Drink of the Week: The Montenegro Sour

The Montenegro Sour. Lately, we’ve been featuring a few cocktails made with really good booze sent to me by the dark forces of the liquor-industrial complex. Today’s post is a bit different as the much appreciated gift of free booze came not from some shadowy Sidney Falco, but from Ron Shishido, a very old junior high/college buddy who’s probably taught me how to appreciate a good booze concoction as much as anyone else on this planet, including Rachel Maddow.

Amaro Montenegro is, on it’s own and served neat, quite a lovely drink. It’s a member of the amaro family of bittersweet liqueurs which occasionally pop up in cocktails. It’s popular enough in Italy to be featured in a series of slick commercials of the kind we use to sell highish-end beer in the States, and that’s for a reason. With a hard-to-pin down but relatively fruity flavor, it’s a kinder, gentler, vastly more drinkable brew than, say Torani Amer or the superior — but still two-fisted — Amaro CioCara. As bitter digestifs go, this one’s pretty sweet.

Perhaps because it’s so readily drinkable all on its own, I had a hard time finding a cocktail made with this particular amaro. However, Food and Wine bloggers Carey Jones and John McCarthy came to the rescue with a few recipes. I chose one featuring my all-time favorite non-alcoholic cocktail ingredient, egg white.

I’m not sure the drink is so accurately named, however. Whatever alleged citrus flavor there is comes from the mysterious herbal blend from which Amaro Montenegro is made, so it’s really more bitter, in a good way, than sour.

On the plus side, that means no potentially messy juice squeezing is required this time around and that definitely speeds up the cocktailing process. That’s good because I’m breaking my usual rule against recipes requiring home-made syrups. Yes, there’s a tiny bit of extra work involved, but be bold and read on.

The Montenegro Sour

1 ounce Montenegro Amaro
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1 fresh egg white or equivalent (see below)
1/2 ounce honey syrup (see below)
1 dash aromatic bitters, Angostura or similar

Combine the Amaro Montenegro, bourbon, syrup, and bitters in cocktail shaker. First, as always with egg or egg white cocktails, we do a “dry” shake without ice to emulsify it. Then, we shake again, very vigorously and with plenty of ice, and strain it into a chilled cocktail glass or smallish rocks glass. We then enjoy this delightfully refreshing beverage and toast our amaro’s namesake, Princess Elena of Montenegro, the World War II-era queen consort of Italy known, for the most part anyway, for her good works.

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Despite the fact that I often tell publicists with recipes that make-it-yourself syrups are off the table, I decided to make an exception this week for a couple of reasons.

First. the honey syrup for this recipe is ridiculously easy to make. Just mix equal parts honey and hot water, then stir. I put 1/4 cup of honey and that much water in the microwave for 30 seconds, stirred the stuff, and then put it in the freezer for a few minutes so it wouldn’t be too hot. Low on both muss and fuss.

The second reason we’re using the honey syrup is that I actually tried this drink more than once with my usual Master of Mixes Simple Syrup and it just didn’t do the trick. Too simple. Apparently, you need that little bit of honey flavor to complement the bourbon and amaro.

I used three different brands of bourbon. The always outstanding 80 proof Basel Hayden’s yielded a nectary result that went down very easy indeed. 94 proof Wathen’s, a brand that’s I recently bought out of curiosity and which I’m quite liking, produced a boozier, but also more full bodied, result.

Finally, there was the version using an old DOTW favorite that’s been returning to my local stores of late, “bottled in bond” 100 proof Old Fitzgerald, which remains the best bourbon bargain I’ve found at, in my case, less than $15.00 for a bottle. It produced a sweet, tangy, and very punchy attitude adjuster that, at that particular moment, was very much what the doctor ordered. Admittedly, however, that doctor would not be a liver specialist.

Finally, I have to add a few more words on the enormous power of egg whites to really transform a drink. Contrary to the common assumption, whites in drinks are not even slightly slimy but add a smooth, almost milky, froth to a drink. The froth smooths over the rough edges of the other flavors and unites them as well as anything I’ve ever experienced.

Still, many folks resist, and not all of their reasons are bad. I’ve been talking to an expert or two lately about what I still believe are the very low risks of using raw egg white. However, I’ve been told that, for people who are concerned, caution may still be in order especially right now for a number of reasons, cost-related reductions in government inspection among them, no doubt. (God forbid big government should stand in the way of a microbe’s ability to grow and prosper in a free-market environment.)

I just crack open a large egg and maybe wash the shell first. However, people with real health concerns of any kind  about this should very definitely consider using about 1-1.5 ounces of one of the many brands of pasteurized egg white on the market.

  

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The Paris Manhattan

Paris Manhattan.

There’s a movie out right now called “Paris-Manhattan” but that is actually just a pretty massive coincidence. I haven’t seen this French homage to the films of Woody Allen, but I’m certainly willing to piggy-back on it by accident. What actually happened was I was looking for a cocktail that justified the big bottle of rather expensive St. Germain elderflower liqueur I’d recently sprung for. The Paris Manhattan is what I found.

As it happens, this drink is not an ancient classic like its antecedent, the Manhattan, but was developed in the mid 2000s, reportedly by famed cocktail writer and entrepreneur Simon Difford. (As far as I know, no relation to the very talented Chris Difford of the band, Squeeze.)

Difford apparently was somehow involved in the creation of St. Germain, which has become the go-to elderflower liqueur for almost everyone, and he therefore has a vested interest in this cocktail. Indeed, I personally think he put just a bit too much of it in his drink. No worries, though, because I’ve fixed it!

The Paris Manhattan

2 ounces rye, Canadian, or bourbon whiskey
3/4 ounce St. Germain/elderflower liqueur
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
2 dashes of aromatic/Angostura bitters
1 cocktail cherry or orange twist (garnish)

Combine the liquid ingredients in cocktail shaker or mixing glass and stir vigorously. Strain into glass and add the cherry or orange twist garnish of your choice. Drink to Paris, Manhattan, some other city, or just drink. You’ll be fine.

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I actually tried shaking this one, but it really didn’t work. The extra water and ice crystals simply didn’t add anything, while nevertheless detracting from the flavor.  More importantly, I found that I thought the original recipe, which called for a full ounce of St. Germain, was too sweet — though I liked the results better with the remainder of my nearly consumed Templeton Rye than with Old Fitzgerald bonded bourbon. Oddly enough, no recipes I found online called for any less of the very sweet, you might say honeyish, liqueur.

I nevertheless tried it with only half an ounce of the elderflower liqueur, and that was a major disappointment. It didn’t taste any less sweet but was just kind of sharp in an unpleasant way.  Then, I tried only 3/4 of an ounce with the rye and — because I was running out, just a whiff of Canadian Club Sherry Cask. Bingo.

  

Drink of the Week: The Meyer 100 Proof Bourbon Semi-Sour

Image ALT text goes here.Corrections and retractions time. Though I totally stand behind my creation last year of the Meyer Canadian Semi-Sour, I was perhaps wrong when I described the wondrous Meyer lemon as “partly an orange.” Turns out,  it might actually be partly a Mandarin orange. That would make sense since la wiki tells us that it was once actually a primarily a houseplant in China. The humble plant’s destiny was forever changed, however, after being discovered sometime around the turn of the 20th century by a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee named Frank Nicholas Meyer.

Anyhow, with the return of the Meyer lemon to stores in my vicinity and with my recently rekindled interest in the eggier side of the sour family of cocktails, I decided to see if the juice of the more edible lemon worked as well with 100 proof bourbon as it did with the ever-so gentle, and merely 80 proof, Canadian Club I used last year. I’m happy to say that, if anything, it’s even better — as long as you like your cocktails boozy and sweet as heck.

The Meyer 100 Proof Bourbon Semi-Sour

2 ounces 100 proof (more or less) bourbon
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1/2 large egg white
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
1 dash orange bitters (very optional)
1 maraschino/cocktail cherry (optional garnish)

If you’ve read my other recent sour recipes, you can probably guess what the drill will be. Combine the bourbon, juice, sugar and (if you’re using them) bitters in a cocktail shaker without ice. Shake the contents to emulsify the egg white. Then, add ice, shake a bunch more, and strain into a well chilled rocks glass. Garnish with cherry and salute the late citrus pioneer, Mr. Meyer, and mourn his untimely and mysterious passing in 1918.

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I used my personal default bourbon, the highly underrated, little known, and very reasonably priced Old Fitzergald’s Bonded in Bond 100 proof (aka “Old Fitzgerald Green Label”). I can’t be sure, but I suspect this recipe would also work with very high proof bourbons or something even as meek as Maker’s Mark, which I guess is going to remain 90 proof indefinitely after that brouhaha last week. (All I can say, is where were you people when Canadian Club and countless other brands went from 86 to 80 proof sometime in the 1980s or 1990s?)

Re: bitters. I originally tried using Angostura in this, but found it an unwelcome distraction. Then I tried it without bitters at all, and found the drink absolutely wonderful. Then, I tried it again with Regan’s Orange Bitters and found the drink tasted tangier and even sweeter and not quite as much to my personal liking. However, one of my test subjects here at DOTW Manor was very pleased with this version, so I’m leaving you the option of throwing the orange bitters in. Try it both ways, I say.

Finally, there is the question of how you determine that you’re using half an egg white. I’m sure there’s a way to do that with measurements — though measuring egg whites can be a hassle, or you can do like I’d probably do and just sort of eyeball it. This time, I took the easiest and least wasteful way out and just doubled up and made two Meyer 100 Proof Bourbon Semi-Sours at the same time. This is a drink worth sharing.

 

 

  

Drink of the Week: The Boulevardier

The BoulevardierIf you’re reading “The Sun Also Rises” right now, this may be the drink you want to put you in the apposite booze addled/jaundiced frame of mind. In fact, it was actually invented at the famed Hemingway hang, Harry’s Bar. If you’re going to overdo it the way the characters in the book do, you could do a lot worse.

Moreover, if today’s beverage  reminds you a little bit of the Negroni, then count yourself among the cocktail elect as this drink basically is that cocktail classic, but substituting whiskey — usually bourbon but some recipes say you can do it with rye and possibly even Canadian — which makes it also a bit like a Manhattan.

Still, while some writers have wondered out loud why this semi-forgotten prohibition era beverage is less well known than those undisputed classic beverages, I can see why it hasn’t become a household name. While I find the Negroni and the Manhattan difficult to mess up and nearly always amazing, the Boulevardier is more elusive. On the other hand, if you manage to get it really right, it can be pretty darn nifty — especially if you like whiskey and the powerful bitter-sweetness/sweet bitterness of Campari as I much as I do.

The Boulevardier

1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Stir if you must be a classicist, but I say you should shake this drink, damnit. Whichever you choose, strain into our old friend, the chilled cocktail glass or — especially if it’s as hot where you are as it is right now at DOTW Central — into an ice-filled rocks glass. Imbibe this beverage sure in the knowledge that you don’t really have to watch the rather turgid 1957 film version of Hemingway’s aforementioned novel with Tyrone Power and an all middle-aged-ish cast, which is dead wrong considering that “The Sun Also Rises” is kind of a higher quality early draft of “Less Than Zero” with booze, booze, and more booze substituting for booze, coke, Quaaludes, and more booze and a higher species of jerkwads for characters. Where was I? Oh, yeah, cocktail blog.

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The earliest version of this drink actually calls for equal parts bourbon, Campari, and vermouth. While I’ve found it works just dandy for a Negroni, that wasn’t the case here. Even using my go-to 100 proof Old Fitzgerald’s bourbon, I found the sweetness a bit overpowering despite the bitter Campari comeback, especially when I tried this one stirred. Things were much improved when I went with a more contemporary version which upped the proportion of bourbon.

I was concerned that the merely 80 proof Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey featured here just last week would prove too delicate to stand up to the Campari and vermouth. However, I once again badly underestimated this subtle yet powerfully flavorful Jim Beam high end brew. The resulting Boulevardier was subtly complex, with just the right level of sweetness to bitterness and with a few of the more savory-ish notes of the Basil Hayden mellowing things out.

I’m going to try this one with rye pretty soon, but that brings us awfully close to another drink, the Whiskey Rebellion inspired 1794, which I’m saving for another occasion.

  

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