New Year’s Cocktails — Another Drink of the Week Holiday Special

Last week‘s special selection of Christmas drink suggestions were all united by one special ingredient: fat!

While such yuletide standbys as eggnog and hot buttered rum also make excellent New Year’s party favors, it’s possible you’ve had enough rich food during the last several days for a lifetime. So, let’s focus on drinks that might rough up your liver a little but which will leave you arteries alone. And, for our special star ingredient, I’m thinking that we’ll go with that most festive, bubbliest, and Auld Lang Syny-est of cocktail ingredients: champagne, or it’s more or less identical twin, sparkling white wine.

Though a great many old school and more recent craft concoctions feature bubbly, by far the most popular and venerable champagne infused cocktail is the French 75. Conceived in 1915 at Harry’s Bar and quaffed by many of the Lost Generation writers who might have encountered the original and far more deadly French 75 on the battlefield, this drink is a classic in every sense of the word. It’s classy, fun, and — if you drink them in Hemingway/Fitzgerald proportions — will blow you sweetly to kingdom come.
French 75.

The French 75

1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons superfine sugar or 1/2 ounce simple syrup
Champagne/sparkling white wine
1 lemon twist (garnish)

Combine the gin, juice, and sugar or syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake with vigor and strain into a champagne glass. Top off with roughly 2-3 ounces of the dry sparkling white wine of your choice along with the lemon twist.

This is a really sturdy drink that can take a little punishment. You certainly don’t need to use the finest champagne — a half-way acceptable dry sparkling white wine should do the trick. As for the gin, anything from Tanqueray, Beefeater, Bombay to value-priced Gordon’s should do the trick. Also, some bartenders substitute brandy or cognac, but I still haven’t gotten around to trying that myself.

Another alternative is to go with one of the simplest, yet oddly undersung of champagne cocktails, which is to say, the Champagne Cocktail. If you’ve heard it referred to in movies like “Casablanca,” you might imagine it’s a fancy concoction. In fact, it’s anything but and is actually considered a way to class up some slightly flat bubbly. You can read the orginal post, but making is just a matter of dropping a sugar cube into a champagne flute, whetting it with some Angostura/aromatic bitters, and pouring champagne over it.

On the other hand, let’s say you’re not up for any of the hard stuff, yet maybe you’d like a fizzy white wine cocktail that’s not just fizzy white wine. For that, I give you this alluring liquid lady.

The Italian Mistress.

The Italian Mistress

1/2 ounce Punt e Mes
1/4 ounce simple syrup or 1 teaspoon superfine sugar
3-4 dashes Angostura bitters
Sparkling white wine/champagne
1 orange twist (garnish)

For those of you who may not be up on your fancy fortified wines, Punt e Mes is essentially a sweet vermouth with a stronger bitter edge that’s almost chocolately; I love it dearly.  Start your Italian Mistress by combining the Punt e Mes with the bitters and syrup/sugar in a champagne flute. If you’re using sugar, make sure it’s good and dissolved. Fill the rest of the glass with your sparkling white wine and add the orange twist. If you’re fluteless, a regular champagne glass might do, but be aware that they’re usually smaller so you might want to adjust your proportions.

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Of course, these drinks are only a few ideas out of thousands. One of the beauties of New Year’s Eve is that pretty much any mixed alcoholic beverage is in keeping with the night. It’s a great time to dust off such easy-to-make warhorses as the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Martini, or Margarita. Just make sure you make ‘em the right way — like I tell you to!

  

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Christmas Cocktail Ideas – A Drink of the Week Special

So, here’s the deal. Things are simply too crazy here at Drink of the Week for us to be experimenting with new cocktails over the next couple of weeks. I’ll spare you the details but they involve a cold virus with Dracula-like survival skills, a new and hopefully far more permanent location for Drink of the Week Central, plus the usual pre-holiday folderol.

Still, you readers want holiday cocktail suggestions, and I’m here to help.

eggnogg

So, how do you ring in the yuletide when it’s time for a bit of liquid refreshment? Well, the picture above may be a clue that I’m thinking nog. Eggnog might be a bit of holiday cliche but, you know what, cliches become cliches because they actually work and, if you make it fresh, eggnog really, really works. Yes, drink even a few of these ultra-rich, ultra-sweet concoctions and you’ll find yourself looking just a bit more like Santa in the weight department, but also in the area of cheerfulness. In other words, you’ve got to try this once. For me, there’s no better dessert drink.

Eggnog

1.5-2 ounces of your choice of cognac/brandy, bourbon, Canadian whiskey, rum, applejack, port or, perhaps, any other booze you think might be tasty.
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 ounce heavy cream (optional)
2 ounces full fat milk if not using heavy cream; with cream use 1.5 ounces
4-5 teaspoons superfine or powdered sugar or the equivalent in simple syrup (less if you’re base spirit is on the sweet side)
Ground nutmeg (garnish)

If you’ve been reading DOTW for a while, you can probably guess how this goes. We start with what the pros these days call a dry shake. You combine the sugar, the egg, and all the liquid ingredients, in a cocktail shaker without ice. Shake vigorously, but be careful of the top of your shaker. Egg whites provide some extra chemical fun that can make the top of your shaker pop off.

Next, add plenty of ice and shake again. Strain into a rocks glass and top off with some ground nutmeg. The fancy people use fresh nutmeg and grind it themselves. I use the store-bought kind.

While some might be fearful of the raw egg, for the large majority of unpregnant healthy adults, the risks are next to zilch if you’re egg is fresh, refrigerated, and uncracked. You took a far bigger chance driving to the store to buy the eggs. Also, contrary to the assumptions of many, there is nothing slimy about a properly made egg or egg-white infused cocktail. It’s also a gazillion X gazillion better than the nog you buy in the grocery store, and I used to love that stuff. This is, however, a health risk in that it is both megadelicious and, as you know, megafattening. You’ve been warned!

If you want to lighten it up fairly significantly and still have a delicious libation, consider a recent favorite of mine, and  a true but still obscure cocktail classic, the Flip. You can read my prior post or simply remove the dairy products, the vanilla extract, and some of the sugar from the above recipe. It’s less fattening and makes a lighter and more refreshing Chrismas treat. Also, if you’re getting over a cold like me, you won’t have to deal with the wonders of diary-related phlegm. Yum!

If you’d like something lighter still and more on the tangy side, consider creating your own tried and true variation on the egg-white infused whiskey sour, say the Chicago Sour, maybe substituting a port or sherry for the red wine float, or the Clover Leaf.

Not sold on the egg thing? Don’t worry, I’ve got one more suggestion.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Drink of the Week: The Elk’s Own

the Elk's Own. I am supposed to be mildly allergic to red wine. In fact, it was the discovery that wine tasting trips tended to give me a mild, brief malaise — somewhere between a feeling of actual sickness and very mild depression — that started me thinking a bit more seriously about the possibilities of hard liquor some years ago. Still, life has its way of surprising you and I’ve found a few drinks involving red wines that I’ve liked quite a bit. They mostly seem to involve egg white.

The wine in question is usually port or sherry, and that’s the case this week with a drink I found in Dale DeGroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail which he, in turn, found in the 1934 tome, The Artistry Of Mixing Drinks, written by Frank Meier of Paris’s Ritz Bar. Like most drinks of this era, it can also be found in The Savoy Cocktail Book. Most of the modernized versions you’ll find online, however, differ significantly from this week’s drink — significantly enough that I might consider actually revisiting it in a different formulation later on. In the meantime, I’m sticking with a minor variation of Mr. DeGroff’s recipe for this Friday the 13th. It’s pretty much the classic formulation in any case.

The Elk’s Own

1 ounce rye or Canadian whisky
1 ounce port
1/2 large egg white
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup of 2 teaspoons superfine sugar

Since measuring out half of the egg white of a large egg might be tricky, consider doubling up on the Elk’s Own and making two drinks. Even if it’s just you, it’s tasty enough you might want to drink both.

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake without the ice. Then, add plenty of ice cubes and shake once more, this time quite vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass or glasses and toast the Elks Lodge. We’re not at all sure they had anything to do with this drink, but I’m sure they could use a salute.

*****

I didn’t have as many chances to play around with this week’s drink as I’d have liked, so I didn’t manage to even try the more stiff/modern style version; it ups the amount of whiskey to about 1 1/2 parts and the port down to 3/4 of an ounce but uses an entire egg. Some other time, for sure.

Getting down to my choice of ingredients, I used an inexpensive bottle of tawny port that I had on hand, but some people seem to lean towards ruby port, which might be another excuse to revisit this one at a later date. For my hard liquor, I went with my beloved Canadian Club on my first try, as Mr. DeGroff specifically calls for Canadian whisky. Later, I went with the understandably very popular Redemption Rye.  As implied by the directions, I made two drinks each time using one large egg white, out of respect for the for the fact that the DeGroff recipe called for a small egg white, and where the #3$#@$ do you find a small egg these days?

My substitution of two teaspoons of sugar if you don’t have any simple syrup handy is a highly educated guess that I’m pretty sure will work. I didn’t have the opportunity to try it out during a particularly crazy week.

Every version turned out just dandy, but I have to say I especially enjoyed the less complicated charms of the DeGroff Canadian Club iteration. Redemption Rye may be the better product on its own but, for this one,  I think you can definitely save your money and reduce the alcohol volume a bit downwards if you want.

As to why this was a particularly crazy week, for starters, I successfully fought of a cold virus through the magic of zinc, drowsy Robitussin DM, no booze, and tons of sleep over last weekend. [CRUCIAL UPDATE: Actually, I wasn't successful; the cold came back with a vengeance the day before I posted this. The world must know!] More notably, I closed escrow earlier this week on the new location of Drink of the Week Central. That means my and my outsize staff of researchers, chemists, molecular gastronomists, expert horticulturalists, and inebriate engineers will be moving over the coming weeks.

It’s good news for the hardy DOTW team and should, at least, lead to better drink pictures. The alarming consequence for you, however, is that it also means we may be taking a week or two off in the coming six weeks or so — just moving all the bottles should take a solid week! You’ve been warned.

  

Drink of the Week: The Dominicana 1888

The Dominicana 1888. If you’re going to build a cocktail around a distinctive, high end spirit, I think it’s definitely better if you can still distinctly taste that spirit. Sure, a lot of cocktails benefit from a sort of alchemical reaction where flavors in various ingredients unite to create an entirely new experience, but it’s nice to leave room for the unique flavors of a particular product — especially if the drink was created largely to promote that product.

I raved here a few weeks ago about Brugal 1888, a high end darkish rum that mysteriously arrived at my house via the booze-promoting powers that be. It unites the appeal of a really good bourbon or Scotch with hints of the exotic sweetness of a more conventional quality rum. In some ways, though, I think I might like today’s recipe a bit more than the Old Fashioned variation we tried earlier. It’s a very simple drink that’s delicious and sweet, while letting the most intriguing aspects of this somewhat pricey-but-worth-it booze really come to the fore.

I did, however, rename today’s choice as there’s another rum-based cocktail called the Dominicana. I modified the name in honor of its outstanding base spirit. One more thing, I didn’t get quite the amount of froth you see on the picture — you probably need egg whites to get anything remotely like that in real life — but this is still a very delightful drink, presentation issues notwithstanding.

The Domincana 1888

2 ounces Brugal 1888 Rum
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce pineapple juice
1 teaspoon turbinado or brown sugar
1 cocktail cherry (desirable garnish)

Add the three juices and, especially if you’re using turbinado sugar (aka, “raw sugar”), you can muddle it into the liquid to ensure it mixes properly. Next, add the Brugal and lots of ice. Shake very vigorously and strain it into a cocktail glass. Add the cocktail cherry, which really does seem to add a little extra something to this drink.

Sip and salute the power of sugar, both processed and naturally occurring. Rum might be the only drink made directly from sugar or it’s byproduct, molasses, but without some kind of sugar we’d have no liquor at all!

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I shared the brown sugar version of the Dominica 1888 with a couple of test subjects and I can tell you that, apart from the fact that I like it a lot myself, it’s possible that it’s one of your more sophisticated crowd pleasers. Certainly with the combination of three great fresh juices — I even used fresh pineapple juice this time around, which is not always the case with me — and just a little bit of additional brown sugar/turbinado sweetness, it mellows out the Brugal 1888 about as far as it can be mellowed. At the same time, it leaves plenty of room for the high end rum to have its say, and that’s a very good thing. You’re paying for this stuff; presumably, you want to taste it.

Re: brown sugar and turbinado. I basically stuck to the original recipe, created by some clever but unnamed mixologist at Brugal, on all of my successful attempts at this drink. The only variation I tried turned out to be something of a happy accident. The first time I made this, I didn’t have any actual brown sugar around but did have plenty of turbinado, aka raw sugar. Since both brown sugar and turbinado share the same basic trait — they contain the molasses which is usually removed from conventional, processed sugar — using it as a substitute made sense; the results bore me out.

The next night, I went out and bought some regular C&H Dark Brown sugar (it was either that or “golden brown” which seemed lighter than the, er, classic brown sugar I remember from a few years back). I used that version on my test subjects and it worked extremely well, don’t get me wrong. On the other hand, the overall effect, strangely enough, was to make the Brugal’s sharper, almost leathery edges just slightly more obvious. I thought the turbinado sugar gentled the booze in a way I found to be almost perfect. I tried it again and found I really liked my original version best, but purists especially might prefer the regular brown sugar version best. Try it both ways.

 

  

Drink of the Week: The Applejack Old Fashioned

The Applejack Old Fashioned.I mentioned last week that I would be returning to the theme of that ultimate American hard liquor, applejack, for Thanksgiving weekend. And, so, here we are — using the once ubiquitous apple brandy for a variation on the ultimate American cocktail.

If anyone thinks I’m exaggerating when I refer to applejack as the ultimate American spirit, let it be known that no less a resource than Wikipedia tells us that a general named George Washington once asked a distiller named Robert Laird for the recipe for his brandy. The fact that today’s drink is made with Laird’s Applejack and not Washington’s Applejack either tells you something about General/President Washington’s famous integrity or his fear of early American intellectual property lawsuits.

Regardless, it doesn’t really get more American than that…Unless someone can find an image of John Wayne knocking back some of that ol’ applejack. And, if the Duke were to order a cocktail made with the stuff, I like to think it would be made something just like this.

The Applejack Old Fashioned

2.5 ounces applejack
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
1 orange slice
2 teaspoons soda water
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Okay, it’s more or less your basic Old Fashioned drill, muddled orange version, with a few modifications. The most obvious change is that I’ve included an additional half ounce of booze to account for the lightness in flavor of 80 proof applejack. (If you’re lucky enough to to have Laird’s bonded 100 proof version, which I’ve yet to try, two ounces is probably more than sufficient.)

Start by muddling your orange slice in the bottom of a rocks/old fashioned glass. Add all the liquid ingredients and some very large ice cubes. Stir for a good long time to get a little water into the drink, and sip. Toast doing anything other than shopping this weekend.

*****

Most of the recipes I found for Applejack Old Fashioneds called for at east twice as much maple syrup and no orange muddling, though some did add a lemon twist to the concoction. For me, an entire teaspoon meant that the maple simply took over the drink. Many recipes also called for Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Bitters, a variation on the Angostura/aromatic bitters theme that I found slightly over-bitter and distracting.  I’ll go with the usual, this time. (Yes, I know. When I took the picture, I didn’t know I’d end up feeling that way re: the choice of bitters!)

On the other hand, I know that orange muddling in Old Fashioneds is somewhat frowned upon in certain classic cocktail quarters these days, but I like my Old Fashioneds that way, gosh darn it. Also, cutting the maple in half and adding a bit of less concentrated sweetness from the orange seemed like the way to go for this particular drink. So did doubling the classic single teaspoon of soda water and bumping the carbonation up ever so slightly. The result was a really nice drink that is as U.S.A./American as drinks get, especially if you’re maple syrup is from Vermont and not from the oh-so-foreign climes of Canada.

 

 

  

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