about exploring this idea of molecular mixology. It's been a while since I did one. The gap isn't because molecular techniques aren't an interesting area of innovation. Way back, I split approaches to molecular mixology into two fairly broad categories - equipment led, and ingredient led. The thing is, a lot of the time, that equipment or those ingredients can be pricy in terms of both money and time. With that said, I've still managed to find a little of both to try out a couple of things. One of my recent acquisitions is a Perlini cocktail carbonation system. It sounds pretty impressive and, seeing as it cost me £150 (they've gotten a little cheaper since I got one), it really should be.

Perlini

For your money, you get a suitcase that bears a passing resemblance to those handcuffed to secret agents in movies containing a the mutant child of a bell jar, a T-Virus canister, and a three-piece shaker, and a small black gadget that holds a 16g CO2 charger and looks kind of like a sex toy. There's a one-way valve built into the top of the shaker and the process is simple enough: shake your drink as normal and then feed the carbon dioxide into the shaker. Leave for 30 secs and all of sudden, you have fizzy cocktails.

Carbonating cocktails is undoubtedly fun but while a fizzy daiquiri tastes equal parts of amazing and uncanny, I don't know if it's much more than a novelty and it took a while for me to happen upon a good reason to use the technique. Sloane's Gin had started up a cocktail competition and were asking for entries based on the idea of "twisted traditions" and I chose the Gin & Tonic as the tradition I wanted to play with.

It wasn't a totally random choice: Sloane's Gin is named for Sir Hans Sloane, the first medical practitioner in Britain to be granted a hereditary title, a former president of both the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal Society, and doctor to three successive monarchs (Queen Anne, George I and George II) and that fitted in well with gin's origins as medicine. I also remembered that while British colonists were partial to tonic water as their preferred preventative against malaria, French colonists would turn to aperitif wines such as Byrrh and Lillet to get their fix of quinine. The idea came together pretty quickly after that: combine the British - gin - with the French - tonic wine - and use carbonation to present something that's reminiscent of a classic Gin & Tonic but at the same time something new as well.

French Tonic

35ml Sloane's Dry Gin
25ml Lillet Blanc
15ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup

Combine all ingredients in Perlini shaker; shake with ice; charge with CO2 and reserve for ~30 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled highball and garnish with a twist of orange zest and a twist of lemon zest.

There are a couple of interesting foibles to this recipe; for one, I've generally found that I've had to make drinks a little sweeter than I normally would before carbonating them (hence the 10ml of sugar syrup) and that seems to be down to the carbon dioxide itself. The citrus flavours of Lillet Blanc work really well with the botanicals in Sloane's and provide a nice counterpoint to its dominant vanilla note.

The carbonation is the key part of the drink. It allows me to present something that plays on our expectation of an instantly recognisable drink and that's always an interesting area to play around in. The Perlini system isn't the only way to make drinks fizzy - honestly, it might not be the best way, particularly if you're planning on making them in any great volume but it's turning into a useful tool for me to broaden my horizons.

Posted on April 28, 2012 and filed under Labwork, Mixology, Projects, Recipes.

As debuts go...

A lot of new products hit the market every year; a most recent online edition of CLASS contained 22 reviews of new products and sometimes it feels like you can't turn around without encountering a new gin with some previously unused botanical, or a new single malt expression finished in a succession of different barrels. But if there's one category that hasn't seen explosive growth in recent years, it's aperitif liqueurs. Products are often rediscovered or introduced to new markets, but it's an area that's long been dominated by a handful of brands and that makes the decision to take on the likes of Campari and Aperol an interesting one for a first foray into spirit/liqueur production.

Alex Kammerling is well-known in the UK bar industry thanks to a long stint as Grey Goose's brand ambassador on these shores and his recently re-brandedKamm & Sons Ginseng Spirit represents his first attempt at entering the marketplace. Alex describes it as "a cross between gin, bitters and a liqueur", produced by distilling 45 botanicals (including four different varieties of ginseng root along with juniper berries, echinacea, gingko biloba and goji berry) in grain spirit and mixing that distillate with a herbal infusion containing manuka honey, wormwood and gentian. The light amber colour comes from annato seeds and with responsible service and consumption of alcohol being a thing these days, the liqueur comes in at 33% ABV.

Kamm & Sons is definitely reminiscent of a particular style of slightly sweeter amaro; it has some really interest herbal notes throughout shot through with a hit of citrus and while it is sweet, it's not cloying. There is definitely some bitterness on the palate - which as a general fan of amaro, I fully support - but it doesn't dominate: it can be deployed as a stealthy means of introducing the idea of bitterness as a desirable flavour to those who maybe might otherwise avoid it.

I've found some mileage in using it in place of Campari here and there - using the Negroni formula with Kamm & Sons, Sipsmith Gin, and Lillet Blanc is the basis for awesome - but also in using it as a base ingredient in café style cocktails (some vermouth or similar, a liqueur, something fizzy - lower on the ABV but still super tasty) and as a modifier in fun, refreshing sour style cocktails.

Beyond the rainbow

25ml lemon flavoured vodka (I used Ketel One Citroen)
25ml Kamm & Sons Ginseng Liqueur
10ml triple sec (Cointreau)
20ml lemon juice
1 bsp sugar syrup (2:1)

Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled stemmed glass. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit zest.

I've met Alex a couple of times and he's always blown me away with his attention to detail as a bartender and as an ambassador, so it isn't surprising that he'd come up with something so versatile and inviting. He's on record as saying that one of his favourite aspects of tending bar was creating things and Kamm & Sons is one of his creations that he's proudest of. For me, it's always fun to play with new stuff, particularly if it's in an area that doesn't often see a lot of innovation so it's exciting to see a new independent producer taking on that kind of challenge.

Posted on March 5, 2012 and filed under Mixology, Recipes.

The Matinee

I've previously written about my participation in Bacardi's annual Legacy Cocktail Competition; despite qualifying for the regional finals twice, I never really managed any great success in it. Luckily for anyone who's interested in how things go beyond the initial stages, Metinee Kongsrivilai, head bartender at the Bon Vivant up here in Edinburgh, not only qualified for the UK final but made it into the final round as one of "three most promising" competitors. The other finalists are Quo Vadis' Zdenek Kastanek and Jody Monteith from bar consultancy the Liquorists.

The Matinee

50ml Bacardi Superior
2-4 kaffir lime leaves
12.5ml Martini Rosso
12.5ml lemon juice
12.5ml vanilla sugar syrup
12.5ml egg white

Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled stemmed glass. Garnish with a kaffir lime leaf.

One of the difficult parts of a competition entry is the name and it's always interesting to hear how they come about. Metinee says that "the Matinee itself is based - not on my name, even though it start out as a joke, but on the basis that I wanted the drink to a form of entertainment you can enjoy, day or night. I also felt that it's a nice, short and memorable name and it suits the drink well."

A lot of the recipes I put together are for events or promotions and are designed to fulfil a particular brief. Once the event or promotion - or competition - is over, I don't tend to dwell on them. The difference between the Legacy competition and other competitions is that if you make that final round, you're going to be spending a year promoting that one drink. As Metinee puts it, "I don't even need to go Puerto Rico, I just want this drink to have a future."

Starry Night

Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh (June 1889)

There are lot of cocktail competitions throughout the year and sometimes when you submit an entry, you don't really think about it too much after you hit the "submit" button. For me, that was the case with the Bols Genever Classic Competition - I sent in a drink called the Stuyvesant and didn't hear anything back for a while and so it slipped off my list of immediate concerns.

That changed a couple of months ago, when representatives from Bols Genever and Maxxium UK got in touch with the general manager at Sygn looking for a venue for a Scottish final for the competition. After a couple of meetings, they agreed a date in early November and selected six finalists - Grant Neave from Monteiths, Tom Walker from Bramble, Ryan McDonald from the Voodoo Rooms, Jo Karp and Byron Abbot from Bond No. 9, and me. The final was covered by two intrepid correspondents from Imbibe magazine and is due to be featured in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue.

After we'd all presented our original online entries, word came down that the judges had picked two competitors to face-off for the prize - a trip to Amsterdam with the winner of the English final and Bols brand ambassador John Clay. The two finalists were Tom and myself and we were given fifteen minutes to come up with a contemporary style cocktail using Bols Genever.

I was keen to keep the genever at the forefront but I also wanted to complement it with ingredients that don't require too much buy-in from a customer. One of the things I'd talked about with John Clay earlier in the day was the difficulty in getting the idea of genever across to a customer in, say, two sentences. It's a really interesting category, but it takes some explaining and that can be tough to do in a busy bar environment.

I opted to make a long drink and I opted to make a sour-type drink; for all their qualities, aromatic-type drinks lack the same degree of accessibility, particularly for people are massively into cocktail culture. As I put the ingredients together, I realised that I was making a pale drink with a ginger top so I named it after a painting by another famous son of the Netherlands, Vincent Van Gogh.

Starry Night

35ml Bols Genever
15ml apricot brandy (I used the Bitter Truth)
25ml lemon juice
25ml apple juice
2 bsp acacia honey
Top with ginger ale

Shake the first five ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with ginger ale and garnish with an apple fan.

Tom went down a different route, taking his inspiration from the New York scene and the work of Sam Ross in particular. It was an impressive drink and hopefully he'll get something up on his blog about it. Ultimately, I think that my focus on making something consciously accessible to people unfamiliar with the category helped; I won, by something like one point between three judges.

It's alway nice to do well in comps, and it's extra special to be able to do it on home turf. Thanks to John and everyone at Bols Genever and Maxxium UK, and to the guys from Imbibe for taking the time to check out the Edinburgh scene.

Posted on November 27, 2011 and filed under Mixology, Recipes.