Drink of the Week: Basil Hayden’s Power Play

Basil Hayden's Power Play.This week we finally come to the end of a cycle of posts featuring a number of good-to-fantastic cocktails, all courtesy of the gods of booze publicity and the free bottles of booze they are kind enough to occasionally send me. This week’s drink is a very tasty way to end the series and is intended as a sort of salute to the relatively new season of what I imagine has to be the most popular of all web-only television series, Beau Willimon’s bass-heavy, caustically compelling “House of Cards.”

Basil Hayden’s Power Play caught my eye not so much because of the promotion tied in with the latest adventures of the ultra-ruthless Democratic pol-on-the-rise played by the great Kevin Spacey, but because of one very unusual cocktail ingredient. You see, we’re actually a week late for the premiere of the new season and I’m only just now caught up with season one. However, the combination of one of the USA’s great bourbons and the inclusion of root beer was the grabber.

I’ve often wondered why, unlike ginger ale/ginger beer, cola, and 7-Up/Sprite, root beer and cream soda never seem to make an appearance in cocktails. And, yes, these are easily my two favorite sodas. Let’s give it a try.

Basil Hayden’s® Power Play

1 1/2 ounces Basil Hayden’s Bourbon
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
2 drops of vanilla extract
2 splashes of root beer
1 lemon rind slice (highly advisable garnish)

Combine the bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, vanilla extract and one splash of your favorite root beer in a double sized rocks/old fashioned glass with plenty of ice. Pour into a cocktail shaker, mixing glass, or really any receptacle large enough to hold the entire drink. Do not shake, but instead pour directly back into your double rocks glass. Add another splash of root beer and  your lemon rind garnish for a bit of additional ruthlessness. Toast the fact that you are almost certainly a much nicer and/or less broken person than Frank Underwood or almost anyone he knows. It might be fun and, sadly, educational, to watch political thrillers about conscience-challenged humans, but niceness is underrated!

******

First of all, I usually hesitate to actually include the names of booze brands — no matter how excellent — in the names of the cocktails we use here, even if that’s the name I’m given by its purveyors. However, there’s already another drink called the Power Play, which is very different from this one. Also, as is my usual practice, I tried this with a good Brand X bourbon and it was disappointing. Stick with the call brand this time.

Justifying it’s super-premium price tag, Basil Hayden’s is one of the very few bourbons I’ll drink semi-straight (on the rocks, say) by choice. It’s got a Scotch-like astringency to it and is less sweet than a lot of other bourbons. That’s important because, between the simple syrup and the root beer, this is a pretty sweet concotion and sweeter bourbons are a real problem here.

I also typically like to give readers an option to switch out simple syrup with suger as a way to may life easier. That substitution didn’t work either. You can always simply combine a heaping tablespoon of easily dissolved superfine sugar with an equal amount of water and mix them together for simple syrup on the fly.

Finally, I wish I could report you to you how this drink worked with various brands of root beer. I love root beer at least as much as I love my favorite cocktails and there are a number of brands I like more than the others. Still, the stuff is, to me, far more addictively irresistible than booze, and I feared the impact on my blood sugar if I bought more than one brand. I fortunately found a half-size six pack of my beloved ultimate default root beer, A&W, and stuck with that. It was mighty good as long as I didn’t overdo the splashes.

And one last thing. I know, I know, this post has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day this Tuesday. I’m sorry…I failed to give the calendar a look before it was too late. Frank would try to capitalize on my weakness, but I hope you’ll be more forgiving and not try to blow my house down.

  

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.

Drink of the Week: The Cru-Zen

the Cru-Zen.People keep sending me free bottles of booze and recipes to go with them, and I keep noting that many of the cocktails developed to promote liquor brands are extremely good…all the better to market the product, after all. I just wish I could tell you the name of the genius who came up with this week’s drink, because I think it’s really superb.

Yes, it features egg white, which never hurts with me, but it’s also introduces some other new ingredients, including bianco (white) vermouth, a product I’ve often seen at my area’s big box liquor stores but which I’ve only just now tried. As the immortal Mr. Spock might have said if he could ever get beyond his Saurian brandy, it’s fascinating stuff and deserves to be featured in a lot more cocktails. Expecting me to be working on that in coming weeks.

Moving on, this week’s sponsor-booze is Cruzan Aged Light Rum, an extremely decent mixing rum with a nicely low price point that’s very comparable to the somewhat less complex nationally known light rums. It’s a bit less dry than some of its competitors, with definite hints of vanilla and maybe some extra alcoholic burn. It therefore arguably makes an excellent base spirit foil for an otherwise gentle drink.

I honestly think the Cru-Zen has the right stuff to become a new cocktail classic for sophisticated sippers seeking out a truly balanced beverage. It’s a thoughtful, more sweet than sour mixture that’s at least as worth contemplating as the sound of one hand clapping.

The Cru-Zen

1 1/2 ounces light rum
1/2 ounce bianco vermouth
1/2 ounce chamomile syrup (see the instructions below)
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 egg white
1-2 dashes of bitters

Before we can started, a word about that chamomile syrup. I usually strictly avoid any drink that demands I make my own syrup. I like to keep things simple because I don’t want to scare readers away from making these drinks, and also because I’m lazy myself. Still, I broke my own rule because this drink sounded great (I was right) and the camomile syrup is ridiculously easy to make. You just submerge a single pure chamomile teabag in four ounces of boiling water for five minutes, as if you’re making a double strength cup of herb tea. Next, you add four ounces (half a cup) of sugar, stirred a little bit, and voila, syrup…though you probably want to stick it in the fridge for a little bit before actually using it.

Okay, so to make our Cru-Zen, we combine our syrup, rum, and all the other liquid ingredients including egg white. (If you’re using pasteurized commercial egg white, like I generally do, use three tablespoons to approximate one large egg, sans yolk.) First, “dry” shake it without ice, as always being careful to prevent messy explosions powered — I think — by the albumin in egg white. Then, add your ice and shake again very vigorously for about ten seconds.

Next, double strain it into a well chilled cocktail coupe or regular style martini glass. By “double strain” I mean simply running the liquid through a regular fine mesh strainer as well as the standard cocktail strainer to remove any stray lemon juice pulp. You should wind up with a very nice head foam on top. Finally, add one or two drops of aromatic bitters — Angostura works beautifully here — as a garnish, exactly as you would when making a Pisco Sour. You can toast your favorite zen master or public school teacher, you’ll be in a good mood regardless.

***

Lest there be any confusion, I think this is a really amazing drink and a rather sturdy one as well. It was designed for the more flavor-heavy Cruzan rum, but I tried it with an extremely well known, plainer but smoother brand X white rum, and the result was almost equally delightful. I would, however, counsel anyone to stick to the instruction regarding the double straining.

I was initially skeptical that it was necessary to strain out the near-microscopic bits of lemon pulp that might end up in single-strained version of the Cru-Zen, but then I tried eschewing the additional strainer, and the result wasn’t nearly as good. Apparently, the pulp emphasized the lemon notes and drowned out a number of other flavors.

Also, it’s crucial not to get confused here about what bianco vermouth, sometimes called white vermouth, actually is. The dry vermouth you should use in your martini might also be white, but it’s not bianco. It is actually even sweeter than ordinary red sweet vermouth. Since this was my first bianco experience, I decided to go with the ultimate default brand of Martini and Rossi.

I tend to think of Martini as being a good but basic brand, but I nevertheless found it to be a full bodied product; it’s not surprising to find out that bianco vermouths are hugely popular in Europe, drunk on the rocks with maybe a lemon twist or with carbonated water as a spritzer. A good portion of the really subtle, you might even say zen, aspects of this drink have to do with the many floral flavor notes you’ll find in this product. It’s a beverage I plan to explore further, for sure.

 

  

Drink of the Week: The Big and Stout

the Big and Stout.I see my share of boozy pitches here at Drink of the Week Central and, believe it or not, I ignore a great many of them. Still, I couldn’t ignore the one that came from the melding of the great nations of Japan and Kentucky that we call Beam Suntory. Why is easy to explain.

I’ve been increasingly interested for some time in cocktails that include beer or ale. Also, regular readers will note that I’m mad for drinks that include raw egg whites or, better yet, whole raw eggs. So, no surprise that the Big and Stout immediately caught my attention as it contains both stout and whole raw eggs! It’s also created by Midwestern celebrity chef Michael Symon and I gather he’s a very big deal in Bullz-Eye’s home town of Cleveland. Based on this drink, I’m definitely willing to plunk down $75.00+tip and cocktails for one of this guy’s dinners.

The Big and Stout is, I should add, well named as I’m personally a bit bigger and stouter after drinking it for an entire week, but it’s just about worth it. It’s a full-fledged desert in a glass, a full bodied drink that’s the perfect 100% adult sophisticated milkshake without the milk, wonderfully simple and quite hard to mess up — it’s been pretty much a home run every time I’ve tried it, which is saying something. Let’s not waste any time.

The Big and Stout

1 ounce bourbon (true sophisticates will want Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve)
1 1/2 ounces milk stout/sweet stout
1 whole egg
3/4 ounce simple syrup (or 1 rounded tablespoon superfine sugar)

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake without ice first (the famed “dry shake”) to properly emulsify the egg. Be careful; between the egg and the slight carbonation of milk stout, there’s an excellent chance the top of your shaker will want to come off. Add ice and shake again, this time very vigorously. Strain into a well chilled old fashioned or cocktail glass. Toast your feet. Drink enough of these and you might never seem them again, though you probably won’t care.

****

So, yes, this drink comes to us courtesy of the gods of promotion over at Jim Beam land and their small batch collection. It was, I gather, created for regular Knob Creek bourbon, but what I actually got was Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve and an old favorite, Basil Hayden’s. It’s a very interesting spread because both of these are thoroughly adult, sophisticated bourbons but at vastly differing strengths. Hayden’s is 80 proof, actually below average strength for an upscale bourbon but well above average in flavor and drinkability. The Knob Creek Single Barrel is a whopping 120 proof and has a full 10 percent more alcohol than regular 100 proof Knob Creek. It’s definitely the good stuff but not for the faint of heart or liver.

I’m delighted to say that both extremes held up brilliantly in a Big and Stout. Sure, the complexity and pure fire of the 120 proof brew gave all the sweet ingredients something they could fight against for a somewhat more complex beverage. Still, the 80 proof Hayden’s was a delight and anything but insipid. I also tried a pretty decent 94 proof brand X bourbon and it was great, too. Frankly, I have a hard time imagining any bourbon failing with this one, and I’m contemplating giving rye a chance.

As for the stout’s, the original recipe called for sweet stouts but that turned out to be nearly impossible to find here in L.A.’s NoHo/San Fernando Valley land. Milk stouts, which have a sweeter flavor thanks largely to some lactose, are much easier to come by and may or may not be synonymous with sweet stouts, I’m still trying to figure that one out. My choices were Moo Thunder Farmhouse Ale and Belching Beaver Brewery’s Beaver Milk. Gotta love the names and both worked really winningly.

Trying to figure out why I like this drink so much may go beyond a simple love of sweet, creamy, ice-cold refreshing booze flavors and have something to do with my love of coffee…which I actually prefer with a decent amount of milk and sweetener, despite my alleged gourmet tendencies and tolerance/love for bitter flavors. Even more than the similar yet very different Coffee Cocktail, this drink really looks and tastes a bit it like a frozen latte but with a very different impact. Maybe that’s it.

  

Drink of the Week: The Berried Treasure

The Berried Treasure.Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Yeah, I know. Just let me say this, whatever side of the various debates around this holiday you are, whether you are joyously in love, miserably alone, happily alone, miserably in love, or on the horns of an incipient bust-up, there’s a good chance tomorrow night will go better for you with the help of a delicious, yet not too excessively potent, alcoholic beverage.

The Berried Treasure is yet another example of my dictum that the recipes that come to me along with free bottles of booze tend to be good to excellent. This is because marketers have a vested interest in making these promotional drinks taste as good as possible and so they tend to involve mixologists who really know what they’re doing. That definitely seems to apply to award winning New York  bartender Christian Sanders, who created this week’s drink to promote Hornitos Reposado Tequila.

Sanders creation is built around a tequila that’s surprisingly complex and tasty, especially at it’s very reasonable price point, and the highly underrated, but not under-priced, flavor of blackberries. Indeed, on a per drink basis, the antioxidant laden berries might well run you more than the booze. It’s also relatively labor intensive for a DOTW beverage, but love and a little work kind of go hand in hand.

The Berried Treasure

2 ounces Hornitos Reposado Tequila
8 blackberries
2 sprigs of rosemary
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup (or 1 heaping tablespoon of superfine sugar)
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Put the tequila, lemon juice, bitters and simple syrup or sugar into a cocktail shaker along with six of your eight blackberries and one of your two sprigs of fresh rosemary. Muddle the blackberries and rosemary,so that you have a nice dark purple mixture. Add plenty of ice and shake very vigorously.

Now, here’s the tricky part for almost everyone who’s not a really experienced amateur or pro-bartender, and even for me. You’ll be double straining all of this into a old fashioned glass with ice cubes, but that’s slightly easier said than done.

The problem is that the pulp gets pretty thick — so thick, it very likely will prevent most of your drink from actually leaving your typical built-in cocktail shaker strainer. So, you’re going to need to use both a standard cocktail strainer like the pro bartenders use and a second mesh food strainer to strain out the pulp. This sounds harder than it actually is. Just hold the shaker with the cocktail stainer over your mesh strainer and allow the liquid to make its way through both strainers into the ice-filled glass. When that’s done, about a minute later, you’ll be ready to add the remaining two blackberries and rosemary sprig as garnishes.

****
It might be lot of work compared to the many of the drinks I feature here, but the Berried Treasure is a delightful concoction. It’s almost perfectly balanced between sweet and tart and complements the tang of the slightly mellowed blue agave of the Hornitos Reposada. (I can’t stop you from trying it with other reposados, of course, but I haven’t had a chance to test it out with a Brand X for myself.)

There is one genuine X factor here and it applies to any fresh fruit-based drink, that is the taste of the fruit. I accidentally bought two different brands of on sale (but still pricey) blackberries. The first batch was definitely sweeter and the second more tart, and that definitely impacted the final product. Still, the Berried Treasure was never less than exceptionally good, and you can always add a hair more sugar or simple syrup if you like.

  

Drink of the Week: The Gin Rickey

The Gin Rickey.It’s probably somewhat criminal that it’s taken me so long to get to a drink that’s as simple and classic as the Gin Rickey. Like the Martini, this is a drink that not everyone will cotton to immediately. Indeed, to be very honest I’m still working on acquiring a taste for it myself as it’s more than a little on the tart side for me. No surprise as it contains lime juice and zero sweetener.

Still, this is a drink with a little history and it certainly won’t be bad on a warm day. And, yes, I know it’s January. However, I live in North Hollywood, California and high temps on this side of the L.A. hill are in the eighties this week, so nyah, nyah, nyah East Coasters with your snow and frequently superior public transportation.

The Gin Rickey is named for one Colonel Joe Rickey, a Confederate soldier turned 19th century Democratic Party lobbyist, back when the Democrats were the party of Andrew Jackson instead of Franklin Roosevelt and the Republicans were the party of Abraham Lincoln instead of Ronald Reagan. Anyhow, it seems that Colonel Rickey was the kind of drinker who frequently needed a morning “eye-opener” to get him over the hangover hump, and somewhere along the way a helpful bartender named George A. Williamson helped him create a drink made with bourbon, seltzer water and a bit of lime juice. Over the years, however, the gin version became far more popular, with its lighter, easier to take flavor, and that’s what we’ve got here.

The Gin Rickey

1 1/2-2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
2-5 ounces carbonated water
1 lime wedge or one spent lime shell (garnish)

Build over ice in Tom Collins or highball glass. partly depending on what you’ve got on hand and how much soda water and gin you’d like to use. (Highball glasses are often a bit larger.) Stir. Garnish either with a spent lime shell or, my preference, a lime wedge. Toast carbonated water, for it contains water but also air. That’s two out of four elements!

****

I tried this drink a number of different ways and what we’ve got here is, basically, something like a martini. What I mean by that is that it’s a drink that requires a bit of getting used to. It may not be as boozy, but it’s somewhat tart without being at all sweet. I also mean that it seems to work fairly well when you mess around with the proportions, much as both dry and very un-dry martinis can both be perfectly great. On the upside, it is refreshing and about as low-cal as a mixed drink gets.

I tried my Gin Rickey with four different gins. I found I got the best results with both my most expensive gin on hand, Nolet’s and my least expensive, good old Gordon’s. Both added a nice herbal tang to the affair. Tanqueray, somewhere in the middle price wise but a classic product for a reason, was fine but a bit more in your face.

I also read that Old Tom Gin, which is sweetened, could also be used with a Rickey. Oddly enough, however, the little bit of sugar in Hayman’s Old Tom Gin merely set off and thereby emphasized the tartness. Not really an improvement.

The one thing I haven’t tried yet, partly because I ran out of fizzy water and kept forgetting to replace it, is the original Bourbon Ricky. Don’t worry, I’ll give that a whirl some day.

  

Related Posts