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 Rum was originally made on sugar plantations, where presumably The Big House was white.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.

 

The Gin Daisy Chronicles, Part 2 (bad but inexplicably popular version)

The most-referenced Gin Daisy recipe on Google is horrific. Here’s how that happened

As regular readers of A Measured Spirit know, I have launched a campaign to explore that great if slightly obscure American classic, the Gin Daisy. It’s not one drink, but several drinks, some with little in common beyond the name.

Its origins are gauzy, its first recipe apparently lost. This has provided mixmasters almost 150 years of opportunity to improvise, riff, and commit various acts of mischief.

So, for our second installment in this series, I decided to check out the most popular recipe I could find.

Google, make me a Gin Daisy

For this I turned to Brother Google — the world’s always-on vast repository of knowledge, first refuge of rookie drinkmakers, and our most ubiquitous source of misinformation.

When Google presents search results, the order is based on a complex secret algorithm. But its most important component is the number of other sites that link to a particular page. The thinking: If a lot of other people think something is valuable, it’s valuable.

And so I Google “gin daisy recipe.”

Gin Daisy A Measured Spirit

Chowhound? WTF?  Continue reading “The Gin Daisy Chronicles, Part 2 (bad but inexplicably popular version)”

Notes on tasting notes: Green Hat Navy gin vs….. Bols Genever????

Why my brain connects a beverage dating from the Napoleonic wars with a thunderously flavorful contempory-style gin

Not long ago I was at D.C.’s New Columbia Distilleries, a young and ambitious gin mill, makers of the ascendant artisanal brand Green Hat gin.

Let me rush to admit I love the stuff — it’s an unapologetic powerhouse in the contemporary style, rich with botanicals, citrus, and florals.

Yet it’s very well-crafted. A distillation that in other hands might have become an idiot flavor riot lands in the glass as an intriguing, complex elixir.

With Fever Tree it makes a magnificent gin & tonic, and it diverts an Aviation delightfully from its flight plan.

Green Hat Navy Strength Craig Stoltz A Measured Spirit
Green Hat Navy Strength: So much flavor, it’s nearly a bottled cocktail.

An explosion in the glass

At my most recent visit I tasted a newer product, Green Hat Navy Strength gin.

There’s a wonderful story, possibly true, about British sailors fearing that the ship’s officers would water down the day’s ration of gin. When alcohol reaches 114 proof, it is said, will explode gunpowder. And so the sailors would attempt to ignite the gin. If it exploded it was cheers all around, and mutiny was put off for another day.

Speaking of exploding, that’s pretty much what happens when you drink Green Hat Navy Strength, which is indeed bottled at 114 proof. It’s got all the flavor complexity of the flagship product, plus more, plus — let’s be plain — a giant wave of ethyl at the snout.

But mellowed on a fat ice cube it opens wide, and you taste all kinds of spices and citrus, something sweet. Plus, I think, some pepper. Anise, maybe.

Bol’d over

But as I was sipping I picked up something totally unexpected: The distinct malty, sweetish undertones of genever, the Dutch proto-gin made by Bols.

This is not a bad thing, but a surprise nonetheless. Genever is to gin what Neanderthal is to homo sapiens — a bit wobbly as a first go, but full of promise and destined to develop into greater things.

Continue reading “Notes on tasting notes: Green Hat Navy gin vs….. Bols Genever????”

Happy Hour Quickie #1: Negroni

This week’s fast, easy, and effective recipe. Hey, you’ve got only an hour.

Negroni_served_in_Vancouver_BC
The Negroni: A classic that’s easy to provision, fun to modify, and hard to screw up. Courtesy wikimedia.

This was my gateway cocktail, a classic. Equal parts of three ubiquitous ingredients, so it’s easy to gather the booze and assemble fast, with zero risk of screwing up.

  • .75 oz gin
    • Any London dry is fine
  • .75 oz Campari
    • One of the bitterest of the at-any-county-liquor-store aperitifs
  • .75 oz sweet vermouth
    • aka Italian or red vermouth

Fast build: Add all ingredients over ice in Old Fashioned glass. Stir gently. Orange peel garnish. Lemon will work in a pinch.

You can also stir the ingredients in a mixing glass and strain over fresh ice. I find there’s virtually no difference in outcome.

If this makes me a vulgarian, I accept the title.

Quickie happy tweaks

Note: Each of the following at least slightly unsettles a classically balanced drink, but provides a different profile.

  • Use a flavor-rich American small-batch gin. My favorite of this type, D.C.’s Green Hat, can stand up to the other two ingredients.
    • Some people make this with Hendrick’s gin. For me, its subtle, eccentric [cucumber!], soft notes are completely wasted here. But Hendricks’ own “Unusual Negroni” recipe splits the Campari with Aperol [see below]. I haven’t tried this. Who knows?
  • Try Carpano Antica vermouth. Dark, herbal, a bit dense. Adds big body to the drink. Expensive, sadly.
    • Feeling frisky? Go way off script and do equal parts gin and Punt e Mes, a dark, bitter, brown vermouth that acts as both the sweet and the bitter in one swoop. Some try 3 equal parts and replace the sweet vermouth with Punt e Mes. But that slides the drink toward a bitterness I can’t abide.  Add a bit of regular sweet vermouth as needed.
  • Campari too bitter for you? Swap in Aperol, a sweeter apertif, with less of that woolen tongue thing you get with a potent bitter.
    • Aperol edges the drink’s color from ruby toward orange.
    • Aperol also has lower alcohol by volume [11%], yielding an in-the-glass ABV of around 30.
  • Dial down the buzz even more: Cut the gin, top with soda. This devolves the drink into an “Americano.”
    • Frisky fact: The Americano was the first drink ordered by Bond, James Bond in Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, Casino Royale.
  • A more elegant look: Stir and serve up, in a coupe.

Impress your happy hour friends with these fun facts

The widely circulated story is that the Italian Count Negroni ordered the first one in Florence in 1919. A boozehound, he asked for gin to be added to his Americano. The rest is history.

Or myth. Most cocktail Creation Stories carry a strong whiff of bullshit at the nose. For what it’s worth, here is a rollicking takedown of the story, from a culinary perspective, by Food Republic.

Freaky fact-ish thing: Whether he invented the Negroni or not, the good Count developed a preference for strong liquor when he was an American rodeo clown. That is what at the Washington Post we used to call a story “too good to check.”