Drink of the Week: The Cabaret

The Cabaret.It’s just a few days before our fate is decided at the ballot box — or at least that’s usually the way it goes — and so I have a drink that is, cinematic and theatrical associations excluded, apolitical yet strong enough to help you stand up to the stress.

The provenance of this week’s cocktail, a sweetened-up martini of sorts, is not too obvious. There is a significantly different drink of the same name in Harry Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” which calls for a now mostly unavailable sweetish fortified wine called Caperitif. (A revival of the product seems to have been attempted, however, so that may change.) These days, that Cabaret cocktail is sometimes made with Dubonnet Blanc or Lillet Blanc, so we may give it a shot at some point.

The drink will be making now, however, is an apparent adaptation/reboot that comes from Robert Hess’s “The Essential Cocktail Guide.” While Hess has also promoted a smaller version of the cocktail on his online video channel, and there are a few other versions of it online, I’m partial to the recipe in the book. It’s a bigger, bolder tipple and quite user friendly. It also gives us a reminder that Benedictine is good for something other than just going halfies with brandy.

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Oso Libre embraces sustainability in Paso Robles

The seeds of Oso Libre were planted in 1996 when Chris and Linda Behr purchased 90 acres of property. Over the next 11 years, they took what had been undeveloped land and turned it into a vineyard and cattle ranch. On their property, they utilize sustainable farming methods and also embrace renewable energies. Paso Robles has several distinct growing regions. Oso Libre sits in the Adelaida District, which is way out west in Paso, just 10 miles from the Pacific. Their property sits at an elevation of approximately 1,300 feet. I recently tasted through a selection of the family-owned winery’s offerings and found a lot to like. Everything I tasted was undoubtedly Paso – delicious, loaded with solid fruit, obvious curb appeal and reasonably priced for the quality in the bottle. Here’s a look at four wines to reach for at your next dinner.

osolibre

Oso Libre 2012 Osezno Zinfandel ($38)

All of the fruit came from the La Vista Vineyard in the Adelaida section of Paso Robles. It was aged over 20 months in a combination of new Hungarian (30%) and neutral French (70%) oak. 860 cases were produced. The beautifully engaging nose is loaded with red jam fruit and wisps of vanilla bean. Oodles of fresh, vibrant red fruit and spice flavors dominate the juicy palate. Pepper, hints of cinnamon and continued red fruit flavors are evident on the above average finish. This fruit-driven Zin retains excellent balance and will pair well with a wider array of foods than most Zinfandels.

Oso Libre 2011 Querida Cabernet Sauvignon ($42)

In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (90%), some Merlot (10%) was also blended in. All of the fruit came from the Abernathy Vineyard in Adelaida. It was aged over 14 months in new Hungarian (30%) and neutral French (30%) oak. 360 cases were produced. Paso is best known for Zinfandel and Rhone varieties. However, there is an increasing number of well-heeled Cabernet’s emerging, and this is one of them. Juicy black and red fruit aromas leap from the nose here along with bits of savory herbs. Raspberry and cherry flavors are evident on the palate, which has good depth. Bits of earth, spice and more appear on the solid finish. This Cabernet has racy acid and approachable tannins. Drink it over the next five years. Pair it with red meat for best results.

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Drink of the Week: The October Surprise

the October Surprise.Halloween, at least officially, is on Monday, so I have a seasonally appropriate drink of my own creation. It does not reference anything supernatural, but it does reference something scary and monstrous. I speak, of course, of the presidential election. I call it the October Surprise.

If you follow politics at all, “October Surprise” is a familiar phrase, particularly beloved by conspiracy theorists of varying stripes, that refers to pre-election October shocks that can change November outcomes. Arguably, we’ve had quite a few in 2016, though I personally think the only real surprise is that a reality TV star, known to have very poor impulse-control and no understanding of government or anything else of importance, ever got this close to the White House. Truly scary.

Anyhow, I’ve come up with a drink that’s a sweet and rich autumnal twist on a flip but contains a hot and spicy kick that could be deemed surprising and way more savory than your typical political surprise.

The October Surprise

1 1/2 ounces apple brandy, applejack or standard brandy
1/2 ounce apricot brandy
1/4 ounce agave nectar
1 slice persimmon
1 small slice of manzano chili pepper
1/2 whole egg
2 dashes rhubarb bitters
Grated nutmeg (desirable garnish)

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Drink of the Week: The Buster Brown

The Buster Brown.If you’ve heard the name “Buster Brown” at all, you’re probably thinking of a line of kids’ shoes. However, you may not know that these shoes were not named for the guy who started the footwear line. Buster Brown was a popular comic strip character from the early 20th century created by Richard F. Outcault, a comics pioneer who’s perhaps slightly better remembered by modern graphic storytelling geeks for the Yellow Kid.

The character was a dandyish youngster whose angelic looks belied a strong mischievous streak, resulting in frequent corporal punishment at the hands of his mother. I’ve never actually read the strip, but I assume no boozing was involved as Buster was obviously much too young. So, as with last week’s drink, we have another cocktail named for a presumed teetotaler.

Indeed, while cartoonist Richard Outcault licensed his character to the shoe brand, there is really no apparent connection between the name and drink itself. Still, it’s a very nice variation on a whiskey sour. The only real difference is that the Buster Brown is a true cocktail in the original sense as, unlike most sours, it contains bitters.

The Buster Brown

2 ounces bourbon (possibly rye)
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup (possibly 2 1/2 tablespoons superfine sugar)
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and contemplate how to do mischievous things without getting spanked.

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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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