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.

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.

20180402_1827121420874853156889872.jpg
The See-Through Old Fashioned, made with unaged rye, drinks hot.

Continue reading “The See-Thru Old Fashioned”

Hello, I must be going…for now

Both loyal readers of A Measured Spirit may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything since … um, spring? Yes, that’s about right.

I’m sad and annoyed — dis-spirited! — to report that in the interim I’ve been diagnosed with an ugly spine condition, had a major surgery [a multi-level fusion, for the lumbar cognoscenti], and two very unpleasant complications far worse than the surgery. All of this was followed by several months of the sort of narcotic medications that make so many deadly headlines these days.

These morphine derivatives have many contraindications, the most pertinent being Old Fashioneds, Margaritas, Drunk Monks, Hillbilly Martinis, and so on … basically anything with, um, alcohol. I’ve been on the Wagon of Glum for several months, and am likely to ride on it for who knows how long.

Since I can’t taste or enjoy drinks, it’s no longer impossible to sustain the, how you say, persistent enthusiasm that maintaining this blog requires.

I briefly thought of converting to mocktails. Luckily I quickly thought better of it.

So it’s time to pull the plug on AMS, at least for now. So: Happy mixing. Happy drinking. Happy hours, evenings, nights, and brunches to all. No happy breakfasts, please.

Oh, okay, WTF. Here’s one mocktail — hate that word — I’m making:

Phony Gin & Tonic

  • Cook up some simple syrup, and toss in the thick skin of two lemons and a handful of juniper berries. You can find these at the nearest health food store.
  • Turn off the heat and let it cool for 2 hours.
  • Strain, toss out the solids.
  • Measure 1.5 oz of the stuff in a Collins glass filled with ice.
  • Add 1 oz lemon juice.
  • Top with tonic.
  • Garnish with lemon wheel.

Sure, you’re disappointed and dissatisfied. But from where I sit, drinking these is way better than becoming another opioid casualty in the local paper. I’ll take it.

 

 

 

 

(Re)-introducing: The Old Fashioned Good Fella

The Old Fashioned Good Fella is actually for sale at a bar, despite the fact that I created it. I am no less surprised than you

I have peaked as an amateur drinksman. If this were a profession for me I’d immediately retire so I could exit at a high point.

One my own original creations now appears on the menu of an Italian bistro in my neighborhood of Bethesda, Maryland.

Craig Stoltz cocktail recipe Old Fashioned Good Fella
The Old Fashioned Good Fella, created by yours truly, available at Sal’s Italian Kitchen in Bethesda, Maryland. $12 at Sal’s, free at my house just up the road. Stop by either place!

I have personally witnessed real humans pay $12 for the privilege of drinking an Old Fashioned Good Fella. I once saw a guy try it and shoot his eyebrows up and nod his head, I think in approval.

The Old Fashioned Good Fella

  • 2.25 oz High West Double Rye
    • The nice rye bite stands up to the other powerful flavors
  • Scant half-oz Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
    • If you’re not aquainted, this is a real charmer, smooth and spicy. Order it neat at the bar, after dinner. You’ll thank me later. 
  • 4 [!] dashes Regan’s orange bitters
    • I know, that’s a lot. Somehow it’s less of a drink with fewer dashes. 
  • Flamed orange peel garnish

It’s all in the name, fella

Both careful readers of A Measured Spirit may recognize this as a drink about which I have previously blogged, complete with origin story and its rickety relationship to the classic Old Fashioned. I then called it the Ginger Orange Flame.

I’ve got to say, “The Old Fashioned Good Fella” — inviting a sort of suburban mobster affectation by its purchaser — is a way better marketing name for an Italian restaurant menu item than “Ginger Orange Flame.”

That name I imagined dark and romantic, what with the promise of the tang of ginger and a reference to “flame.” This may say more about the activity of my imagination than anything else, but hey, it worked for me. At least before I thought about anybody actually buying it.

More importantly, The Old Fashioned Good Fella is also way better than “Craig’s Old Fashioned,” which the barkeep at Sal’s, much to my horror, proposed to name the drink at first. Happily, his manager refused.

I try to imagine myself ordering something called “Craig’s Old Fashioned” anywhere and fail utterly.

Starting a tab, pal?

I think the margin is pretty good for the OFGF, despite the abundance of High West Double Rye and Domaine de Canton, each retailing at about $40 a bottle.

If wholesale price is half of retail, let’s see…25 ounces per bottle, 2.25 of rye, .5 of liqueur…that’s only about $1.75 for the ingredients. Triple that for personnel, space, advertising, and all that other stuff, and…I may be making Sal’s a lot of money.

Someday, in fact, they may comp me for an Old Fashioned Good Fella.

I’m still waiting.

Those suburban mobsters are a tough group, I’ll tell ya.

The Italian Manhattan Project: Un Cappello da Uomo Perfetto

In which I try to create an “Italian Manhattan” but wind up blindly reinventing…one of my favorite classics

I’d say I “invented” this one, but I’m fast learning that claims of beverage authorship rank among amateur drinksters’ most dangerous lies, along with “I’ve only had two” and “I picked up the check last time.”

More about this below.

But here’s the story: I began playing around with an “Italian Manhattan” over a year ago, when I discovered the lovely Italian apertif Cocchi Americano, collected a few Italian amari, and fell into mixocological rumination.

The right amaro, I reasoned, could plausibly stand in for red vermouth, the Cocchi for white, yielding a kind of Manhattan Perfetto. [A “Perfect Manhattan” is a version of the classic whose vermouth dose is equally split between dry and sweet. A more complex version, an acquired taste.]

A Measured Spirit Craig Stoltz cocktail recipe blog
Un Cappello da Uomo Perfetto, aka the Italian Manhattan. Created in Bethesda, Maryland by way of Brooklyn. Not Italy.

This turned out to be harder than I hoped — even to my palate, weakened by years of actually drinking my failed experiments instead of dumping them in a shoe like a proper gentleman.

The Cocchi comes across like a herbal, slightly citrus-y vermouth with a surprising bitter finish that to me “dries” it out.

This led me to seek balance with what turned out to be either too much amaro, the wrong amaro, or both. I tried Averna, Cynar, Ramazzotti, and the unpalatable [I don’t care what “they” say] Fernet-Branca. The vermouth stand-ins swamped, overwhelmed, or disrespected the rye, all without bringing much sweetness to the effort. The whole thing was just a lot of bickering in a glass.

So I got out of the Italian Manhattan business entirely for about six months. [Into the creative vacuum rushed among other things the Hillbilly Martini, which I’m not sure was a productive diversion.]

But then, not long ago, I made an Old Fashioned sweetened with Maraschino liqueur. I loved it. Back into my brainpan oozed the Italian Manhattan Project. Maybe if I relieved the amaro of the burden of sweetening… Continue reading “The Italian Manhattan Project: Un Cappello da Uomo Perfetto”