Back in St. Louis

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted an update to the ole Scientist McGee’s blog… a really long time.  It seems like ages in fact.  Since my last post, over a month ago, I took a trip to Jamaica.  It was a wonderful and restful time away from the daily grind.  My wife and I stayed at an all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay… all you can eat, all you can drink.  I had a lot of tropical drinks, from morning to mid-morning, to lunch, to afternoon, to dinner, to after dinner and so on… repeat for 7 days.  It was great… the drinks were very nice and easy and thirst quenching… lots and lots of Tequila Sunrises and an occassional Margarita thrown in there, amongst random others like the Bob Marley, Rum Punch, Pina Colata, etc.  I even got some classic drinks mixed in as well, like a Rusty Nail, a Harvey Wallbanger, a Manhattan, etc.  The people in Jamaica are amongst the nicest I’ve ever met, and the bartenders were no exception.  They were happy to oblige and make a few drinks for me that weren’t on the menu because you can only take so much rum and tropical drinks after a few days.  I even tried a new drink that I’d read about in the book I brought along to read on the beach.  (Which reminds me… I’ve added a new piece to the side bar of my blog, on the right-hand side… It’s a list of books that I own or have read, and a brief rating of what I thought of them… check it out.  And if you have any recommendations for me, please let me know.)   The book I read on the beach was called “The Little Green Book of Absinthe”, and as the title suggests, it’s a book dedicated entirely to Absinthe.  Pretty fun read, with little anecdotes, quotes and tales of the history of Absinthe.  I was even happier to notice that the bartenders at the resort had in fact a bottle of Pernod behind the bar.  A lot of the drinks in the book had too unusual of ingredients for me to order them, but one in particular struck my fancy on the 5th day of our stay.  My wife had gotten hooked on Mimosas while we were there, and so I thought that the “Death in the Afternoon” cocktail sounded like a perfect companion to hers.

A “Death in the Afternoon” was a classic Ernest Hemingway drink and is…

1/2 oz. Absinthe

4.5 oz champagne

Stir together in a champagne flute.

(recipe from “The Little Green Book of Absinthe”)

And now for all the different drinks I’ve tried since my last post, in no particular order…

“Aviation” (w/ creme de violette)

Shortly after a post of mine a couple back, called “Trips back and forth to the booze merchant…”, in which I had just recently acquired some maraschino liqueur, I got a great tip from a reader who recommended me trying it with some Creme de Violette (some times referred to as Creme Yvette).  Thank you to him, because it’s a great addition and a serious twist on the drink itself!  As you might imagine, the creme de violette is very floral and a very strong flavor… a little added to a drink goes a long way, and definitely “blues” up the color of the drink, which is kind of fun.  In the Aviation, it definitely adds another dimension.  In this drink, using only 1/4 ounce is nice as then it’s somewhat subtle, as opposed to its strong presence in the “Blue Moon” coming up next.

2 oz gin

1/2 oz lemon juice

1/2 oz maraschino liqueur

1/4 oz creme de violette

Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

“Blue Moon”

Fresh in to my creme de violette kick, I attended a wonderful wedding reception with a very nice open bar and I spotted a bottle of the creme de violette behind the bar… but no maraschino liqueur.  I asked the bartender what he’d recommend for the creme de violette, and he made me a “Blue Moon”.   Pretty great drink, I must say.  The violet melds wonderfully with the lemon, and it seems to almost bond with and transform the gin.  It’s a drink of 3 really good flavors working really well together.  Each flavor seems very clear and distinct, but also blend nicely to make an overall flavor greater than the sum of its parts.

2 oz gin

1/2 oz creme de violette

1/2 oz lemon juice

Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

“Mary Pickford”

This drink was one I found in the book “The Cocktail Hour”, which is a book celebrating the old fashioned drinks and their history, and I wound up really liking this one.  It’s a great summertime drink.  It’s sweet & refreshing without being “candy sweet”, due in large part to the nutty element of the maraschino liqueur.  The recipe looks very simple, but its taste is surprisingly complex… again, thanks in large part to the maraschino liqueur, which leads me to my revelation that – the maraschino liqueur is king! (in my book anyway)

2 oz light rum

2 oz pineapple juice

1 t maraschino liqueur

1 t grenadine

Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

(recipe from “The Cocktail Hour”)

“The Stork Club”

Another drink I grabbed from this same book was “The Stork Club”, named after a famed nightclub in New York.  I didn’t care much for this drink, and after this one and “The Bronx Cocktail” from my last post, I’ve decided that I don’t care for the gin and orange juice combo in drinks.  It tastes like watered down OJ to me, and similar to Tang… which is never good in my opinion.  Oh well.  The lime juice made it a little better, but still the gin and OJ combo tastes flat & hollow to me, leaving me wanting something more.

1.5 oz gin

1/2 oz triple sec

1/4 oz lime juice

1 oz orange juice

Dash of Angostura bitters

Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

(recipe from “The Cocktail Hour”)

“Cherry Vodka”

I made this drink on a whim because I wanted to try a new drink using Cherry Heering.  I found this one online, and I did not like it.  But full disclosure, I don’t like vodka (as you may have noticed, there are very few vodka drinks in any of my posts).  Since vodka doesn’t have much of a taste, this drink tasted like I was drinking just lime juice with some Cherry Heering, and a noticeable “hole of nothingness” where the vodka was.  I won’t be making this one again ever.

1.5 oz vodka

3/4 oz lime juice

1/2 oz Cherry Heering

Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

“Galliano Margarita”

I bought my first bottle of Galliano yesterday (along with 2 new glasses, pictured here)! To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the Galliano, as I was sort of just buying it because my wife likes “Harvey Wallbanger” drinks, so I bought a half-bottle (375 ml).  But boy was I in for a very pleasant surprise!  I love it!  I was under the wrong impression that Galliano was strictly a vanilla liqueur.  I hadn’t realized how it has quite a bit of an herbal undertone as well, and a strong anise secondary flavor too.  I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed this on the prior occassion when I had tried it before, but I hadn’t.  I have to say, I think that Galliano is very good indeed.  Plus I lucked out by stumbling upon a recipe for a drink that I just loved.  When I brought the bottle home, I didn’t want to just make another Harvey Wallbanger, so I looked online for what I could make and figured I’d give a Galliano Margarita a shot.  What the hell, eh? It was around 95 degrees out, so perfect, right?  Oh my, what a treat!  What a good drink!  I highly recommend this to everyone.

1 oz tequila

1 oz Galliano

1/2 oz lime juice

Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.  Salt rim.

(As you can tell from the picture, I wasn’t in the mood for a salted rim.)

“Limon Sunrise”

And last but definitely not least, is a drink I looked up also online when I  found myself reminiscing about the endless Tequila Sunrises in Jamaica and also re-discovered a bottle of limoncello I’d forgotten we had in our house.  This one’s a very fun drink for the summer time.  Very refreshing and the orange & lemon combo is very good.

1 oz limoncello

3 oz orange juice

Splash of grenadine

Fill a highball-sized glass with ice, and build the limoncello, followed by the orange juice, and then add the grenadine.


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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


3 Monks and a McGee

Well, I finally picked up my very own bottle of Chartreuse (the original, green variety) last week, and got busy mixing up some cocktails…

Like a friend of mine said, he describes Chartreuse as “gin on acid”.  This is a pretty good description.  Gin is very spicy with strong scents and tastes of botanicals.  Chartreuse is just that, only with scents and tastes of hundreds (130 to be precise) of spices and herbs flying at your nose and tongue, bouncing off the walls of your mouth and nose… so many in fact, it’s fun to guess what you’re smelling…  anise? clove? cinnamon? rosemary?  You can smell each and every one wait in line, then step up to the stage to take a bow, giggle, and then slip in to the shadows…

The first cocktail I tried was the Bijou.  I really didn’t care for this drink, and it wasn’t very pleasant.  It was a little too strong – very alcoholic.  It seemed like the gin and the Chartreuse were competing with each other… maybe a lighter gin, like a New Amsterdam, might be better to let the Chartreuse take center stage.

“Bijou”


1.5 oz gin

1/2 oz green Chartreuse

1/2 oz sweet vermouth

Dash of orange bitters

Maraschino cherry for a garnish

Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass

http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Cocktail-Mixing-Perfect-Drinks/dp/0307405737/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1300241159&sr=8-1

A nice way to enjoy the Chartreuse is to just simply enjoy the Chartreuse… by enjoying a nice, small glass of Chartreuse and ice.  Chartreuse is 110 proof (55% alcohol), so while it’s quite tasty on its own, it’s also quite strong and can knock you on the ground.  Watered down by the melting ice just makes it better and less intense.  It’s definitely something worth sipping… very nice.

I found another cocktail recipe that many suggested as the perfect cocktail to introduce oneself to Chartreuse… The Last Word.

Whether it’s a good introduction to Chartreuse or not, I don’t care… it’s a delicious cocktail!  The recipe calls for maraschino liqueur, which I don’t have.  Based on how much I love Cherry Heering, I should probably buy some (typically Luxardo’s the recommended brand).  I’ve never had maraschino liqueur, but I’ve read that it’s sweeter than the liqueur I have… the glorious Peter Heering Cherry liqueur.   Cherry Heering is one of my favorite cocktail ingredients, and supposedly it’s a much richer, tarter tasting cherry liqueur… different than maraschino liqueur, but what I have (and what I happen to love), so I figured it’s close enough to make The Last Word.  Maybe I’m wrong… I don’t know, but if I am wrong… I don’t wanna be right ; )

[NOTE: After writing this particular post, I did in fact buy some maraschino liqueur and made an authentic “Last Word”… For later notes and a photo of a real “Last Word”, which is now one of my favorite drinks, visit another post called “Trips Back and Forth to the Booze Merchant at https://scientistmcgee.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/trips-back-and-forth-to-the-booze-merchant/ -Scientist McGee 5/8/11]

So the typical recipe for a Last Word is:

“The Last Word”

(no photo available)

1 oz gin

1 oz green Chartreuse

1 oz maraschino liqueur

1 oz lime juice

Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

http://ohgo.sh/archive/chartreuse/

My recipe, given what I have on hand, is:

“Denis’ Last Word”


1 oz gin

1 oz green Chartreuse

1 oz Cherry Heering

1 oz lime juice

Very good, I must say!  Actually, I should say… very good potential.  What I mean is that with a little tinkering, I could tell that this drink had the potential to be one of my favorites.  This version, which I doubt the swapping out of a different cherry liqueur would have this effect… was much too heavy on the lime flavor.  Maybe it was because I used bottled, pre-fab lime juice, I don’t know… I doubt a trusted recipe such as this would be so heavy on the lime taste though.  Also, I’d used a brand of gin called New Amsterdam, thinking that I didn’t like the way a stronger gin like Tanqueray seemed to compete with the taste of Chartreuse in the Bijou drink.  For this drink, I used New Amsterdam gin instead, a much tamer, lighter gin.  Big mistake… maybe it was the overpowering lime juice or maybe it was the weaker gin, but I could barely detect the gin.  So… I made some adjustments in my mind…

A couple nights later, I tweaked the recipe, and voila!  One of my favorite drinks!  Since it’s not the original recipe of The Last Word, maybe I should rename it?  Maybe this one should be called The Counter Argument?

“The Counter Argument”


1 oz Tanqueray Gin

1 oz green Chartreuse

1 oz Cherry Heering

1/2 oz lime juice

Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

Delicious!!!

The Counter Argument beat The Last Word, in my opinion.  At least The Counter Argument beat my tweaked version of the Last Word (with a different cherry liqueur).   Without having maraschino liqueur, I can’t say 100% what a true Last Word tastes like.  But I’m pretty happy with my Counter Argument.

And I’m pretty happy with my bottle of Chartreuse… whether I’m drinking it straight on the rocks, or if I’m mixing it with gin and Cherry Heering.  It’s a pretty wonderful elixir.  Once autumn rolls back around (which I’m in no rush for), I look forward to trying a Brigadier, which is…

“Brigadier”

1 oz green Chartreuse

1 oz Cherry Heering

About 4 ounces hot chocolate

Mix ingredients in a warmed mug and stir