Drink of the Week: The Firework Fizz

the Firework Fizz.We’ve been missing/ignoring a lot of holidays lately here at DOTW. However, with everything that’s been going on our country lately — a time when it’s tempting to pull out the Charles Dickens and talk about it being both the best of times and the worst of times — I don’t think it would be right to avoid the annual celebration of all that’s really good about our nation.

Moving on, regular readers may be happy to now that, beyond this link to a cocktail from three months back, I’ll make no references to any musical comedy-dramas featuring our founding fathers. Instead, I’m pleased to present a drink that some nameless genius associated with Hornitos Tequila has come up with.

While I’m fond of presenting cocktails that are, well, way old, the presumably rather new Firework Fizz is truly classic in its simplicity and thoroughly delightful in its flavor. Really, it’s not the free booze from the Hornitos people talking when I say it’s good enough to join any list of classic cocktails. With a relatively low amount of booze and a very high level of flavorful refreshment, not to mention two actual entire pieces of fresh fruit, it’s about as perfect a cocktail as you make on a hot July 4th. Let’s not waste any more time.

The Firework Fizz

1 1/4 ounce Hornitos Plata Tequila
2 strawberries
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup or 2 1/2 teaspoons superfine sugar
1 big splash of soda water

Combine the tequila, one of your two strawberries, lemon juice, and sweetener to a cocktail shaker. Muddle the strawberry into a gorgeous, juice-laden pulp. Add ice and shake very vigorously. Strain into a collins or highball type-glass filled with fresh ice — be sure to use a traditional bar strainer. The strainers that come with home cocktail shakers won’t work because the strawberry pulp will block the tiny holes and, for this drink, I think you want as much strawberry pulp as possible to end up in the beverage.

After the straining is done, top off with soda water, add the other strawberry as a garnish, sip slowly and toast a country that’s big enough to allow that tequila is every bit as American a base spirit as bourbon, rye, or applejack. It just is.

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I tried this with a Brand X tequila fairly comparable to Hornitos in terms of price, and it wasn’t terrible. Still, it does seem to work especially with the brand that brung it.

My one major suggestion with this drink is to ignore the temptation to stir the thing, though it won’t be the end of the world if you do. Indeed, the photography Hornitos sent, and that I chose not to use, had a light pink hue that seemed to imply that you’re supposed to stir it. I used my own, much less professional image because it’s closer to the way I think the Firework Fizz should look. I found it much more interesting to let the soda sit on top and gently make its way down. That way you start off with a slightly strawberry/lemon/tequila flavored soda and slowly find yourself enjoying a delightful candy center.

Happy Independence Day everyone and, remember, no one can “get their country back” because it already belongs to all of us.

;

  

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Drink of the Week: The Parisian Cocktail

the Parisian Cocktail.A while ago, I picked up a half-size bottle of Mathilde brand cassis (black currant) liqueur. Often referred to with some pretension as “creme de cassis” in recipes, the distinction between creme de cassis and just plain cassis seems vague at best. Anyhow, though extremely sweet, my plain old cassis had a nice flavor and I decided it was time to give it a whirl in an appropriate cocktail setting.

Also known as the Paris Cocktail, the Parisian shows up in the 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book and Dale DeGroff’s much more recent The Craft of the Cocktail. However, a 2009 Savoy Stomp blog post by Erik Ellestad traces the drink to a slightly earlier 1929 recipe published by Harry MacElhone. He’s the “Harry” of Paris’s famed Harry’s New York Bar, so I guess this drink might actually be consumed by actual Parisians.

French cocktailing bonafides or not, I did find the original recipe a bit overly sweet. So, partly by accident and partly inspired by the slight monkeying with the recipe Mr. Ellestad performed, I came up with a version I prefer. It’s a bit lighter and more refreshing — and still plenty sweet; almost a high end gin and juice, if you will, even if this version has more vermouth than gin.

The Parisian Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces dry vermouth (aka French vermouth)
3/4 ounce cassis
3/4 ounce gin
1 lemon peel (optional, but I think very desirable, garnish)

Combine your liquids in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Since cassis is so fruity, the cocktail gods seem to agree that this drink demands to be shaken. Do so vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and, I say, add a traditional twist of lemon to cut the sweetness just a bit.

As for your toast, toast Paris, of course. People who’ve been there say it’s amazing and the rest of us have the dreams of Paris we get from the movies and what not. That’s pretty okay, too.

*****

If you want to try the classic version of the Paris/Parisian Cocktail, just use equal parts of all three primary ingredients, i.e., one ounce each. You’ll find that it’s a fairly tasty drink but very, very, sweet. Definitely use the lemon twist garnish in tha case. (Dale DeGroff suggests using his signature flamed lemon peel, if you’re feeling brave.)

Since I only have one brand of cassis and dry vermouth on hand, I didn’t get to play around with different brands as much as I might have. However, I did find that this version of the Parisian works very nicely with either Bombay Dry Gin or the very inexpensive, but still quite decent, Gordon’s Gin. The latter variation especially reminded me of a classier, more drinkable version of the first alcoholic beverage I ever consumed.

Yes, if you were ever wondering what Manischewitz Concord Grape would taste like if it were actually good, the Parisian Cocktail is close as you’re likely to get. And Paris, Las Vegas is as close to Paris as I’m likely to get any time soon. C’est la vie.

  

Drink of the Week: The Bacardí Maestro Collins

The Bacardí Maestro Collins.It’s great to go out to a really good high-end bar and have drinks made with the bartender’s own personally crafted cumquat-and-cardamon bitters or her special thyme-parsley-and-Meyer-Lemon infused syrup. At the same time, there’s nothing like a super simple drink that you can easily make as home as well, and usually better, than your typical overworked bartender.

That definitely applies to this ridiculously simple and refreshing recapitulation of your basic Rum Collins, which differs from a Tom Collins only in changing the base spirit from gin. The only real difference in this version is the use of Bacardí Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron, a new super-premium expression from the creators of the USA’s most ubiquitous and time honored rum brand.

The super-premium rum scene has actually been one of the most exciting areas in contemporary boozing for some time. So, I was naturally very curious when the Bacardí people came knocking with a free bottle of product. It’s a worthy entry, definitely more flavorful, sweet, and smooth than your typical white rum. It’s very easy drinking and not too high priced, so I can imagine this going over very well on the current market. That’s particularly so as it seems to work very nicely in a number of cocktails. I enjoyed it in a daiquiri, a rum old fashioned, and, naturally, this.

 The Bacardí Maestro Collins

2 ounces Bacardí Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron (white rum)
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
Seltzer or club soda “to fill”
Lemon wheel or twist (optional garnish)
Cocktail cherry (my suggested optional garnish)

Combine the rum, lemon juice and super-easily dissolving sugar in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake and double strain, using a food strainer to get rid of pulp as well as ice, into a collins or highball-sized glass stocked with fresh ice. Top off with the fizzy water of your choice, I liked adding a very thin lemon wheel and a cocktail cherry for a garnish. Toast anything you like, but try to keep it simple.

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The main trick to this drink is not to poo-poo the instruction to double strain/fine strain the drink. I’ve been a skeptic about this practice in the past. In this case, however, I’m here to tell you it can make all the difference. Straining out the lemon pulp also appears to strain out some of the harsher, more tart flavors. The result is a more mellow and finely balanced drink…and a very nifty booze beverage for what promises to be an extra hot summer.

  

Drink of the Week: The Portly Blackberry

the Portly Blackberry.Let me tell you, folks, sometimes putting on this here cocktail blog is anything but a cocktail party. Sure, making outstanding drinks and occasionally getting free booze delivered by FedEx and UPS is the opposite of torture, but sometimes, well, it’s not the complete opposite.

That’s the feeling I experienced when I attempted to open a gorgeous free bottle of Alberta Rye Dark Batch. As I attempted to pull up the cork stopper, the plastic thingamajig on top broke off, leaving the bottle fully corked. When I actually went out and bought a fancy corkscrew (which I should have around anyway, though I’m no oenophile), all I managed was to push the cork inside the bottle. In fact, I’m still not sure how I’m going to store the remainder of this very good, and very interesting, whiskey.

What’s so interesting? As we learned from the first episode of “Mad Men,” the whiskey called “rye” was at one time more or less synonymous with Canadian whisky. In fact, Wikipedia tells us it’s still that way in Canada despite the fact that only a token amount of rye is in your typical Canadian whisky recipe. However, here in the U.S., rye whiskies by law have to have a much higher proportion of rye grains and the ryes that have been proliferating since the start of the ongoing cocktail renaissance would never be mistaken for Canadian Club, Crown Royal, or Seagram’s V.O. They often have a slightly peppery flavor and are a tad less sweet than bourbon, their close relative.

Alberta Rye Dark Batch is, therefore, of special interest as is passes U.S. rye muster but is manufactured by our friendly neighbors to the north and sold stateside with a little help from Beam Suntory. It is, however, no retread of your basic U.S. ryes because, like ordinary Canadian whiskys, it’s blended. In this case, however, a strong rye brew is combined with good old Old Grandad bourbon and 1% of sherry wine. Canadian whisky, often maligned by cocktailians but beloved by me, is just never going to be for fanatical purists.

Alberta Dark Batch might be using the American “whiskey” spelling on its bottle rather the traditional Canadian “whisky” spelling, but it’s not quite the same as U.S. bred ryes. It’s smoother and a bit sweeter. It’s not super complex — you won’t catch any rye bread notes — but it earns its super premium status with a flavorful depth and smoothness. It also very good in an Old Fashioned. (Also, if you buy yours and the top breaks off the way mine did, I’m pretty sure most retailers will let you exchange it for another bottle. Getting things for free has its drawbacks!)

The Portly Blackberry — I’ve shortened it’s name from the Alberta Rye Dark Batch Portly Blackberry — is a nice, sophisticated spin on many of the improved whiskey sour recipes that have been floating around for forever. (I usually won’t have any sour that doesn’t have egg white.) It builds on that 1% of sherry wine by taking up a convenient port in the cocktail storm and throws in some fresh berries for good measure.

The Portly Blackberry

2 ounces Alberta Rye Dark Batch Whisky
1 ounce port wine
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1 dash rhubarb bitters
1 large egg white (three tablespoons of packaged egg white)
4 blackberries

Combine the lemon juice, syrup, bitters, and two of your four blackberries into a cocktail shaker. Muddle the blackberries, liberating all the juice you can. Next, dry shake (i.e., shake without ice) to emulsify the egg white, which will be easier (and arguably safer) if you use one of the many prepared pasteurized egg white products on the market.

Next, add the rye whiskey, port wine, and plenty of ice. Shake vigorously for ten seconds or more. Then, double strain it into a chilled, and quite large, coupe or cocktail glass — ideally using a standard bar strainer and a food strainer — to get rid of both the ice and blueberry pulp. Finally, add the remaining two blackberries as garnishes. Toast the difficulties of life; without them, how would we appreciate it when things were easy?

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Speaking of life’s travails, I actually came down with a small bug of some sort as I was working on the Portly Blackberry. I decided to keep going with it, but I didn’t get to try the drink as many times as I normally like to. That means, I didn’t experiment with using a Brand X rye brand.

I can tell you, however, that while I usually allow a substitution of superfine sugar for simple syrup, in this case, I can’t endorse that. Often, drinks can taste slightly sweeter in a good way when you use straight sugar as opposed to the 50/50 combination of sugar and water. Not so with the Portly Blackberry; an already fairly tart drink became excessively so. On the other hand, if you want to boost the sweetness, doubling up on the simple syrup to an entire half ounce might work for you.

Also, though I had to drive across town to find one, it’s worth it to get yourself a bottle of rhubarb bitters. I actually forgot to use them on my first go round, and the drink was definitely much improved by that very small dash. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where such things can be found, you’ll probably end up using Fee Brothers’s bitters like I did. However, if you’re a true DIYer with more time (and cooking skills) than yours truly, you can explore making your own.

Sometimes, one way or another, you gotta work a little for your high-end cocktails.

  

Drink of the Week: The Gin and It

the Gin and It.My first ever DOTW post back in 2011 covered the Martini. It’s nevertheless taken me until just the last few weeks to start exploring the ancestry of that most iconic of cocktails, which a lot of people assume kind of begin and ends with last week’s Martinez. Still, it’s name aside, that very good but very sweet drink has more differences than similarities with the modern oh-so-dry Martini beverage. Today, I’ve found a drink that, while still pretty sweet, really does seem to be the semi-missing link between the Martinez and the Martini.

The Gin and It  — “It” being short for “Italian,” as in Italian vermouth, as in sweet vermouth — is pretty much what the name implies. While some versions weirdly call for using no ice whatsoever, my version of the drink, at least, is very close to my comparatively high-vermouth starter version of a Martini, save for the species of vermouth. It’s also just about identical to my take on a Manhattan (the second DOTW), except for using gin and not whiskey.

Now, here’s the kicker. Back in 1930, Harry Craddock’s epochal The Savoy Cocktail Book, actually listed three types of Martini, one of which was called the Sweet Martini, which, like my Gin and It, calls for 2 parts gin and one part Italian vermouth. His dry version of a Martini called of one part dry vermouth and 2 parts gin. Today, of course, a dry martini typically means one with either only a hint of vermouth or even (and I don’t like this) none at all. Considering Mr. Craddock, however, it seems pretty darn likely that when the first person uttered the quip, “let’s get you out of those wet clothes and into a dry Martini” they meant a drink made with dry vermouth (perhaps Martini brand), not little or no vermouth.

Anyhow, here’s the perfect drink for anyone craving a very un-dry martini as in one that’s actually sweet….but still pretty close to an actual Martini.

The Gin and It

2 ounces gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1-2 dashes aromatic bitters
1 orange twist or cocktail cherry (garnish)

Combine your liquid ingredients in a mixing glass or cocktail shaker. As if to foreshadow Ian Fleming, Harry Craddock actually instructed that ALL of his martinis should be shaken, but I prefer my martinis stirred, not shaken. (Gin seems to me to take on a slightly less pleasant flavor when shaken, don’t ask me why.)  Definitely use ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and add the garnish of your choice, if any.

Toast vermouth, both sweet and dry. It is one of the most honorable, yet misunderstood and unfairly maligned of cocktail ingredients.

*****

While notably less complex than the Martinez, the Gin and It is also a bit drier, at least at my proportions. (Many versions call for equal parts gin and sweet vermouth.) It pretty much tastes like a Manhattan made with gin, and that’s not a bad thing . I tried this with Bombay Gin, Gordon’s Gin, Carpano Antica and, yes, Martini. While I can’t say any version of the drink rocked my world — I actually enjoyed the Martinez a great deal more — the best version was made was the higher end ingredients; I suppose that’s not a surprise. I also haven’t a clue why this drink isn’t as least as well known as, say, a Gimlet.

I will speculate, however, that the idea being promulgated in some quarters of the Internet that the platonic form of the Gin and It is made without ice might have something do with the idea. Suffice it to say, the room temperature Gin and It is not for everyone, and, this case, the everyone it’s not for includes me. It’s not that it tastes bad, it’s just that there’s a reason we dilute and chill this stuff with ice.

  

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