Drink of the Week: Jack Maple Egg Nog

Jack Maple Egg Nog. Christmas is nearly upon us and today we have a tasty yet fairly traditional spin on the ultimate yuletide cocktail. Better yet, unlike most members of the egg nog/egg flip family, the Jack Maple Egg Nog is a true cocktail in the classic sense in that it includes bitters.

It’s a good thing because there is almost too much sweetness to be had in a recipe I purloined directly from the Laird’s Applejack web site. Don’t scoff. One thing I’ve learned from being corrupted by numerous free bottles is that the mixologists who make up the recipes offered up by booze manufacturers tend to know their stuff, which makes sense because the whole idea is get you drink the product. The only sad part is that I still had to pay for my bottle of 100 proof Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy.

Not that I minded. 100 proof applejack definitely ranks with the great American boozes and this nog variation is a pretty wonderful way to use the U.S.A.’s oldest base spirit.

Jack Maple Egg Nog

2 ounces applejack
2 ounces heavy cream or half-and-half, or some combination thereof
3/4 ounce maple syrup
1 whole large egg
1 dash Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters
Ground nutmeg (crucial garnish)

If you’re familiar with the “dry shake” technique of working with eggs in drinks, this may sound old hat, but for the benefit of newbies, here we go.

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker without ice. Shake vigorously, long enough to emulsify the whole egg and blend it with the dairy. Add ice, shake even more vigorously for as long as you can manage. Strain into a chilled rocks glass or something similar — the original recipe calls for a mug. Sprinkle with a small amount of ground nutmeg…not too much. Toast the spirit of fun and friendship of the holidays, also that diet you’ll be starting and the gym you’ll be joining first thing on December 26, or maybe January 5.

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I stuck with my bottle of 100 proof Laird’s Straight for this drink, but I’m pretty sure Laird’s blended, but stil very tasty, 80 proof Applejack migh even be a bit of an improvement in some respects. Yes, the 100 proof is the superior beverage in terms of rich apple flavor. However, there may be a little bit more burn than some folks like with their egg nog, so a gentler spirit might be your preference. I  recommend, however, that you stick with Fee Brothers Aromatic bitters as opposed to the more standard Angostura. The former has more of a festive, ginger-spicy edge.

And then there’s the matter of butterfat and your choice of dairy products. To be specific, most half-and-half is about 12 percent fat, compared to roughly 38% percent fat in whipping cream.  We’re talking the difference between about 75 calories in two ounces of liquid if you use half-and-half to over 200 if you go with the heavy cream…and that’s in addition to the egg, the maple syrup, and oh yeah, the booze! Still, in exchange for all those calories, you get a deliciously creamy buffer between you and the alcohol.

The friend who helped me sample a few versions of this drink thinks that, in this case, more is more and you should stick with two ounces of heavy cream. I think my favorite version of the Jack Maple involved one ounce of cream and one once of half and half. It was a bit lighter and more refreshing than the ultra-fat version, while still being heavy enough to do the job. Still, I tried to see if I could reduce the enormous amount of butterfat in a proper nog. At one point, I experimented with just using 2% percent milk. We won’t talk about that.

  

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2014 Holiday Gift Guide: Booze

Walk into any liquor store and you’ll see hundreds of options. You can zero in on someone’s favorite drink when picking a gift, or you can get creative and choose something they wouldn’t buy for themselves. Also, remember that you don’t want to come to a party empty-handed, so get in the habit of at least bringing a bottle.

And for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Roca Patrón Silver

roca_patron

It’s only been 15 or 20 years since high-end tequilas began to compete against Cognac and single-malt Scotch for supremacy among world-class sipping experiences, with often outstanding and highly accessible results. Already by far the best known premium tequila in the U.S., Patrón is upping their game even more with a new line of super-premium boozes, Roca Patrón, named for the stone wheels used to extract the juice of the blue agave plant. Unlike añejos and reposadas, silver (aka white) tequilas are un-aged and generally best used for cocktails and shots. At an MSRP of $69.00, however, Roca Patrón Silver is definitely no freshman-year bender fodder and a great gift for the man or woman who’s sipped nearly everything. The Patrón people describe the flavor as sweet, “with notes of black pepper, pumpkin and lime tea.” We taste mainly the honey-like flavor of the agave, but isn’t that the whole point of quality tequila? Not too stuffy to accompany a little grapefruit soda or perhaps even a perfectly a well-balanced classic margarita (shaken, not blended!), this definitely qualifies as not just the good stuff, but the very good stuff. Aged Roca Patrón Reposada and Roca Patrón Añejo are available at commensurately higher price tags.

Patrón’s Holiday Classic Cocktails Kit

patron_cocktails

Once maligned by the ignorant, tequila has emerged as every bit the equal of whiskey, gin and, yes, Cognac, as the basis for a truly tip-top cocktail – and we don’t just mean a classic margarita either, as marvelous as those can be. Now, the biggest name in premium tequila is marketing its own variation on one of the ultimate cocktail classics, the Añejo Manhattan, which substitutes aged tequila for the usual bourbon, rye or Canadian whiskey. This set (MSRP $54.99) includes a bottle of flavorful mellow Patrón Añejo, two very sturdy, large coupe glasses (a more rounded old-school variation on today’s standard martini glasses) and Dashfire Brandy Old Fashioned Bitters. The latter is a tantalizing alternative to standard Angostura aromatic bitters with a strong accent of smokey cloves; no self-respecting Manhattan is remotely complete without bitters, and this artisanal brand is an outstanding choice. All your giftee needs to add is a cocktail shaker/mixing glass, some sweet vermouth (ideally Carpano Antica), lots and lots of ice, and we’re off to the races! A strong gift selection for any open-minded cocktail enthusiast.

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Crown Royal Regal Apple

Bottle and Box

I’m a huge fan of Crown Royal Canadian Whisky, so I was looking forward to trying the all-new Crown Royal Regal Apple. The flavored whisky arrived in a sweet emerald green carton with the iconic Crown Royal bag in green and gold tones. Crown Royal Regal Apple is a combination of the well-known, premium taste of Crown Royal whisky infused with natural apple flavors. It’s delicious as a chilled shot as the strong apple flavor jumps out and you can use it for a number of great cocktails as well. With the beautiful packaging and the iconic Crown Royal brand it’s also great for a gift or something to bring to a party during the holiday season.

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Drink of the Week: The Marconi Wireless

the Marconi Wireless.I’m fond of quoting Arthur C. Clarke’s famous truism that any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. Well, despite a pretty good K-12 and college education courtesy of the great state of California, I’ll never quite understand in any visceral way how sound and images can be transmitted literally through the air. Yes, even old-fashioned low-tech radio seems like magic to me.

Indeed, wireless radio transmission must have seemed quite a magical miracle in the early 20th century and certainly worthy of its own cocktail. You can nevertheless argue that inventor Guglielmo Marconi was shortchanged in the mixed drink department because his liquid memorial is actually, like last week’s Añejo Manhattan, a pretty direct lift of one of boozedom’s most basic cocktails, albeit with just a couple of very simple alterations.

It’s the difference in base spirits that drew my attention in this case. The Marconi Wireless replaces Manhattanite whiskey with applejack, the apple brandy that appears to be America’s first truly indigenous spirit. Having just bought myself perhaps the most authentic of the very few remaining applejack products on the market, I was definitely raring to give this one a try. It might not be as masterful a cocktail as the Jack Rose, but it’s super easy to make and will tantalize the tired tastebuds of even fairly jaded cocktail snobs.

The Marconi Wireless

2 ounces applejack
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1-2 dashes orange bitters
1 cocktail cherry (desirable garnish)

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Shake or stir vigorously as you prefer, and strain into a cocktail shaker. I guess you have no choice but to toast Signor Marconi who, after all, made mass entertainment as we know more or less still know it possible.

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I usually like to try at least two different brands of my base spirit but sadly there’s basically one brand of American apple brandy on the market, and it’s Laird’s. I used their 80 proof blended applejack on the Jack Rose and was quite delighted with the results. However, I’ve been meaning to try out their 100 proof unblended Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy and it’s definitely even better, especially if you don’t mind a little alcoholic burn. (Apart from a regional brand, also manufactured by Laird’s, called Captain Applejack which may or may not be identical to Laird’s, the only real competition to applejack is France’s apple brandy, Calvados.)

On the other hand, I was able to mess around a bit with my vermouths. As you might expect, the solid and popularly priced Noilly Pratt produced a simple yet sophisticated result while the more expensive and voguish Carpano Antica added a more complex, bitter bass note to this fine Manhattan transfer.

  

Drink of the Week: The Añejo Manhattan

The Añejo Manhattan.I love tequila probably more than gin and and almost as much as whiskey and rum. Indeed, the first cocktail I ever had that made me realize there was a real art to this sort of thing was a fabled prickly pear margarita I enjoyed some time some time around Y2K at the long gone Las Vegas branch of the fabled Santa Fe, New Mexico restaurant, Anasazi. The only reason I don’t feature the fabled Mexican derivative of the blue agave plant as often as other base spirits is that it’s a pretty late arrival to the U.S.’s long cocktail party. There simply aren’t as many interesting recipes for it as for standard Yanqui boozes.

Still, as high quality tequila has grown ever more accessible, there’s absolutely no reason we can’t move beyond the Margarita which, let there be no mistake, is as great as any classic cocktail when made in the proper way.  (Shaken, not blended!)

As by far the best known high end tequila, it makes sense that today’s cocktail comes to us courtesy of Patrón. Here’s where I have to mention that I was gifted by the tequila titans not only with their very tasty, very smooth and extremely mellow añejo, but with a holiday gift box that also offers artisanal aromatic bitters from Dashfire and some very nice coupe glasses you might see pictured here from time to time. Even so, I don’t think I was overly swayed when I say that, if you use the right vermouth and the right amount of bitters, this is one heck of a variation on a cocktail super classic.

The Añejo Manhattan

2 ounces añejo tequila (presumably Patrón)
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1-2 dashes aromatic bitters (Dashfire Brandy Old Fashioned Bitters, if you’ve got it)
orange peel or cocktail cherry (highly desirable garnishes)

Yes, this is pretty much a Manhattan with the aged tequila subbing for whiskey. So, make this pretty much as you would a regular Manhattan. Combine all of the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Stir or shake, depending on your personal preference. Patrón says you should shake it gently if you’re going that route, which worked fine for me.

Strain into a well-chilled cocktail glass. Add your orange peel or cocktail cherry, sip, and salute the great nation of Mexico. Like los Estados Unidos, it’s a country with many problems but also one of the world’s most fascinating culturas.

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I initially tried this drink pretty much as per Patrón, using Noilly Pratt sweet vermouth and the Dashfire bitters, which are sweeter and smokier than your basic Angostura type, with the distinct presence of cloves. It a very nice change of pace from the usual Manhattan. Still, when I tried it again using the more expensive, more bitter and more complex Carpano Antica, which has become the go-to sweet vermouth for many a cocktail snob, I suddenly remembered why that was the case. The slightly bitter, chocolatey bottom took that iteration of the drink into the stratosphere.

After that, however, I had a hard time recapturing the magic of that second attempt. Later on, I actually found myself enjoying this drink more with Noilly Pratt and, despite my picture, I think the addition of cocktail cherry suits the flavor more than an orange peel but then, like everything else, I’m likely to change my mind on that point, too.

 

 

  

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