The Ward 8, the Obituary, the Negroni and the Bronx Cocktail

Well, hello there! Welcome back to Scientist McGee’s.

Since my last post, I’ve tried a few new drinks at home, bought a few new books to peruse, but the most fun update of all, I became a member of my first official Cocktail Club.

I became a member of the Cocktail Club at a St. Louis bar & restaurant called Sanctuaria ( http://www.sanctuariastl.com/ ).  Sanctuaria has a wonderful cocktail menu with over 150 fine-crafted cocktails to choose from.  Eighty of these drinks are classic cocktails, with the other 70+ drinks being the creations of Sanctuaria’s talented bartenders.  What a joy!  While the pocketbook won’t allow me to indulge in my new club’s benefits as often as I’d like to, I’m excited that it’s another important component in my “amateur journey in to the world of spirits”.  I now have an outlet where I can learn more about drinks from experts and other cocktail fans, instead of learning everything on my own from books and the internet.  The bartenders there truly love the cocktail and it’s truly fun to watch them work their craft.  As a member, I get discounted prices off every cocktail, discounts off retail bottles of liquor and invitations to members-only events.  The “gold-level” of the membership is earned when a member has tried all 150 drinks on their main menu.  That’s going to take quite a while, but some day for sure.   At my first visit, I was 2 for 2 with leaving the drink selection up to the bartender, just giving him a few things I was looking for in a drink.  Both drinks that he suggested hit the nail right on the head and I got to try two amazing drinks that I just loved… the “Jabberwock” (sherry, caperitif and gin) and the “French Parade” (cognac, Green Chartreuse, Cointreau, maraschino liqueur and orange bitters).  Two awesome drinks!  I almost hate that I can’t just drink these two drinks 74 more times each to reach the 150-mark, but oh well, I do love trying new drinks all the time too.

Yesterday, I went out to one of the biggest used book & record sales in St. Louis.  For a few bucks, I was able to pick up a few fun cocktail books… “Playboy’s Host & Bar Book” by Thomas Mario and “Cocktail Hour” by Susan Waggoner and Robert Markel.

Playboy's Host and Bar Book.Cocktail Hour: Authentic Recipes and Illustrations from 1920-1960

The Playboy book seems to have a wealth of information all about entertaining and different spirits, along with tons of recipes.  The other book is a little more quirky and fun, but has lots of fun pictures of old ads and images celebrating the cocktail culture.  I think this book will inspire me trying a few new drinks… which it already has – a really good drink called the “Ward 8”.  A good whiskey drink even my wife enjoyed.  There’s a lot of drinks I try that I like but my wife hates (e.g. Negroni, see below).  So when there’s a drink I try that we both like, those stick out in my memory and get a little asterisk (*) next to them in my book, because those are good ones to remember to make again.  Because it’s always more fun to have someone share in the drink you make rather than drinking alone, right?  Well, the Ward 8 is one of them.  It’s a fruity/tropical whiskey drink, which may sound weird, but it’s quite good… because yes, it’s got some fruit juices in it, but the taste of the rye whiskey is very prevalent as well.  It’s a good balanced drink for anyone who likes the taste of whiskey, but doesn’t want a drink that’s straight alcohol.

So anyways, that’s an update in the land of Scientist McGee.  I leave you with recipes for 4 cocktails that I’ve tried since the last time I posted an update.  They are the Ward 8, the Obituary, the Negroni and the Bronx.   I hope you enjoy!  Cheers!

“Ward 8”

Like I mentioned above, this drink is one for both whiskey lovers and lovers of fruity drinks… a great blend of the two.  Neither aspect overwhelms the other, but both aspects shine through in a perfect pairing.  It’s got an almost tropical flavor with the orange and lemon juice and grenadine, but the rye whiskey definitely makes an appearance at the end of each sip.  I highly recommend the Ward 8, especially for mixed gatherings of people with diverse tastes.

2 oz rye whiskey

3/4 oz orange juice

3/4 oz lemon juice

1 teaspoon of grenadine

1 lemon peel for a garnish

Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

“Obituary”

I saw this recipe in a book, I recently flipped through at a bookstore, that was all about absinthe.  It’s called the Obituary, but in layman’s terms, it should simply be called an “Absinthe Martini”.  If you like Martinis, but you are craving the taste of absinthe, you need one of these.  Nothing too complex, basically just a dry Martini with a nice absinthe flavor.  Very good.

3 oz gin

1/2 oz dry vermouth

3/8 oz absinthe

Stir with ice and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

“Negroni”

This actually wasn’t the first time I tried a Negroni.  I believe it’s actually the third time or so.  I’m really not a huge fan of the drink based on taste alone, but I do crave it from time to time when I’m stuffed from dinner.  When I’ve got a belly so full, it feels like it’s going to burst, this drink, which is heavy on the aperitif called Campari which supposedly serves as an appetite stimulant, hits the spot.  Beware though, it is very dry and bitter.

1.5 oz gin

3/4 oz Campari

3/4 oz sweet vermouth

Stir well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

http://www.theartofthebar.com/html/index.html

“Bronx Cocktail”

I didn’t care for this drink all that much.  I think it was just that the proportions of the ingredients made it taste too similar to Tang, which I’m not a fan of.

1.5 oz gin

1/2 oz sweet vermouth

1/2 oz dry vermouth

1 oz orange juice

dash of Angostura bitters, optional

orange peel for garnish

Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Cocktail-Mixing-Perfect-Drinks/dp/0307405737

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Trips back and forth to the booze merchant…

Greetings friends & patrons!

I’ve made a few too many trips to Friar Tuck’s over the last week or two, and picked up some Peychaud’s bitters, Grande Absente absinthe and Luxardo maraschino liqueur…  Great purchases if you ask me!

The mini bottle of absinthe was the way to go (pictured in the Sazerac photos) because it was only $12 or so, and so I didn’t have to fork out around $70 for a regular sized bottle.  It was a great way to go to since absinthe is so strong, most drinks I’m finding recipes for only call for a splash of it to coat the inside of a glass.  So this little bottle will last me a long, long time.  But even if it doesn’t, I now know how highly I think of this green elixir, and won’t mind shelling out the big bucks for a big bottle.  I’d tried absinthe several years ago, but just straight (well, with water and sugar and what not, but still…).  At that time, I thought it was just OK.  But now, using it in cocktails, I think it’s the tops!  Like I said, a little goes a long way, and the anise flavoring of absinthe really lends a cool and refreshing note to any cocktail it’s added to.  It makes a whiskey drink seem summery!  And that’s something to sing about!

The Peychaud’s bitters was a pre-requisite to buy in order to make the Sazerac.  Peychaud’s bitters is from New Orleans and its creator is credited as the creator of the Sazerac cocktail.  So, there wasn’t much choice there.  But it’s really good too.

The Luxardo maraschino liqueur is something I’ve wanted to buy ever since I fell in love with Peter Heering CherryLiqueur (for a photo of Peter Heering, see my blog’s gravatar image… What a guy!).

Once I got the Cherry Heering, I started noticing that there weren’t all that many recipes that called for it’s rich, tart flavor, and instead most drink recipes called for maraschino liqueurs, which are made from the Marasca cherries and are lighter and bitter-sweet, and have a note of almond flavor from the crushed cherry pits.  One of the most revered maraschino liqueurs is the Luxardo brand.  At first taste, I wasn’t that thrilled because it was quite different from the CherryHeering which I love.  But after a few tries and a few different recipes, I’m hooked on it too.  It’s typically used in very subtle ways in drinks, and it plays more of a background role, lending a nice support to the ingredients in the forefront.  It’s the Steve Buschemi of the cocktail world.

In addition to the acquisitions of these new ingredients, I also picked up a great book from the library… “The Craft of the Cocktail” by Dale DeGroff.  I already have a great book by Mr. DeGroff, called “Essential Cocktails” which has been featured many times in this blog with recipes pulled from it.  This book however, is a nice compliment to that book.  I think it came out before “Essential Cocktails” and is more of a “complete and everything” guide to cocktails, from basic explanations and histories of each type of liquor, to a guide to unique measurements, to recommended websites and further reading, to an alphabetical list of tons of cocktail drinks.  Where as “Essential Cocktails” is like a greatest hits album which nicely organizes all the best drinks in to their proper categories (Classics, Moderns, Sours, Highballs, etc.), this book is more like the “Bartender’s Bible” which is almost like a dictionary which lists tons of drinks alphabetically, but has much nicer pictures and descriptions than the “Bartender’s Bible”.  Each book is unique to itself and offers a benefit, and so I’d recommend both books if you have the time and money to spend, or a library where you can borrow it for a few weeks.  The nice thing is that there are drinks featured in “Essential Cocktails” that aren’t in “The Craft of the Cocktail” and vice versa, and even some drinks that are listed in both have slightly different recipes and therefore you can select which one fits your palate better.  Both are top notch books and great resources to have… Reading them is so fun that they inspire me to run to the kitchen to mix one up!  That’s why I recommend reading them in the evening time, rather than in the morning before going to work.  They can be frustrating if read when you can’t go mix a drink.

Well, enough dribble-drabble… On to the drinks you can make for yourself at home in your bar, or call me up and come on over and I’ll mix one up for you myself…

“Sazerac”

What a drink!  I love it!  It’s perfect for when you want the nice, stiff taste of a whiskey drink served up, but it’s hot outside and you need some refreshing thirst quenching.  The rye whiskey adds spice, but the lemon and absinthe make it cool and refreshing.  Plus the sugar makes it a little sweet.  When preparing, you only coat the inside of the glass with absinthe, but it’s surprising how much you can taste the absinthe in the drink.  Top notch!

1 sugar cube

3-5 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

2 oz rye whiskey

Splash of absinthe

lemon peel for garnish

Combine the sugar and the bitters, and muddle to dissolve the sugar in one old fashioned glass.  Add the rye and some ice, and stir gently to combine.   Take the chilled serving glass and add a splash of absinthe… Swirl the absinthe around to just coat the inside of the glass, and then pour out (in to my mouth) the excess absinthe.  Strain the chilled rye, sugar and bitters in to this prepared glass.  If you’re a purist, rub the rim of the glass with the lemon peel, and then discard.  If you’re not a purist, twist the lemon peel over the top, or rub the rim, and drop it in to the drink for a garnish.  (This recipe is a combination of 2 slightly different recipes from 2 different sources – see references below)

http://www.theartofthebar.com/html/index.html and http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Cocktail-Mixing-Perfect-Drinks/dp/0307405737

“Captain’s Table”

Here’s a drink that features Campari, an aperitif bitters made with herbs and fruits.  It’s often described as an “acquired taste” due to its bitter taste.  I’m still not a huge fan, but this was one drink I did really enjoy.  It’s perfect for when you want a refreshing and summery, back porch drink without wanting a “sweet & fruity” drink.  All the flavors are very muted.  The drink’s refreshing with the gin, orange juice and ginger ale, but it’s dry at the same time because of the Campari.  Very good – Campari… you’ve served your purpose in life well.

2 oz gin

1/2 oz Campari

1 teaspoon grenadine

1 oz orange juice

4 oz ginger ale

1 maraschino cherry

Combine gin, Campari, grenadine and OJ… Shake well and pour in to a collins or a highball glass filled with ice cubes, and top with the ginger ale… Garnish with the cherry.

http://www.amazon.com/Bartenders-Bible-Mixed-Drinks-Everything/dp/0061092207/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1299558901&sr=8-1

“Aviation”

This is a great, simple showcase and use of the maraschino liqueur.  Very good drink.  It has a very unique, nutty taste that you don’t taste everyday in most cocktails.

2 oz gin

3/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur

1/2 oz lemon juice

http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Cocktail-Mixing-Perfect-Drinks/dp/0307405737

“Club Cocktail”

Great drink!  I found it to be very delightful to drink while sitting on the back porch on a lazy Sunday afternoon…  Initially, I thought it was a little too heavy on the taste of the brandy.  The caramel taste of the brandy surprised me being side-by-side with the maraschino liqueur and the pineapple juice.  But by the second glass, I really began to love its unique flavor.  It was another refreshing drink that’s not too fruity or sweet.  I guess that’s almost the them of this particular blog post… refreshing drinks that aren’t sugary sweet and fruity.

2 oz brandy

1/2 oz maraschino liqueur

1/2 oz pineapple juice

2 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

lemon peel for garnish

Shake well with ice, and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass… garnish with the lemon peel

http://www.craftofthecocktail.com/

“Waldorf”

This is an awesome alternate take on the classic Manhattan!  This drink’s perfect for when you want a Manhattan, but want a more refreshing drink… The absinthe livens it up a bit, adding a fresh kick.  Very good cocktail.

1/8 oz absinthe

2 oz bourbon (or rye whiskey)

3/4 oz sweet vermouth

2 dashes of Angostura bitters

The recipe I found said to swirl the absinthe in the glass to coat the inside and then pour out the excess, before adding the remaining ingredients… I was, however, in the mood to have some more absinthe in the drink, so I actually just mixed in about an 1/8 oz of absinthe with the bourbon, sweet vermouth and bitters, and then stirred with ice, leaving all of the absinthe in the actual drink, and then strained in to a chilled cocktail glass.

http://www.craftofthecocktail.com/

“The Last Word”

Now that I’ve got my maraschino liqueur, I was able to taste what this drink was supposed to properly taste like.  (I’d originally only had Peter Heering Cherry Heering to use, and in one of my previous posts talk about how it didn’t work well and how it actually led to me creating my own variation called “The Counter Argument”.)  This classic cocktail was reportedly brought back to life by a bartender in Seattle (Zig Zag Cafe) who disovered it in some old cocktail recipe books.  Since it’s re-discovery, it’s enjoying quite a revival in popularity all across the country.  It is indeed a good drink.  It too has some really unique flavors and the Chartreuse really shines through and takes center stage, with a really nice accompaniment of the maraschino liqueur.

Equal parts…

Gin

Green Chartreuse

Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

Lime juice

Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/restaurants/2008837441_zres11lastword.html

Cheers!


Goin’ on down to New Orleans… in my mind

Hey everybody,

I’m back with a short blurb about cocktails in my home in the months of March and April.

Baseball’s back, and that means that the weather in St. Louis is warming up.  With hotter weather, that usually means lighter drinks, so that’s what I’ve been having a little more of these days.  Just a “little more of” though, because I really tend to enjoy whiskey on a regular basis much more than say gin or tequila.  But it’s hard not to crave some lighter, more refreshing drinks in the spring & summer time, so I’ve been making some easy-to-make tequila drinks on a warmer spring evenings – the Havana and the Tequila Sunrise drinks.  I’m sure my taste for lighter drinks will only increase as the weather in town becomes swelteringly hot and unbearably humid.

Also, I’m posting here some very basic cocktail recipes for 2 of the most classic cocktails of all time… the Manhattan and the Martini.  These two classics are such staples that I’ve neglected to post anything about them up to this point, I think.  So I’m honoring them with a little attention and a little of the spotlight, for good measure.  They are, after all, 2 of my favorite, go-to drinks.  When I don’t want to mess around, and I don’t want to think too much, and I want to just go for an easy-to-make drink that can’t go wrong… these are the drinks.  They’re perfectly simple.  When I’m in the mood for whiskey, it’s the Manhattan (even though, half the time I’ll make the drink’s variation, a Dry Manhattan with dry vermouth and lemon, and the other half of the time, I’ll go for the classic Manhattan); and when I’m in the mood for gin, it’s the Martini.  Both of these classic cocktails showcase the base spirit so perfectly and clearly, without having to drink either of the base spirits straight.  Vermouth plays the role of the red carpet in both drinks so perfectly, and lets the stars of the drinks shine through.

And last, but not least, I’m offering up a recipe for a drink that I’ve not yet tried, but I will be trying at some point this weekend.  I tend to get very intrigued by cocktails with a good history behind them.  Ever since I started enjoying making cocktails and reading about them, I’ve been intrigued by one called the Sazerac.  The Sazerac is apparently one of the first important cocktails.  It’s a signature drink of the great city of New Orleans.  It was created in the 1860’s and was originally made with cognac as its base.  Over time however, rye whiskey gained in popularity as cognac’s popularity with the public decreased, and now the Sazerac is a rye whiskey drink.  I think another reason I became intrigued and obsessed with trying this drink is the fact that it contains absinthe, and so it seemed to me that it’d probably be a while before I could make this drink myself, since absinthe’s pretty darn expensive.  However, it dawned on me this morning that my spirits store, Friar Tuck, sells miniature “sampling” bottles of many liquors, a couple of which I think were bottles of absinthe!  So, I’m going today to get get a little bottle for around $6.00 I think.  This is actually perfect too, because I’m really only buying the absinthe for this drink, and this drink only calls for enough absinthe to coat the inside of the glass.  So this tiny little bottle should last quite a while for the purpose of making Sazeracs.  Another item I need to pick up at the store today is a bottle of Peychaud’s bitters.  The Sazerac recipe calls for specifically Peychaud’s brand of bitters.  Apparently, Antoine Peychaud was a Pharmacist in New Orleans and he concocted this special blend of spices and botanicals, and using his bitters, his pharmacy was actually the birthplace of the Sazerac cocktail.  (His pharmacy seems alot better than my local Walgreens… The closest thing I can get to a Sazerac at my modern pharmacy is Four Loco.   Actually, I guess Four Loco is a good modern equivalent though to a drink that contains absinthe, since both Four Loco and Absinthe have reputations for seriously harming one’s physical health and possibly killing you, but I digress…)   Anyways, that’s my objective today… to purchase the Peychaud’s bitters, a little bottle of absinthe, and a lemon, and be on my way to trying a Sazerac for the first time this weekend.

Without any further ado… Here’s recipes and photos of the 5 cocktails discussed above:

“Havana”

1.5 oz  rum

3/4 oz  triple sec

1/2 oz  lime juice

1/4 oz  simple syrup

A splash of orange juice (I actually enjoy about a full 1 oz of orange juice)

A dash of orange bitters

Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass (Optional: coat the rim of the glass with sugar)

http://www.theartofthebar.com/html/index.html

“Tequila Sunrise”


This drink is really easy to drink… it’s really easy to make and it’s really refreshing and tasty, and it looks really pretty too!  My wife loves it, and I agree.  It’s just a really fun, easy drink, that’s really tasty.

1.5 oz blanco tequila

4 oz orange juice

3/4 oz grenadine

Fill a highball glass (I prefer to use a good sized white wine glass, like the one pictured) with ice, and build (no stirring/shaking necessary) the tequila, followed by the orange juice, and then lastly pour the grenadine slowly through the drink to create the “sunrise” look.  Lovely!

http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Cocktail-Mixing-Perfect-Drinks/dp/0307405737

“The Manhattan”

2 oz whiskey

3/4 oz sweet vermouth

3 dashes of bitters (I prefer Fee Brothers’ Cherry Bitters in my Manhattan, from time to time)

1 maraschino cherry for garnish

Stir the whiskey, vermouth and bitters with ice, and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass

“The Martini”

There’s a million variations on how to make a Martini… this is my preferred recipe:

2.5 oz gin

1/2 oz dry vermouth

1 or 3 olives for garnish

Stir the gin and vermouth with ice, and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass

Most people remember James Bond ordering his martini “shaken, not stirred”.  However, the general rule is that a bar tender stirs drinks with ice when all of the ingredients are alcohol based, and shakes drinks when the recipe includes fruit juices and other non-alcoholic ingredients.  So, the general rule is that a Manhattan and Martini should always be stirred to mix with ice, rather than shaken.  However, there is no right way and wrong way to drink… One should do whatever they want to get the drink however they like it.  I’ll stir a Manhattan and Martini 95% of the time, but every now and then, I do tend to enjoy the frothier texture one gets by shaking a drink as a result of small ice chips breaking up in the shaking process.  So once in a blue moon, I will in fact shake the martini.  You can kind of see the difference in the picture below of a shaken Martini – it’s not quite as clear as the picture of a properly stirred Martini above.

(Martini, shaken)

And last, but not least, here’s the recipe of my next adventure… the Sazerac!  We’ll see if it lives up to the hype.

“Sazerac”

(no photo yet)

1 sugar cube

3-5 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

2 oz rye whiskey

Splash of absinthe

lemon peel for garnish

Combine the sugar and the bitters, and muddle to dissolve the sugar.  Add the rye and some ice, and stir gently to combine.   Take the chilled serving glass and add a splash of absinthe… Swirl the absinthe around to just coat the inside of the glass, and then pour out the excess absinthe.  Strain the chilled rye, sugar and bitters in to this prepared glass.  If you’re a purist, rub the rim of the glass with the lemon peel, and then discard.  If you’re not a purist, twist the lemon peel over the top, or rub the rim, and drop it in to the drink for a garnish.  (This recipe is a combination of 2 slightly different recipes from 2 different sources – see references below)

http://www.theartofthebar.com/html/index.html and http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Cocktail-Mixing-Perfect-Drinks/dp/0307405737