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Grapefruit Cocktail Extraordinaire: The Plantation

My current favorite bar is Comstock Saloon in San Francisco.  It's really an amazing place in the North Brach area of town.  You simply won't find a more professional set of barkeepers anywhere - led by the two chief mixologists, Jeff Hollinger and Jonny Raglin.  Back in the day, both of these guys came from Absinthe on Hayes Street in San Francisco, and a couple years ago Jeff co-wrote a brilliant book called Art of the Bar which shows off his considerable talents behind the bar.  

Ooh - check out that green cocktail!The Art of the Bar has been in my Library for some time now, but recently I found myself digging through the tome looking for a grapefruit cocktail for Mrs. The Ace.  My wife, a well-documented grapefruit cocktail lover, was looking for something new to help her pass another rainy Bay Area winter evening.  Lo and behold, I found this thing of beauty that includes not only grapefruit but also is a fresh basil cocktail.  

This drink has a lovely, fresh taste to go with its brilliant green coloring. The basil and sugar make a nice, light pesto of sorts that go nicely with the citrus flavors of grapefruit and lime. And if you float some club soda on top you get a great little summertime cooler for your trouble. It's almost enough to make anyone forget that it's still cold and rainy outside. In just a few short weeks this drink will be much more useful as a harbinger of Spring.  

Plantation Cocktail
Adapted from Art of the Bar (2006) by Jeff Hollinger and Rob Schwartz

4-6 leaves fresh basil
1/2 tsp sugar
1 oz. Plymouth Gin
1/2 oz. Cointreau (or Combier)
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 oz. fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
Club soda (optional) 

Combine the basil and sugar in a mixing glass and muddle until the basil is liquified into something that looks like pesto.  Fill the mixing glass with ice. Add the gin, orange curacao and juices to the glass and shake well for 10-20 seconds until well-chilled. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a chilled tall collins glass filled with ice. Top with a float of club soda for a summer cooler (optional). Garnish with a slice of grapefruit. 


Super Bowl Drinks - Round 2

So as I wrote about here, The Ace is giving you some Super Bowl-themed cocktail recipe ideass that you might want to try at your big game party this coming weekend. Given that Green Bay and Pittsburgh are both beer towns, this can be a little tough. My last post focused on Pousse Cafes for the two teams - which are basically colorful shooters for the event. Not exactly the most impressive drinks from a mixology perspective, however. This post attempts to give you some more interesting and tasty options for your soiree. Here goes...

Packer Paloma
Adapted from Boozehound (2010) by Jason Wilson 

3 oz. fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
2 oz. blanco (silver) tequila
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2 to 3/4 oz. agave nectar (to taste)

Fill a cocktail shaker 1/2 full of ice. Add the grapefruit and lime juices, tequila and agave nectar to the shaker. Shake well and pour directly into a tall collins glass. Garnish with a slice of lime and a slice of grapefruit.

George Baker was a Packer fanThis an alliterative take on the classic Paloma cocktail - which is kind of a grapefruit margarita.  Grapefruit is a very good mixer with tequila, and this drink is very bright and refreshing. In fact, the Paloma is much more common in Mexico than is the veritable Margarita. It is also comprised of ingredients that you can squeeze and prepare in advance - allowing you to prepare this drink quickly at your party. 

I like to use white grapefruit in this drink (in fact I used fresh local oro blancos) - and I think the 3/4 oz. of agave nectar just offsets the bitter qualities of the white grapefruit. If you use ruby grapefruits then stick closer to the 1/2 oz. I also sometimes like to mix a little Cointreau or Combier into this drink.  

Oh yeah - and drinks on the house to patrons singing Una Paloma Blanca

Corn n' Steel
Adapted from recipe on back of John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum bottle

2 oz. Cruzan Blackstrap rum
1/2 oz. velvet falernum
Dash of Fee Brothers' aromatic bitters (recommended for its heavy cinnamon flavor)
1/2 lime
pineapple for garnish 

Combine the rum, falernum, bitters and the juice from the lime in a shaker with lots of ice and shake for at least 20 seconds to chill. Pour (including the ice) into a highball glass and garnish with a slice of pineapple on the rim of the glass.

Polamalu's secret to shiny hair... Velvet Falernum!This drink is really just a regular ol' Corn n' Oil - with pineapple garnish for flavor and to adapt the coloring in honor of the Steelers. The Corn n' Oil is also a great little drink, one that has enough sweet to make almost anyone happy.

And best of all the pineapple adds a some extra tropical flavor to help you stay warm on a chilly Super Bowl day.  


Mean Joe Greene's Pina Colada

1 1/2 oz. dark rum
2 oz. Coco Lopez
2 oz. pineapple juice

Pour all ingredients into a blender with lots of ice and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and serve. Garnish with a cherry soaked in the tears of a Packer fan.  

Okay, okay - so this is just a Pina Colada. But it has black rum and yellow pineapple in it - and it may be the best money drink of all time. So serve it at your party - for cryin' out loud!

The Black & Gold Flip
From Scofflaw's Den website - from Mixology Monday LIV

2 ounces Kraken spiced rum
1 ounce Strega
1 whole egg
Put the ingredients in a glass without ice. Shake for 60-90 seconds to emulsify the egg. Add ice and shake again to thoroughly chill the drink. Strain into a chilled glass, top with some fresh grated nutmeg.

An interesting take on the classic flip recipe - SeanMike uses Kraken (which is very dark to the point of being black) and Strega (which is brilliant yellow) to make this drink. Of course, the black and gold are lost in the process of shaking the flip - but nevertheless this drink was a hit at MxMo a few weeks' back. The drink itself was all right - I have never been a fan of Kraken, but honestly the Strega actually kinda works with it. The biggest barrier for most people will be the spectre of the whole egg. But maybe you can trick people into watching the game while you make this drink for them. 

So there you have it - four cocktails that you can serve to people that you LIKE at a Super Bowl party this weekend. Best of luck, and may the Steelers cover the 2.5!!!


Molasses in Your Cocktail

Maybe I should have been a pirate. On second thought - I would have been lousy at the killing and the swabbing of decks and the constant sunburn... I should have been a Purser in the British Navy. You know - the guy that doled out the rum rations to the the sailors - and who therefore sat on one of the most prized possessions in the British Navy - the rum. Oh sure, there would have been the occasional mutiny and perhaps a watery grave along the way - but the RUM! I do love that rum. 

Dark and StormyI have always been pretty much a sucker for the flavors of Caribbean rums. The beauty of them is that they are so varied - nearly every island in the area has its own distinct rum culture and rum flavor profile. Today I wanted to talk about two rum cocktails that use a traditional strain of rum that is distilled from the molasses that is a by-product of sugar cane production. The viscous, dark brown qualities of the molasses itself are passed down to the rums made from molasses. The resulting rums are dark in color and sweet yet grassy on the palate.   

One of these cocktails is very easy to find on many bar menus - so much so that it is somewhat passe today. 


Dark and Stormy
Adapted from the Barbados Buck cocktail of Jigger, Beaker & Glass by Charles Baker (1939)

2 oz. Dark rum (Gosling's Black Seal 151 rum is the standard - I have also used Cruzan Blackstrap with great effect)
3 oz. ginger beer (I strongly recommend Bundaberg or Fentiman's)
1/4 oz. lime juice
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir gently (don't abuse the bubbles in the ginger beer) for a few seconds to mix the ingredients. Fill a tall collins glass with ice and pour the drink over the ice to serve. Garnish with a slice of lime. 

This is by now a standard at many bars, but it is still one of the most basic and tasty of the rum cocktails out there. You get the fresh lime and the ginger beer on the nose, and the spicy characteristics of the ginger beer offset by the molasses flavors of the rum at the end. Straight-laced and tasty.

Note that the choice of ginger beers is important. I enjoy the flavors of Reed's or The Ginger People ginger beers on their own, but i find that they do not mix as well in a Dark & Stormy as Bundaberg or Fentiman's do. I also like Cock & Bull here, and use it when I do not have my preferred ginger beers in the house. 

The other recipe is a Corn and Oil - an obscure drink that has started to catch on in hipster circles but that still lingers in the shadows of most of America's cocktail menus. It features an amazing spirit called velvet falernum, which is actually a flavored rum product distilled from sugar cane and infused with a number of botanicals such as almond, ginger, cloves and lime. 

Corn & Oil
Adapted from recipe on back of John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum bottle

2 oz. Cruzan Blackstrap rum
1/2 oz. velvet falernum
Dash of Fee Brothers' aromatic bitters (recommended for its heavy cinnamon flavor)
1/2 lime

Combine the rum, falernum, bitters and the juice from the lime in a shaker with lots of ice and shake for at least 20 seconds to chill. Pour (including the ice) into a highball glass and add the spent 1/2 lime in the glass as a garnish.

Corn and OilThere is quite a bit of variation with respect to the proportions of rum to falernum to be mixed in this drink. Mr. Taylor clearly wants to sell a lot of falernum, as he recommends mixing 3.5 parts falernum to 1 part rum (ick) - and on the other side of the spectrum I have seen ratios of 6 parts rum to 1 part falernum. It's really just a style preference for you. I have chosen 4:1 ratio of rum to falernum to ensure that the falernum flavor comes through without overpowering the rum with its sweetness. There is also some disagreement on whether the lime is needed - but I hold steadfast that the lime is essential to the drink.  

So there you have it - two cocktails that serve as good starters into the dark side of the rum world. These drinks will help you decide for yourself if the molasses-based rums are for you or not - the rich, dark flavors of these rums are not for everyone and are just now beginning to enter the American flavor palette. But if these rum flavors agree with you then perhaps you have a future in the pirate industry.   


You're in the Navy (Grog) Now

Mrs. The Ace just got back from a long weekend in Florida. Before she left, she was looking forward to:

  1. Getting out of the house for a few days; and
  2. Checking out this tiki bar in Ft. Lauderdale called the Mai-Kai.  

Unfortunately for me - the only part that ended being as good as advertised was the part about getting away from me.  Turns out the Mai-Kai has focused their energies away from that silly rum stuff (they only carried 10 rums on their menu - most were Bacardi) in favor of the Polynesian Islander Revue and a heart-healthy menu. What would Donn Beach say about that?

Just goes to show that good tiki bars have gotten very hard to find.  Oh sure, here in the SF Bay Area there are still a number of excellent ones (Forbidden Island in Alameda is my drop-dead fave, but there's also Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco, The Kona Club in Oakland and the newly redone Trader Vic's in Emeryville) to choose from. But it's getting harder and harder to find a good spot for a tiki drink out there...

So in light of my wife's failed attempt to replace The Ace with some tiki joint in South Florida, I thought that I'd break out my tiki recipes a little early this Spring. Call it self-preservation.

It's worth re-stating that any conversation about tiki history and/or mixology begins and ends with Jeff "Beachbum" Berry. Jeff's great books on all things tiki have been treasured titles for me since my first Mai Tai years ago. And his blog ain't bad either.

Let's jump right in with my favorite tiki drink - a potion called a Navy Grog. My apologies to Mr. Berry - I cannot find the link in to this recipe, but I am sure his site was the source for this recipe at some point along the way.

Navy Grog
Adapted from Jeff "Beachbum" Berry's blog

1 oz. Dark Jamaican rum (I used Coruba Dark - but if you're fancy use Appleton Estate Extra)
1 oz. Jamaican rum (I used Smith & Cross, but Appleton V/X is most widely used here)
1 oz. Demarara rum (use Lemon Hart 151 if you can find it - but I cannot so I used El Dorado 5) 
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed white grapefruit juice
3/4 oz. honey mix*
1/4 oz. pimento (allspice) dram (I use St. Elizabeth's)
dash orange curacao (Cointreau or Combier)

* Honey mix is a 1:1 mix of honey and boiling water, stirred enough to melt and dissolve the honey.

Take a large handful (or two) of ice from the freezer and crush it using a device like this. Pour the crushed ice into your cocktail shaker - enough to fil the glass at least 2/3 full. Add the rest of the ingredients to the shaker and shake for at least 10-15 seconds, enough to make the metail half of your shaker frosty cold. Uncover your shaker and pour the drink (ice and all) into a tall highball glass and serve.

A word to the wise - this drink is not for the intrepid tiki drinker. The allspice dram packs a flavor wallop - one that not everyone out there will enjoy. But if you're one of the lucky ones that can handle the taste of allspice dram, then the world of tiki drinks is yours. Aside from the allspice dram wrinkle, this is a classic tiki drink all the way. It has plenty of delicious rum, some fruit juice, a strong flavor package and a little sweetness. 10 out of 10 in my book - I hope that you like it too. 

Like much of rum culture, there is a great backstory to the term 'grog' that dates back to British colonialism and the British Navy. Read this Wikipedia post, and then thank your chosen higher power that you weren't in the actual British Navy drinking the original Navy Grog.


Three for Brunch Please

So I am headed off tomorrow morning for a little New Year's brunch at some friends' house, and Mrs. The Ace signed me up for brunch cocktails for the event. From a mixology perspective, weekend brunches can be very tough events for mixing cocktails. You normally get a lot of folks that don't prefer to tipple on some combination of the following occasions:

  1. Ever;
  2. Before noontime; or
  3. While their kids are running around the joint looking for steep staircases and/or sharp objects.

So The Ace keeps it simple at brunches. Money drinks only, folks. For tomorrow's little soiree I have picked three of my favorites. The process of prepping the drinks tonight inspired me - so here goes. This is what's on my brunch menu tomorrow AM. Stop by if you're in the neighborhood...


Ramos Gin Fizz
Adapted from Henry Ramos recipe at New Orleans' Meyer's Restaurant (1880s)

2 oz. Hayman's Old Tom Gin
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 oz. heavy whipping cream
1 egg white
1 oz. simple syrup or gum arabic
3 dashes orange flower water
2 drops vanilla extract
club soda
Orange Bitters

Pour all ingredients except for club soda and bitters into a shaker WITHOUT ICE for at least 30-60 seconds - long enough to emulsify the egg white into a nice frothy head. Then add ice and shake for another 60 seconds until the drink is extremely cold and frothy.  

Pour the contents of the shaker through a fine strainer into a tall collins glass.  Use a barspoon to stir the drink while pouring approximately 1 inch of club soda over top of the drink. The club soda will turn the frothy head of the drink into something like a meringue topping for the drink.  Finish the drink with a couple drops of the orange bitters.  

Okay - this drink takes a fair bit of work to prepare.  And the cream and the egg white might scare off one or two of you. But this drink is absolutely worth the time and effort. This is like cocktail comfort food - think orange dreamsicle for adults. Truly an incredible drink. The Ace uses this in all instances when the brunch companion claims that they "don't really like cocktails."   


St. Germain Cocktail
St. Germain's website  

2 oz. white wine (something simple and inexpensive will do just fine here) 
2 oz. club soda
1 1/2 oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur

Pour the wine and St. Germain into a tall collins glass with 3 perfect ice cubes.  Use a bar spoon to stir the drink as you pour the club soda over the top of the drink.  Serve

This cocktail is not unusual nor is it particularly creative mixology.  It is, after all, straight off the distributor's promotional materials.  But that doesn't change the fact that this drink is perfect for this situation.  It is light, bright and bubbly (just like the The Ace!) and just tastes damned good.  


Celery Mary
Adapted from Scott Beattie's Artisanal Cocktails (2008)

1 1/2 oz. vodka (I use Hangar One Chipotle)
2 oz.  heirloom tomato juice (see recipe below)
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz. Apple Farm apple balsamic vinegar
celery salt
kosher salt
black pepper 
15 pickled celery root matchsticks (see below)
13 young celery leaves

Combine the vodka, juices, vinegar, celery salt & pepper in a shaker and stir well. Add the celery root shoestrings and 10 of the celery leaves, fill the shaker with ice and shake. Pour the contents into a tall collins glass and garnish with the remaining celery leaves to serve. 

Heirloom Tomato Juice
Makes about 2.5 cups - enough for 10 cocktails

1 1/2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Core the tomatoes and place them in a blender with the salt.  Puree until smooth, then strain the puree through a fine mesh strainer.  Press the puree through the strainer to get as much juice as possible.  

Note: Yes, I live in locavore Northern California.  And of course I am cheating - this is New Year's Day and I am using out-of-season heirloom tomatoes shipped in from god-knows-where.  My most sincere apologies.  This drink really is better with in-season tomatoes. I am working through my guilt one day at a time.  

Celery Root Matchsticks
Makes 150 pieces - enough for about 10 cocktails

1 pound celery root
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 tablespoon dill seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons fenugreek
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups white wine vinegar
2 cloves
1 large bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 dried chili pepper

Trim the outside edges of the celery root into the shape of a cube.  Slice the cube into 1/8 inch thick squares, then slice the squares into matchstick-size pieces.  Set aside. 

Heat a stainless steel saute pan over medium heat.  Add the fennel, dill, fenugreek and coriander to the hot pan and shake the pan to evenly distribute the seeds over the surface of the pan.  Let the seeds rest over the heat until little wisps of smoke begin to rise out of the seeds (just a few seconds).  Remove the pan from heat and toss the spices in the pan a few times and set aside.  

Combine the sugar and vinegar in a stainless steel pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Stir in the toasted spice seeds and the cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and chili pepper, then remove from heat.   

Place the celery root matchsticks into an airtight container along with the still-hot pickling juice and cool the mixture in the refrigerator before using.  The pickled matchsticks will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 months.  

So again this is a pretty labor-intensive drink. But this is not your parents' bloody mary, folks. It's fresh and spicy (especially if you use the Hangar One Chipotle vodka), a little sweet with a yummy vinegar kick.  I tend to make a few batches of the celery sticks at once - pickled vegetables have a very half life in the fridge.  And the tomato juice is easy to whip up the night before.

Notes on preparation: 

  • The star of this drink is the apple balsamic vinegar.  It is truly beautiful stuff. It adds a little sweetness and a nice sharp acidity to the drink. Here's the website from the folks at Philo Apple Farm to order it - and YES they deliver.  
  • Celery leaves can be a little tricky to find, but they are essential to the drink. They give off a delicious celery aroma and a little grassy flavor - without any of the unpleasant stringy texture of actual celery. I usually get them at Berkeley Bowl - but when in a pinch I usually can find celery stalks at the big chain grocery stores with the leaves still attached.