Monday, November 12, 2007

The Bacardi Special

This month's Mixology Monday is being hosted by Jay over at Oh, Gosh! The topic this time around is "gin." Since gin is the no-holds-barred, most mixable spirit out there, I am anxious to see all the posts.

Gin is so mixable in fact, I'm going to look at it in a rum drink! I know what you're thinking. "You'd have to be some kinda Jeffrey Morgenthaler to try something like that, right?" Wrong.

A Bacardi cocktail is basically a Daiquiri that uses Grenadine in place of simple syrup. It also must contain Bacardi rum, but that's whole different story.

Here's the basic recipe for the Bacardi Cocktail.

Bacardi Cocktail

1.5 oz Bacardi Light
juice of half a lime
2 teaspoons grenadine

This is a fine cocktail, and it was all the rage in the thirties but there is a problem. The problem is that the Bacardi Cocktail doesn't have any gin in it, and with Gin being this month's theme, I need to move on. The Bacardi Special is a variation on the Bacardi Cocktail. The special part comes when you add a measure of gin to the standard recipe.

Bacardi Special
1.5 oz Bacardi Light
.75 oz gin
juice of half a lime
2 teaspoons grenadine

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass.

The addition of gin in the Bacardi Special gives the cocktail an added complexity, an exotic flavor that ties the drink together. I've also been experimenting with the new Pama Pomegranate Liqueur from Heaven-Hill. Substituting the Pama for grenadine works really well here. It beats the heck out of the common sickly-sweet grenadines, and rivals a good homemade grenadine.

Bacardi Special (Variation)
1.5 oz Bacardi Light
.75 oz gin
.5 oz Pama Pomegranate Liqueur
juice of half a lime
barspoon simple syrup

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass.

The Pama smells fresh, and has a good tart pomegranate bite. To balance the tartness of the limes and pomegranate, I use a barspoon of simple syrup. This cocktail has a gorgeous pale red color and a crisp, sophisticated flavor. This recipe will serve two if reasonably-sized cocktail glasses are used.

The gin and rum play well together here and I think there's plenty of room for experimenting along these lines. I think gin will mix well with anything. Don't forget to check the wrap-up at Oh, Gosh! for all the Mixology Monday details.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

A tribute to Jerry Thomas

I was looking for some recipes in the DrinkBoy forums when I came across this in a post that was made back in January of 2002:

"There's so much useful stuff here in this forum, at your site, Robert, and at Martin's site, on 19th-century ingredients, techniques, lore, etc, that one could put it all together and start systematically exploring all the old families of drinks--scaffas, flips, cobblers, daisies, sangarees, fixes, crustas, etc. etc. I've made a few here and there, but as we know every kind of drink has its secrets."

That was over five years ago, and the post was made by excellent drink-writer David Wondrich.
When no one grabbed this idea and ran with it, as it usually happens with these types of things, it was left to Dave. It was his idea after all.

Today, it looks like more than five years of research and writing has paid off.

Wondrich's new book Imbibe! is an excellent guide to classic cocktails as well as an homage to the the first celebrity bartender, Jerry Thomas. The book includes over 100 classic recipes from Jerry Thomas and his contemporaries. Before now, a problem with the oldest cocktail recipes has been one of interpretation. Different recipes used different measures and different terminology. Through exhaustive research, Wondrich has decoded and interpreted these classic recipes for the modern mixologist. All the recipes also include fascinating contextual information that explains their place in history and their cultural significance.

Another interesting aspect of this book is a chapter called "Channeling the Professor - New Drinks From Sixteen of the Top Mixologists of Our Time." This chapter features, you guessed it, a collection of original recipes by some of the best mixologists and bartenders of today. The only rule was that the recipe be inspired by Jerry Thomas or his drinks. The diversity and creativity in these recipes is inspiring.

This book is a must have for mixologists, bartenders, cocktail enthusiasts and history buffs. This book is good in so many ways. It's a great, fun read on it's own, the cocktail recipes are good, and even more interesting for the historical context provided.

I'll include a drink here just to whet your appetite. I started with the original "Brandy, Gin, Santa Cruz, or Whiskey Fix" recipe.

(Use small bar glass)
1 table-spoonful sugar
1/4 lemon
1/2 a wine-glass of water
1 wine-glass of spirits
Fill a tumbler two-thirds full of shaved ice. Stir with a spoon and dress the top with fruit in season.

And interpreted it thusly:

Barbados Fix

1 TSP sugar
juice from 1/4 lemon
1 TBSP water
1 oz Mount Gay Eclipse Rum
1 oz Mount Gay Extra Old Rum
Build over crushed ice and garnish with fresh berries and a small sprig of mint.

The simplicity of this classic recipe really shows off the complex flavors of the Mount Gay rums. The information in Dave Wondrich's book helped me pull it together perfectly.

Go out and get this book today. It's a classic. See if you local bookseller has this book or get them to order it for you. Amazon also has some deals going where you can get this book along with Eric Felten's new book How's your Drink? (more on that one later) for a special price.

Imbibe! From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar.
By David Wondrich.
Published by Perigee Trade
ISBN-13: 978-0399532870

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Weekend Getaway

Recently my wife and I celebrated our anniversary by taking a break in Monterey. For people in the San Francisco Bay Area, Monterey makes a great weekend escape.

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Monterey. This hotel is undergoing a $45 million renovation. The hotel exterior maintains it's classic, rustic charm, but the guest rooms are being renovated to the highest standards. My wife and I were very impressed, and although we were looking forward to a dinner out, we were tempted to stay in the room just to enjoy the well-designed space.

One of the first tasks at hand was to get down to the Fireside Lounge and try out the cocktails. The Hyatt Regency Monterey has a "Get Fresh" bar program running that involves a specialty cocktail list including gourmet fruit purees and local fresh fruit. Some of the cocktails even get the fresh juice added right at the table side. Great idea.

I tried the Tanqueray Ten Raspberry Ricky. Made with gin, raspberry puree, fresh-squeezed lime juice, fresh raspberries and a splash of lemon-lime soda. It was very good, and well-balanced. The easy way out here would have been to design this drink around vodka, but I was glad to see the creativity that went into building this around the flavors of the Tanqueray Ten.

Jane tried a sparkling fresh strawberry lemonade, that was also made with fresh fruit. She enjoyed it and judged it "very refreshing."

After enjoying the Fireside lounge, and the live jazz trio, we were off to TusCA Ristorante for dinner. My photos don't do justice to the elegant and comfortable surroundings we experienced. The concept of TusCa seems to be Tuscan style food, using the abundant local California ingredients.

The menu offers plenty of choice, and the prices are very fair. Jane had a delicious Sea Bass with Artichoke and Fingerling Potatoes that looked very welcoming and tasted great.

I put my trust in the chef and went for the Chef's Special Risotto. It included salmon, yellow peppers, mushrooms and a combination of mozzarella and Romano. Green beans and artichokes rounded out the plate. The risotto was delicious, hearty and rich. It was a perfect match with the Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige.

We finished our meal with some Gelato from Santa Cruz' own Gelatomania. Very good. The meal and the service were both excellent.

If you need to take a break, take an easy weekend to Monterey. It's only about an hour's drive from the south bay, or about 2 hours from just about anywhere in the San Francisco bay area, and you'll feel a million miles away. There's also plenty to do in the Monterey area, even if you may not want to leave the hotel.

You can get more info on the Hyatt Regency Monterey at their website.