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Entries in Bourbon (4)


Kicking off the Holiday Season Right

Thanksgiving sits smack in the middle of the cocktail desert.  I mean, let's face it - by this time I have packed away the Mai Tais and Margaritas for the Winter.  There won't be a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables here in California for several months (er, kale-infused daiquiri, anyone?).  And at this point I am sick and tired of flopping the past several years at Holiday Parties with old-school holiday go-tos like Hot Buttered Rum, Tom & Jerry and mulled wines.  

Disclaimer - these are actually really good drinks.  But every year my Holiday partygoers try them, make those "Oh, that's good," faces and inquire as to the location of the nearest bottle of wine.  Then it's just me at the bar drinking my own kool-aid, so to speak.  sigh...

Apple, cinnamon, butter, whiskey... What's not to like?So this year I tried something completely different.  I went mainstream.  I went to the bookstore and picked up the December issue of Imbibe magazine.  They asked around to a series of barkeeps around the country and came up with a number of Holiday cocktail recipes inspired by Winter flavors.  I went straight off the page and mixed in three or four of the cocktails from Imbibe alongside a few of my go-to whiskey drinks, and you guessed it, found myself busy making cocktails at this year's Holiday Party instead of drinking them.  

A special shout to Robert Ortenzio of Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Miami, who is credited with this crowd favorite.  Next time you are in Miami, look him up and thank him for me!

The Spiced Apple
December 2012 Issue of Imbibe Magazine 
Thanks to Robert Ortenzio, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Miami, FL

1 1/4 oz. spiced apple bourbon (see below)
3/4 oz. chardonnay
1/2 oz. unfiltered apple juice (cider can work in a pinch)
1/2 oz. cinnamon syrup (see below)
3 dashes orange bitters

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled - 15-30 seconds. Place a large-format cube of ice in a rocks glass.  Strain drink into the glass and garnish with a very thin slice of apple.    

This drink was advertised as apple pie in a glass - and I have to admit that this description hits pretty close to home.  The spiced bourbon recipe is fragrant and delicious, and the chardonnay delivers an amazing buttery quality to round out the drink.  A really amazing cocktail here.

Spiced Apple Bourbon

1 liter bourbon 
4 Gala apples (go with what you can find locally, but Gala really did the trick for me)
2 whole star anise
4 whole cloves
6 cinnamon sticks

Core and cut each apple into 8 pieces.  Combine all ingredients in any sealable container, cover and let rest at room remperature for 24 hours.  

Don't go crazy or anything on the bourbon.  I used Old Fitzgerald with outstanding results.  Go with whatever apples you can find locally, but I used Gala apples in this instance and they imparted an amazing apple finish to the bourbon.  I used pair of large mason jars to age the bourbon infusion, placing half of the recipe in each jar.  

Cinnamon Syrup 

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 cinnamon sticks, broken into large pieces

Bring ingredients to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and allow cool & steep.  Discard cinnamon sticks and strain into a glass jar or squeeze bottles for use.  Store refrigerated for ~2 weeks.  


Bitter + Whiskey = Damned Good

It's been a long day - long week for that matter.  I could really use a drink...

Boulevardier - Hipstamatic StyleSo what drink do I reach for at the end of one of those days? For me, it needs to be something with a little kick - preferably something that will help me take that edge off from the day on my way to bed. But if that was the only criteria I'd hit myself in the mind with a shot of Everclear and fall asleep on the couch (not as glamorous as it sounds).

No, this drink can't just be the high-proof hottie at the prom - it needs to have a little European exchange student to it as well... you know, something a bit more interesting. Hmm... I can hear the ladies out there already.

Wow - so we've established that The Ace is still the emotional equivalent of a high schooler. Great... Is there a cocktail recipe coming any time soon? 

So the point of that vague lead-in is that on nights like tonight I really crave a strong cocktail with some pizzazz. It's the perfect night for one of my new favorite cocktails - yet another that I learned of from Jason Wilson's fine book Boozehound.  Here goes:

From Boozehound by Jason Wilson (2010) 

1 1/2 oz. bourbon (I used Weller Special Reserve tonight, but I'd recommend something like Four Roses or even a rye like Rittenhouse 100)
1 oz. sweet vermouth (Carpano D'Antica please)
1 oz. Campari (Or Gran Classico if you have it)
lemon peel for garnish 

Place an up glass in the freezer to chill. Fill a mixing glass at least 1/2 full with ice. Add the bourbon, vermouth and the Campari or Gran Classico to the glass and stir vigorusly for 30 seconds until the drink is cold. Strain into the chilled up glass and garnish with the lemon peel twist and serve. 

This is, simply put, a damned good drink. Mr. Wilson describes it as a Negroni - only better. You get the spicy flavor of the whiskey (at least you do if you don't use Weller bourbon) along with the bitter of the Campari or Gran Classico - offset with the reassuring sweetness of the vermouth. If the Manhattan grew up, stopped dating cheerleaders and married a girl from the big city then it would become a Boulevardier.  Or me... Whatever. Good night.


The Old Fashioned

This past week I was in the Chicago area hanging out with Josh, an old friend from my grad school days.  I was away from the friendly confines of The Ace, but I wanted to be able to mix up a few drinks while away on vacation.  

The local liquor store was a little low on quality spirits available, but I was able to find a nice rye on offer (Michter's Single Barrel Rye) and they had Angostura's orange bitters.  So the answer was obvious - I would make my friend Josh and me some Old Fashioned cocktails.  

The Old Fashioned is perfect for these occasions.  It's a simple recipe with only a few easy-to-find ingredients, and it is relatively easy to make without a lot of bar tools.  Oh yeah - and it's an outstanding cocktail.  

The Old Fashioned also has the distinction of being another one of those classic cocktails that has been bastardized and nearly destroyed in the modern era.  Many overzealous bartenders have tried to soften the lovely hard edges of this fine drink with too much sugar, orange slices and/or maraschino cherries.  When all is said and done, the Old Fashioned is a mixture of whiskey, bitters, sugar and a little water with a tad of citrus oil for aroma.    

Being one of the true classic cocktails - and one with an outstanding name - the Old Fashioned has a significant place in American cocktail culture.  Many words have been written about the Old Fashioned.  A few of the more recent ones can be found on the American Drink blog here and here.  The drink even got a nice boost to its rugged manliness recently thanks to our friend Don Draper.   

Because of its general simplicity, the art of the Old Fashioned is in its proportions and in its preparation. You as the bartender are certainly welcome to play with the proportions to your taste - but I strongly recommend not playing with the preparation method.  100 years of this cocktail can't be all that wrong...

Here is the version that my friend Josh and I used to polish off that bottle of Michter's rye last week.

Old Fashioned Cocktail

2 oz. rye whiskey (bourbon works too, but rye is more historically accurate)
Angostura bitters (orange-flavored if available - but its fine to use their plan bitters if not)
club soda
1 sugar cube (or 1 tsp. of sugar if no cubes available)
1 orange

Place the sugar in a double old-fashioned glass.  Shake 2-4 dashes of bitters onto the sugar and muddle the bitters into the sugar to make a nice slurry of sugar-bitters in the bottom of the glass.  

Pour the whiskey into a separate mixing glass 1/2 full of ice and stir for at least 30 seconds - to get the whiskey nice and cold.  Pour the chilled whiskey and ice into the old-fashioned glass on top of the sugar-bitters slurry.  Pour a little club soda on top of the drink, and use a vegetable peeler to take a wide slab of peel from the orange.  Place the orange peel slab into the drink.  

Preparation Notes: 

  • It's fine to use bourbon - but rye whiskey is more indicative of the time from which The Old Fashioned originated
  • Orange-flavored Angostura bitters are clearly preferred here - but you may also use another orange bitters if you choose (Regan's No. 6 is great) or you can also just use Angostura's original bitters here to great effect 
  • Be sure to peel the orange over top of your drink glass to let the orange oils expunged in the peeling process fall into your drink
  • Peel off only the oily rind of your orange - try to avoid the pith (the white part) of the orange peel 

Making a Manhattan

Okay, so its late but I wanted to post a drink recipe tonight.  Lets talk Manhattans for a few minutes.  

In today's world the generally accepted Manhattan cocktail is proportioned as follows:

Manhattan Cocktail

2 oz. Whiskey (prefer rye)
1 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes bitters (prefer Angostura, Bitter Truth aromatic or Regan's Orange No. 6)

Place an up glass in the freezer to chill - or alternatively pour some water with ice into an up glass and set aside for a few minutes to chill the glass.  Pour the rye, the vermouth and the bitters into a mixing glass with ice up to the top of the level of the liquid in the glass.   Stir with a barspoon for 30 seconds to chill the liquids thoroughly  and also to infuse a small amount of water into the drink.  Strain with a fine strainer into your chilled up glass. 

Well, that isn't really all that groundbreaking, is it?  This recipe is available on virtually any google search of the words "Manhattan Cocktail", so why write about it here?  

The key to the Manhattan is not so much the proportions, but the spirits used and the preparation.  While the recipe itself is not that complicated, using quality spirits and stirring the drink properly with a lot of ice makes this drink really sing.   Here are some notes on preparation for this magnificent drink:

  • I recommend rye whiskey for this drink.  If you just love your favorite bourbon and want to use it - there is plenty of precedent for doing so.  But whichever you use make sure that you use a nice whiskey that you like for this drink.  
  • Carpano Antica is the only vermouth that I use for this drink.  I make other derivatives of the Manhattan with Punt e Mes, and I love to dabble with Amer Picon or an Amaro in other similar drinks - but this vermouth has to stand up to the whiskey with only the help of a little bit of bitters.  It must be Carpano Antica.  
  • Angostura bitters is a fine choice for this drink.  Especially if you are still in the 10-Bottle Bar stage of your home bar, Angostura works great here.  If you have expanded your bitters collection already, I love the Bitter Truth aromatic bitters in this drink, and even a Regan's Orange Bitters No. 6 can work well.  I would stay away from the Fee Brothers' line in this drink, however.  The strong cinnamon essence in the Fee Brothers' aromatic bitters do not work here.  
  • Use enough ice to make sure that all of the whiskey, vermouth and bitters are in the ice and make sure that you stir for a long time.  You want this drink to get cold and you want it to melt a little bit of the ice into the drink.    
  • Use a fine strainer or a double-strainer to make sure that no ice gets poured into your drink.  You don't mind having those little slicks of water on top of the drink, but you don't want chunks of ice in your cocktail.  
  • If you have them, a single amarena (NOT a maraschino) cherry on a skewer is a nice way to finish this drink.  But I would also be duly impressed if you get down with your bad self and drink it straight up.  

I strongly recommend taking the time to make this drink right.  A well-made Manhattan handed to a guest will earn you a friend and likely a repeat customer for your home bar.