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”

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.

20180330_1609002942936064595859058.jpg
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”

140-character booze review: Lord Wimsey Gin

A Measured Spirit public service: Time-saving booze reviews with no room for preening, blather, and B.S!

1st gin from Md.-based maker. Think 1/2-hearted flavored vodka. Juniper-free; odd orange nose. Desecrates Wimsey name. Weak debut. Buy? Ha!

Of all the rum joints in the world….the Casablanca cocktail

Why would a rum drink be called the Casablanca? It doesn’t matter. Just make it

This version of a drink called the Casablanca is an outlier: No competing exotic backstories, disputed claims of authorship, layers of footnotes, etc. Nobody appears to take credit for this drink.

They should. It’s really good.

I thumbed across it in the encyclopedic but completely undistinguished The Ultimate Bar Book by Mittie Hellmich, which provides no detail about provenance. Neither does any online or print reference I could find.

One would assume this drink is somehow linked to the classic 1942 movie of the same name. This appears unlikely.

  • In the film, Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine drinks Scotch.
  • He refers to his Moroccan watering hole as a “gin joint.” [Says Rick famously to Ilsa: “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”]
  • I haven’t seen the movie enough to say for certain that no rum is served at Rick’s American Cafe, but the carfare between North Africa and the Caribbean alone, you’d think, would be a limiting factor.

The Casablanca cocktail recipe Craig Stoltz Measured Spirit cocktail blog
The Casablanca cocktail appears to have nothing to do with the classic movie. Who cares? It’s a delightful craft cocktail-ish spin on the Daiquiri .

A Measured Spirit Surmise™: In Spanish, “casa blanca” means “white house.” Spanish is spoken throughout the Caribbean, cradle of rum. Rum was originally made on sugar plantations, where presumably The Big House was white.

Don’t pause to ponder. Just make this drink: Continue reading “Of all the rum joints in the world….the Casablanca cocktail”

Introducing: A Walk on the Wild (South)side

Wild peppermint puts a badass twist on the gentle classic

My son, an environmental scientist, was doing whatever it is environmental scientists do somewhere in the wilds of mid-state Virginia. He came across a cluster of wild peppermint. This he would know as mentha canadensis.

Because he is a loving son, he brought back a handful for his dad to do something drinky with.

Wild peppermint2
Wild peppermint, aka Mentha canadensis: The badass of the mint family.

So what would I do?

I looked, I turned it around in my hand, admired its handsome scuzz. I washed it. I gave a leaf a good smack and sniffed it. Less mint, more “weed.” I bit an edge. Peppery [duh], firm. Again, weedy.

So what would I do with such a unruly bit of foliage?

Working deviously against type, I decided to desecrate one of the most sophisticated mint drinks I know: The Southside. Continue reading “Introducing: A Walk on the Wild (South)side”

Pimp my Gin & Tonic

So I was in the butcher shop, of all places, and came across a cocktail curiosity completely new to me: Carmencita’s Botanicals for Gin & Tonic.

Essentially the product provides little bits of some of the botanicals often found in gin. You plop them into your Gin & Tonic to add additional flavor and scents and whatnot.

This kit ($6.95) contains pink peppercorns, juniper berries, cardamom pods, and hibiscus flowers.
Cocktail blog Craig Stoltz Carmencita Gin and Tonic Recipe A Measured Spirit

Gimmicky?  Sure! But it’s a pretty nifty way to dress up an often samey standby.

First, the visuals are great — vivid, colorful little things either stirred below the ice or resting on top, or both. As the minutes pass the hibiscus bleeds off some of its crimson hue, creating a floaty red smudge.

Gin & tonic recipe Craig Stoltz A Measured Spirit cocktail blog
The Carmencita: Just add gin and tonic.

Flavors? Less so, but still usefully additive.

The cardamom provides a surprisingly nice nose. [On my second experiment I gently broke the shell of the pods and the effect was enhanced. In time the pink peppercorns add some bite. The juniper? Seems redundant, and I’m not sure you need to turn up that flavor in a gin.

I know what you’re thinking. [I always know what you’re thinking. How do I do it?] Can’t you just buy the spices and and save a lot of money?

Why, yes, I can. And I will.

I’ll thank Carmencita every time.