Drink of the Week: Bram Stoker’s Capitan

Bram Stoker's Capitan.Halloween this year is a bit awkwardly placed, arriving next Thursday and forcing me to do my annual spooky-themed cocktail a bit too early for true relevance. I suppose people who throw Halloween parties are having the same kind of issue, having to decide whether to throw their soirees the weekend before or the weekend after.

Well, the awkwardness is only going  to get more awkward. I originally had a more appropriately named drink to present you. However, a beverage that had been presented to me by a mysterious benefactor, and which sounded pretty tasty,  just didn’t work at all when I tried it out at the Drink of the Week laboratory. Instead, I’m going with yet another in long line of little known classics.

Today’s beverage is the time-honored but much lesser known companion to the wondrous Pisco Sour, the Capitan. I’ve renamed it after the Dracula creator in the spirit of the holiday and my propensity for silly movie-related in-jokes.

Bram Stoker’s Capitan (The Capitan)

2 ounces Pisco
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 dash aromatic bitters
1 cocktail cherry (garnish)

Regular cocktailers will see pretty quickly that this is basically a Pisco Manhattan, so the directions are pretty much the same as the way I’d suggest you’d make a Manhattan. Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the cherry, and toast Bram Stoker or the deceased horror author of your choice — Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson or, yes, even Bram Stoker even if he actually wasn’t that great a writer.

Much as many horror tales are about paying off a dark debt, today’s drink is the result of free booze given to me by the makers of Porton Pisco, easily the best known Pisco here in the States and, not surprisingly, made to please the Yanqui palate. Though I had to admit that, it’s not something I’d quaff straight up by choice, that also applies to most gins. All that really matters is that it works very nicely in the right cocktail. That definitely includes the absolutely wonderful Pisco Sour we made here some time ago.

Pisco has a lot of truly unusual flavor notes which seem to work best in the appropriately popular sour, but the Capitan is a lively second best. Some recipes call for equal parts Pisco and sweet vermouth, but I prefer more Manhattan-esque proportions. It’s makes for a tangy, but reasonably stiff, change of pace.

Now, here is the time in this post when I really should have something in particular to say about Halloween, but I don’t have much to add. Except that, if you’re lucky enough to live in certain American cities, then you will very soon be able to check out the long-long awaited and probably final version of what would probably be my favorite horror film of all time, if I actually considered it a horror film. Still, I get it because marketing a movie as “dark comparative religions thriller, with music” would be a tough sell for the 1973’s “The Wicker Man.”

It’s also a good time mention one of that film’s stars, the great Christopher Lee, 91 and still at it, thank goodness. He  sings a bit in “The Wicker Man,” but not about cocktails. So, once again, I present a favorite clip where he does sing about our very favorite subject.

Trick, or treat?



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Drink of the Week: The Pisco Sour

Image ALT text goes here. You missed it because I didn’t write it, but last week’s Drink of the Week at La Casa de DOTW was Kroger generic Alka-Seltzer Plus. (Delicious!) Fortunately, I’m feeling much better this week and have returned with a special drink for this weekend’s very special day.

And what day do I speak of? It’s a day when an entire nation stops for several hours to cheer the works of great achievers, modern day gladiators, if you will, who are the finest exemplars of a noble and glorious, if physically dangerous, national tradition. I speak, of course, of the bartenders of Peru and Peruvian Pisco Sour Day, which this year falls on February 2. I think there’s something big happening this Sunday, too, but I can’t remember what.

In any case, it’s probably time for me to mention that this week’s post is not unrelated to a complimentary bottle of pisco that mysteriously arrived at my humble hacienda. To be specific, the booze gods blessed me with a bottle of Pisco Portón, an acclaimed high-end brew developed especially for the U.S. market. Now, this was the first time I’ve tried pisco straight up and, I must admit, it’s an acquired taste for this Yanqui. Pisco is basically Peruvian brandy in that it’s a hard liquor derived from grapes, but the flavor is more like a 150 proof tequila or Brazillian cachaça, which is kind of an achievement as Pisco is only 86 proof.

Still, I’m working hard to understand pisco and it does taste better straight once you’ve learned to sort of accept it as a fact of life. Much more important from my point of view, it’s actually pretty awesome — as in awe-inspiringly delicious – when mixed, even slightly. For example, the improvised Old Fashioned I made with it last night was extremely nice.

Still, that variation on the whiskey classic had nothing on a proper Pisco Sour made with Portón. It is, indeed, a thing of beauty and a real crowd pleaser of a cocktail with a very appealing balance of sweet, sour, bitter, and frothy flavors. Trust me on this folks, there’s a very good reason this true cocktail classic has been inexorably retaking it’s long lost place as a staple of U.S. bars. It’s really good and the Pisco Portón definitely gets some of the credit. Maybe I’ll eventually learn to like it straight.

The Pisco Sour

1 1/2 ounces pisco
1/2 ounce fresh lime or lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup or two teaspoons superfine sugar
1/4 ounce egg white
1 dash Angostura aromatic bitters (optional, but visually appealing, garnish)

Combine the pisco, citrus juice, syrup or sugar, and raw or pasteurized egg white in a cocktail shaker. (Measuring a small but exact amount of fresh egg white may be tricky, as the viscosity of the egg white tends to make it sort of clump together. You might try whipping it a bit first.) If you’re using superfine sugar in lieu of simple syrup, stir the liquid to dissolve the sugar. Then, before you add any ice, shake the contents vigorously to properly emulsify the egg white.

Next, lift the top of the shaker. You should see a nice, white froth on the top. Add lots of ice and shake again, very vigorously, a while longer. Strain into a very well chilled old fashioned/rocks glass and add a dash of aromatic bitters for color. Sip and salute the achievers of American football, Peruvian cocktails, and anything else you care to toast. By the time you’ve finished, you’ll just be marveling at what a tasty — an actually quite simple — cocktail you’ve had. You’ll probably want another one.

Image ALT text goes here.As befits any truly great cocktail, there are tons and tons and tons of variations on just what proportions of ingredients you should use in a Pisco Sour. I started with the Wikipedia version, but I found I much preferred the recipe Portón offered, despite the very small proportion of egg white, one of my favorite ingredients. The recipe above is my slightly altered version, based on the fact that I found that substituting superfine sugar for simple syrup and/or fresh lemon juice for fresh lime juice created a drink that tasted almost exactly the same — and in this case that’s a wonderful thing.

That being said, I have no idea how similar this version is to the original version of the Pisco Sour invented by Victor Vaughn Morris, a Norteamericano bartender living in Peru during the 1920s who first got the bright idea of switching out the whiskey in a whiskey sour for pisco.  It works for me. Now, go serve Pisco Sours at your silly American Superbowl party, and get called names by your friends for making fru-fru cocktails instead of downing Budweiser after Budweiser. This is a cocktail worth fighting for.