Mixology Monday is a monthly catalogue of interesting things people have been doing with alcohol, based around a theme set by that month's host. November sees Doug at the Pegu Blog calling out all our homemade treasures - every drink has to contain one ingredient that's made from scratch. It's often said that every major ingredient and technique in cocktail-making was on the table from about 1920 onwards. This is largely true, if you discount the recent emergence of molecular mixology which is going to be one of those terms that sticks if only because there isn't a better-sounding one, and also one of those things where its influence will probably be obvious decades down the line. So, when you want your drinks to stand out from the crowd, it's usually easier to go old-school, and make your own ingredients.
I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the majority of spirits began life as a backyard venture, just to see what happens if... There's still a strong tradition of home-distilling in France and Eastern Europe, and the kudos that comes with being a small-batch, artisanal spirit or liqueur is as high as its ever been. There's a wealth of bartenders using their knowledge to make their own bitters and recreate lost ingredients.
And then there's me. I've written about my attempts at making my own grapefruit liqueur (verdict: not bad) before - recipes here! - but what I didn't mention was that, at the same time, I diverted some resources into another simple project.
The story goes a little something like this: after prepping up the grapefruit liqueur, it turns out I had about a third of a bottle of vodka leftover. Couple this with a jar of cinnamon sticks that weren't doing anything, add a couple of days in a mason jar and 70-odd ml of overproof rum in a misguided attempt to make it inflammable and you get a serviceable cinnamon tincture.
One of the first things I tried was throwing it into something resembling a Rob Roy, mainly because I wanted a pretext to buy a bottle of Monkey Shoulder. This served to prove the hypothesis that a serviceable cinnamon tincture isn't necessarily a great replacement for purpose-made aromatic bitters. The major problem is the clarity: the tincture is pretty cloudy, and combined with the Punt Y Mes I used, the drink came out really dark and opaque. The overall effect didn't compare well to a standard Rob Roy.
I used my second attempt to use the tincture as an accent rather than a main ingredient, spraying it over the top of a twist on an Old-fashioned. As a package, it was a lot more successful but again, nothing to recommend it over a regular Old-fashioned. There is a drink out there for a serviceable cinnamon tincture, but until I find it, I guess it's back to the drawing board.
Ednbrg's Serviceable Cinnamon Tincture
250ml Finlandia Vodka
200g Cinnamon sticks
Soak cinnamon sticks in vodka for up to three days. Strain through a cheesecloth and add 70ml of Overproof rum. Or don't; it may work out better.