The Multi-Continental Mountain Martini Mash-up

I was stumped by what to bring to a neighborhood cookbook club event, which is to say a dinner party for sorta-foodie types trying really hard to impress their neighbors.

The drink would have to be culinary in some way, I figured. And, because I am an unquiet spirit, it had to be an original.

Talk about trying hard to impress the neighbors.

Seeking culinary inspiration, I headed to the liquor store.

Foraging for ideas

I spotted something called “Forager” gin. This was promising already. Better, it’s a local product, out of Frederick, Maryland, and thus certain to impress my loca-vore clubmates.

The label, I read, claims the gin is “inspired by the botanicals of the Appalachian Mountains.”

Huh.

Say, didn’t I read on the label of my bottle of Genepy le Chamois that the wonderful, under-appreciated French liqueur comprises herbs foraged in the Alps….?

This was going well. I had herbs, I had foragers. I had local, I had global. I even had me some ancient French je ne sais quois as part of the deal.

Martini, meet multi-continental mountains

After some tasting and tweaking, I basically made a 4:1 Martini, subbing Genepy for vermouth. [This makes it a subtler cousin of the Spring Martini, in which Green Chartreuse stands in for the vermouth.] I tucked a staff of thyme from the garden into the glass to add some earthy gravitas.

It was richly herbal at the nose, as I’d hoped.

But boy, did it drink hot. A real throat-flamer. Both ingredients are 90 proof, and frankly my friends at Forager can afford to buff the edges off the gin. I diluted it with 40 stirs, then 60. But still the heat came rushing at the face.

So I tried a tactic of which I’m not entirely proud: I added a touch of simple syrup, which for some reason dispatches the ethyl more efficiently than water. Maybe it distracts the palate or something. Beats me. Happily it was from a batch of rosemary syrup I had around.

A bit more herbal. Much more approachable. As my creations go, unexpectedly well-balanced and delicious. The touch of extra sweetness would not be unwelcome by the homies.

The MMMM verdict

My neighbors loved the Multi-continental Mountain Martini Mash-up, genuinely I think. The compliments were enthused, but more to the point, despite my warnings of its potency, the 8 or so drinkers drained a 30-oz bottle of the elixir.

This turned out to be quite useful, since the sauteed vegetables with white beans and pistou I brought to the event sort of sucked, mushy and bland.

Thanks to the drinks, many didn’t notice. Those who did notice I like to think forgave me my failure in light of a modest success.

Like adding sugar to a drink, introducing a high-test drink to a dinner party where everybody is trying really hard makes up for any number of failures.

Maybe it distracts the palate or something.

The Multi-Continental Mountain Martini Mash-up recipe

.5 Genepy le Chamois

2 oz Forager Gin, or any sufficiently herbal “big” American gin.

Dash simple syrup, herbed if you like.

Stir at least 50 times, strain, poke a tuft of thyme into a martini glass, neat, or small Old Fashioned glass with a fat ice cube.

Alaska Sour, per Morris American Bar

Because sometimes you’ve just got to go home and make the wonderful drink the bartender was kind enough to write on a postcard as you left the bar the night before.

With thanks to Noel at Morris American Bar, a brilliant newish craft bar in DC:

The Alaska Sour

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 oz gin
  • .5 oz Yellow Chartreuse
  • .5 lemon juice
  • .5 simple syrup
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Dry shake all ingredients like your ulna is on fire. [Dry shaking means shake without ice. You do it to emulsify the egg.]

Fill shaker 2/3 with ice; shake like your radius is on fire.

As the photo shows, I’ve never developed good dry shaking skills, and my foam is weak.

But even in my hands this is a lovely drink, a simple gin sour enlivened by the herby, honeyed Chartreuse and mellowed with eggy cream.

Alaska? Kind of looks like a far north landscape, I guess.

The Carderock Golden Jewel

In which I inflict my “talent” on my neighbors in an update of the classic Bijou cocktail.

I “created” this one for a homegrown talent show in my community, in which I was invited to demonstrate my, um, “talent” in mixology at halftime of the festivities.

You’ve reached a sad point in life when your most recognizable skill involves alcoholic beverages.

And yet, here I am. Best to make the most of any  opportunity life hands you, I say.

The Bijou: A jewel. A really big jewel

Since “Carderock’s Got Talent” was a song-dance-performance event, I searched for “theatrical” allusions in the cocktail canon. This led me quickly to a pre-Prohibition classic called the Bijou. Early in this century “Bijou,” a French word meaning “jewel,” was a common name for a town’s theater.

The Bijou cocktail, debuted in the 1880s, was given the name because its high dose of Green Chartreuse gave the drink a hue of a dusky emerald.

Problem is: The original Bijou is a snoutful, intensely herbal from the Chartreuse, busy with the cutting notes of gin, fragrant with vermouth. Some say it disappeared with Prohibition not because it was forgotten but because it was too intense, as tastes drifted to simpler settings for gin, like a Martini.

The original Bijou has a dusky emerald hue.

A more accessible jewel?

But this was for a community event, where palates probably were more used to TGIFridays’ beverage menu than, say, that of a grand hotel bar filled with robber barons and their retainers.

Could I turn this big, uncompromising classic into something suburban showgoers might enjoy sippin? Let’s see, shall we?

Continue reading “The Carderock Golden Jewel”

Basil & Basil: A garden whiskey smash-up

This one’s the result of recent Measured Spirit labwork with spring produce. A savory, slightly exotic, springy whiskey sour/smash-like thing.

How to make the Basil & Basil cocktail

  • Muddle 5 Vietnamese basil leaves with .5 oz Demerara syrup [1:1] and two slices each of lemon and lime.
  • Add 2 oz Basil [get it?] Hayden’s bourbon
  • Fill muddling glass 2/3 full with ice
  • STIR. Citrus, I know, I know, but wait for it…
  • Dump the whole thing, Caipirinha-style, into a double Old Fashioned glass
  • Smack a big ol’ basil leaf and drop it across the top of the glass

Basil & Basil cocktail tasting notes

  • A rustic, seasonal whiskey smash
  • The Thai basil brings a peppery licorice vibe
  • The citrus and herb debris looks quite lovely in the glass
  • The Basil H bourbon works really well here — its soft layers bring some complexity. Must be fate.
  • The Demerara adds a sort of whole-grain bottom to the sweetness. I tried straight simple and the whole thing sort of collapsed.

The See-Thru Old Fashioned

Clearly, creating an Old Fashioned that looks like a Martini has its challenges

I was trying yet another spin-off of the Old Fashioned, this time using the lovely and potent Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and Angostura orange bitters to complement the rye. Not bad, as these riffs go, with some nice lathework by the maraschino and bitters smoothing the rye’s rough edges.

Sipping, I was moved to contemplation.

Say, [I mused], hadn’t I bought a bottle of unaged rye not long ago? And wouldn’t it be odd and [maybe] wonderful to use that clear liquor with the translucent Luxardo and the colorless orange bitters to make … a perfectly transparent Old Fashioned?

I had turned yet another suspect idea into a fool’s errand.

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The See-Through Old Fashioned, made with unaged rye, drinks hot.

Continue reading “The See-Thru Old Fashioned”

Hell: Don’t go there 

This drink appears in one of the most esteemed cocktail books of the last century. It’s terrible. Please don’t make it

Sometimes the most valuable public service we can render here at A Measured Spirit Global Headquarters is harm reduction.

And so:

Do. Not. Make. This. Drink.

Craig Stoltz cocktail recipes blog
The Hell cocktail appears in Harry Craddock’s esteemed 1930 classic, The Savoy Cocktail Book. I have no idea why.

Hell cocktail recipe

Into a mixing glass, do not add:

  • 1 oz cognac
  • 1 oz creme de menthe

Do not shake or stir with ice. Do not strain into a small snifter or shot glass. Do not garnish with red pepper flakes.

Like I said, don’t make it.

Hell cocktail tasting notes

This drink is just fu*king horrible.

The creme de menthe swamps the cognac. The mouthfeel is gummy.

The pepper flakes transmit no heat. They merely get caught in your teeth.

Using equal parts brandy and creme de menthe is like serving coq au vin with Hershey’s chocolate syrup gravy.

Welcome to Hell

People who are fans of John Cheever, the novelist who pulled back the curtain on life among the affluent suburbanites of mid-century Connecticut, may recognize this as a nitwit cousin of the Stinger.

That drink mixes the same two liquors, but it favors the base spirit in 2:1 or 3:1 ratios. The effect is of a brandy tamped down with mint candy — a favored nightcap for the coupon-clipper too timid for a martini.

But if forced, a reasonable person can drink one without harm or lasting loss of self-respect.

But this fresh Hell thing — not so much. Do. Not. Make. It.

 

Purple prose: In praise of the Aviation

Whenever I’m eyeing the bottles behind a bar, I scan for Creme de Violette. An undistinguished looking cylinder of dark purple with a circumference of silver label, the bottle of CDV is a key signifier, as they say in sociology: It tells me that someone in the chainCDV of custody is a fellow cocktail geek.

Bars that have it on hand use it almost exclusively to make a single drink: The Aviation.

The pre-Prohibition gin mix-up was first referenced in print in 1911, eight years after the Brothers Wright committed the act of flight in Kitty Hawk.

This is no coincidence. The Aviation takes its name from the dusky sky blue color the CDV paints the drink.

Where the Aviation gets its wings

The armature of the Aviation is essentially a gin sour: 1 part gin, 1/2 parts each lemon juice and a sweetener.

What makes the drink distinctive is the fact that the sweetener comprises Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and CDV. No simple syrup or sugar.

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This photo does the beauty of the Aviation no justice. But you get the idea.

About the Creme de Violette: Many liqueurs can be taken straight, or thinned with soda to make a neat little sipper. Don’t try that with this gal Violette. She’s sweet to a fault and generic in flavor, maybe a bit flat from the flower petals used to distill it.

But properly measured, she brings some great fun to the party.

Continue reading “Purple prose: In praise of the Aviation”