Drink of the Week: The Douglas Fairbanks

The Douglas Fairbanks.For those of you who don’t know your early Hollywood history, Douglas Fairbanks was probably the first real superstar action hero and, like Buster Keaton in his own day and Jackie Chan many years later, a superb stunt performer. He played the dashing, ultra-athletic lead in some of the earliest film versions of “The Thief of Baghdad,” “The Mark of Zorro” and “The Three Musketeers,” among many other productions. He was also — and I believe this is a DOTW first for a celebrity-named cocktail — a teetotaler.

Maybe, then, there’s a certain irony in that the flavor of the drink is, despite the presence of a very sweet liqueur, quite dry and tart. Meanwhile, the drink named after Fairbanks’ fellow silent-era superstar and reputed one-true-love, Mary Pickford, is quite sweet. Conversely, she is said to have had an extremely serious drinking problem.

So, yes, we’re talking extremes. You’d better like dry and tart because, even an ounce of a sweet liqueur and egg white can’t make the Douglas Fairbanks into anything but a drink for people who like ’em on the austere side. You’ve been warned.

The Douglas Fairbanks

2 ounces gin
1 ounce apricot brandy
1/2 ounce fresh lemon or lime juice
1/2 egg white (1 1/2 tablespoons of packaged egg white)

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker. If you are using fresh egg white (i.e., out of an actual egg), first shake it without ice to emulsify the egg, being mindful of the mildly explosive properties of un-iced egg white. Next, add plenty of ice and shake again very vigorously. Strain the result into large chilled cocktail glass. Prepare for tartness!

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Drink of the Week: The Cold Brew Negroni

The Cold Brew Negroni.Long before my serious cocktailing days, boozy drinks that featured coffee were a go-to for this caffeine addict. Then and now, I’ve found the effect both invigorating and relaxing and, let me tell you, drinks that are insults to the good name of Irish Coffee have gotten me through a great many long night/morning at the craps table.

So, when shadowy forces who, as far as I can tell, are either in the employ of Big Coffee or Big Italian Digestif, sent me today’s drink, a clever and direct twist on a true cocktail classic, I decided to break my rule against home-made infusions. Today’s selection sounded just good enough, and just simple enough, to make it a worthy DOTW. Let’s see what you think.

The Cold Brew Negroni

1 ounce cold-brew coffee infused Campari (see below)
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce gin
1 orange slice (desirable garnish)

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Drink of the Week: The Fancy Free Cocktail

The Fancy Free Cocktail.I love cocktails, but after an exceptionally tiring day, I don’t always love making them, so it’s nice to have a few options that require minimal effort. While the Old Fashioned, a Martini, and a Manhattan are all great possibilities on such an evening, they all also involve endless questions and debates regarding the right way to make them and innumerable, mostly valid, interpretations. Sometimes, you don’t want a drink with an interesting backstory, much less one offering endless iterations. Sometimes, you just want a sweet something to help you relax and nothing else.

Yes, the Fancy Free Cocktail, which I discovered via Robert Hess’s “The Essential Bartender’s Guide” (you can also see him making one circa 2009 here) is accurately named. You can serve it up (i.e. in a cocktail glass with no ice), but if you’re even lazier, you can build it in a glass and have it on the rocks. Garnishes are entirely optional, in case you can’t bring yourself to grab a fruit peeler or drop a cocktail cherry in. But you’d better like your drink strong and sweet.

The Fancy Free

2 ounces bourbon (rye may be an acceptable substitute)
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur
1 dash Angostura/aromatic bitters
1 dash orange bitters
1 orange twist or cocktail cherry (entirely optional garnishes)

Method 1: Add the liquid ingredients to a mixing glass or cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Stir or shake (this is another one I personally prefer stirred) and strain into our old pal, the well-chilled cocktail glass. Add the garnish if you so choose.

Method 2 (the more fancy free Fancy Free): Add all the ingredients to a rocks/old fashioned glass with plenty of ice. Stir a lot and then add the garnish if you’re in a garnishing mood. Drink nice and slow.

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Napa Valley’s Chappellet has a diverse portfolio that delivers quality

Next year will mark 50 years that the Chappellet family has been producing wines on Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley. These days, the second generation has joined the efforts at Chappellet. Their work involves a firm belief in sustainable practices, which they have become vanguards of in Napa Valley. A mere 16% of their 640 acre estate is under vine. The areas that are planted have been certified organic since 2012. Phillip Corallo-Titus joined Chappellet as assistant winemaker in 1981. In 1990, he took over the reins as head winemaker and has been driving the winemaking team ever since.

While their portfolio includes Napa Valley standard bearers such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, they also feature Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Malbec and more. In short, it’s a diverse offering loaded with wines produced from their Estate, as well as select vineyards that meet their standards. Here’s a look at four current standout releases.

Chappellet 2014 Chenin Blanc ($32)

chappellet_1

This wine is comprised entirely of Chenin Blanc from Estate Vineyards on Pritchard Hill, which were replanted in 2004. Fermentation took place in stainless steel, neutral French oak and concrete egg. Not many producers in Napa Valley make a Chenin Blanc, and even fewer do it well, but this offering from Chappellet hits all the right notes for me. This starts with the lovely and somewhat boisterous nose, which features lychee fruit, apricot and bits of citrus zest. Additionally, the even-keeled palate is loaded with stone fruits, minerals and a dollop of spices. All of these characteristics come together on the clean, crisp finish, which has good length and depth.

Chappellet 2014 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($35)

The fruit for this Chardonnay was sourced in a handful of diverse areas in Napa Valley, the common thread being that they are all cool-growing regions, which is ideal for Chardonnay. It sat on the lees for eight months and was aged in one third new French oak. From the first whiff to the last sip, this remarkably delicious Chardonnay is simply loaded with a ton of pure and delicious fruit flavors. Orchard fruit and lemon curd aromas leap from the nose. The deeply layered palate is filled with apple, pear, bits of mango, toasty oak and more. Vanilla bean, crème fraiche and continuing pure fruit flavors are all evident on the long, lush finish.

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Drink of the Week: The Improved Cocktail (Take 2)

Image ALT text goes here.So, as we learned last week, once upon a time, the term “cocktail” was not today’s generic term for any mixed alcoholic beverage but instead was a drink that called for a base spirit, bitters, sugar/simple syrup and maybe a bit of additional water and a fruit garnish of some sort. Thus, the original cocktail — which was not, obviously, called the Old Fashioned yet, as it was actually still kind of a newfangled thing — begat the Improved Cocktail, which adds a small amount of a liqueur to the mix and which, unlike the Old Fashioned today, is primarily served up (i.e. with the ice strained out).

While punches and numerous other mixed drinks definitely predated this Gilded Age classic, today’s drink is definitely something of an ur-cocktail in that it presumably helped open the door for the cornucopia of strong boozy beverages that are now the backbone of pretty much any home or professional bartender’s repertoire.

Last week’s Improved Cocktail recipe, however, was built around genever (the ur-gin from the Netherlands), and while that recipe can work very nicely with base spirits that are now more common, I’m not sure it’s the absolute best way to go when you’re dealing with whiskey or brandy. This week’s recipe is purloined/adapted from several different online sources which, in turn, were borrowed from the original recipe from ur-bartender Jerry Thomas. Compared to my genever recipe, it adds literally just a dash of one more ingredient and cuts the liqueur proportion in half, which may work better with base spirits that are somewhat more sweet.

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