Introducing National Kumquat Cocktail Fortnight

It’s time to give the humbly obscure kumquat its mixological due

The alcohol-industrial complex has concocted a bewildering number of horatory days, weeks, and months. There’s National Martini Day [June 19], National Bourbon Heritage Month [September],  and National Liqueur Day [October 16]. Inevitably, this gets weird. In an act of collaborative mercy, Harvey Wallbanger Day and National Shot Day both happen on November 8. Because there is no god, there is now a National Rhubarb Vodka Day. And so on.

Which provides me all the justification I need to take the following action:

I hereby declare, with the authority invested in me by absolutely nobody whatsoever, National Kumquat Cocktail Fortnight™. Hereafter it shall be observed annually from February 25 through March 11 (March 10 on leap years).

Kumquat Smash cocktail Craig Stoltz cocktail blog A Measured Spirit
Smash of the Titans: Reason enough to justify a National Kumquat Cocktail Fortnight(c). 

Kumquat season, you say?

Kumquats — small ovals of citrus the size of an olive, sweet of skin and sour of belly, believed to be native of China — have a limited season, from January through March. This makes a fixed celebration during this period actually defensible. [I’m not sure the creators of National Rhubarb Vodka Day can make the same claim.]

This compressed availability issue may explain why, against all reason, the kumquat has failed to become a stable behind craft cocktail bars everywhere. It should.

Kumquats are pretty little things, easy to muddle, and fairly versatile for an exotic.

The miniature orange orbs are sharp and punchy, a frisky variation on – and easy collaborator with – the more familiar citrus flavors we know too well.

They have a funny name that invites a lowbrow leer.

You can probably find them from January through March at Whole Foods and similar high-fallutin’ food barns.

Like the very best people I know, kumquats are sweet, tart, and just slightly bitter.

They are also the only citrus fruit whose skin you can eat. Which is to say: In drinks, kumquats function as an edible citrus garnish.     Continue reading “Introducing National Kumquat Cocktail Fortnight”

Mixology of the mouth: The Sidecar

A sugared rim adds elegance, texture, and forward sweetness to the classic Sidecar — which is why you need to mess with the recipe.

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Demerara sugar adds a certain “whole grain crunch” to the classic Sidecar.

Regular readers of this blog — both of them — may note that controlling sweetness is a sort of crusade of mine. A perfectly balanced drink rides that delicate edge where tart and sweet and booze all contribute equally, none getting too much attention.

Which brings me to the Sidecar, a pre- [or during-] Prohibition [-ish] drink that in most contemporary renditions is mixed 2:1:1 — 1.5 oz cognac, .75 oz lemon juice, .75 oz Cointreau.

Harry Braddock’s [him again] 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book has it at .5/.25/.25 [more evidence of the giantism that’s gallumphed into cocktaildom over the past few drinking generations.]

The Sidecar is a wonderful, and yes, perfectly balanced, drink —  solid, simple, satisfying, the color of parchment. Classic, as they say.

Just add sugar…to the rim

Somewhere along the way — let’s call it 1934 just for sport — the drink picked up a sugared rim. The great Dale DeGroff, in his 2008 The Essential Cocktail, recommends the 2:1:1 ratio along with the sugar rim, explaining that the flourish is an adaptation of Jerry Thomas’ [him again] Brandy Crusta [page 52 of his Bartender’s Guide, for those following along via knockoff reprint].

And so with the contemporary Sidecar we have a classically balanced drink — with an added garnish that tips it, for me, into an unwholesome sweetness.

And so it’s tinker time again. Continue reading “Mixology of the mouth: The Sidecar”