Sunday, March 29, 2015

Independent Science

Adam Henry isn't your normal Pittsburgh bartender. For one thing he's only behind the stick about once a month these days. For another he's actually a practicing lawyer. But when he is manning the bar at The Independent Brewing Co. it's guaranteed to be something special. Whether that's a Hunter S Thompson theme night or Tiki X Molecular drinks you know he's bringing science and skill. He's also maybe the only bartender in Pittsburgh making a vermouth fog or Campari Cotton Candy. Because his time behind the bar is limited, pay attention to the Independent's cocktail menus and watch to see when he is working, though you are sure to get a quality cocktail no matter who is there, it just might not be smoking.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Winter Blues

'Tis time for another Mixology Monday (and also time to abbreviate 'it is') and the theme this month is "blue." Naturally, being a tiki guy this meant it was time to break out the blue curacao. But that was only the beginning.

Of course for my drink I turned to the old standby for blue drinks, blue curacao, but that's probably the most mundane of the ingredients in this drink. 

Winter Blues
1 oz Guanbana syrup
1.5 oz Silver Rhum Agricole
1 oz Pineapple Rum
.5 oz Blue Curacao
.5 oz Orgeat
Shake with crushed ice. 

There is a lot there that I need to explain in that recipe. Let's start off with the guanabana syrup. Guanabana is known by many names: guanabana, soursop, cherimoya, custard apple or good old Annona Muricata. It is a tropical fruit prevalent throughout the Caribbean, Africa, southeast Asia and the Pacific and the taste is... unique. As the soursop name indicates it is an acidic tasting fruit, so it's being used here in place of the usual citrus component. It has also been described as having a taste like a cross between a strawberry and a pineapple. Most important for me was that when you don't look closely the bag of frozen pulp looks like it says guava. That's how I came to have frozen guanabana pulp in my life. I decided to treat it like I would passionfruit pulp that I wsa making into syrup and defrost it, mix it with equal parts simple syrup, and then strain it to make it nice and smooth. Tasting a sample I picked up on the pineapple tastes and I decided that my drink needed to have pineapple in it. This gave me an excuse to use the pineapple rum that I made over the summer.

Not being provided with a bottle of Stiggin's Fancy by Plantation Rums, like some people were, I took some fresh pineapple that I had laying around (like I said, tiki guy) and decided to infuse a bottle of gold rum. 

The guanabana also has a certain... 'funk' to it that I felt would best match up with an agricole rhum as opposed to, say, a drier white rum. I tasted the pairing so far and felt that it needed something to help round it out just a little bit, thus the orgeat. Though I feel like coconut cream would have also been a good choice. 

Thanks to Ginhound for hosting this month, we'll see you in February. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

MxMo: Shims

I'll admit it, it's been a while since I've added to the ol' blog. I could give the standard bevy of excuses, family, work, Cocktail Week, but that's only part of the story. It's not that it doesn't interest me or anything, but I'ver really been much more interested in getting deeper involved with the local stuff and building my own knowledge. So I started up a Booze University group where we went through and read 9 cocktail books and talked about them like a college level reading course. I plan on doing it again in the Spring focusing on booze history. But you aren't here for me to talk about myself, you're here for the drinks.
I am once again participating in this month's Mixology Monday.

This month's MxMo, brought to us by, is all about shims. These low alcohol cocktails are the session drinks of the spirits world. Now, I'm a tiki guy by trade, and those aren't exactly known for their subtlety. Someone recently asked if I new of any lower alcohol tiki drinks, the best I could come up with only had 1.5 oz of rum. I was perusing Remixed for the 705th time and came across a drink called Omar's Delight and I was almost instantly inspired. I have two bottles of ruby port sitting around leftover from cocktail week that I didn't know what to do with. I saw that Omar's Delight was in reference to Omar Khayyam, the Persian scholar most famous in the West for his poem the Rubiyat. Thus was born the Ruby Yacht:
Ruby Yacht:
2 oz Ruby port
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
1/2 oz Peach Brandy
1/4 simple syrup
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist a lemon peel over the top. 
The lemon, peach, and orange reflect the flavor profile in Omar's Delight. As for how it tastes? i only had a brief taste of the drink before I lost it to my wife. She pronounced it to be quite nice and kept it for herself. So I went and made a Saturn for myself, it was a light tiki drink, only having 1.5 oz of gin. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Spodee Summer

The Liqour Fairy recently dropped off some Spodee White for a review. After surviving the Rum B Que, the Fifth of Ju-Luau, and various other commtiments, a nice little drink that I don't need to mix was particluarly appealing. For those that haven't heard of it before, Spodee is a wine fortified with white whiskey as "depression era hooch". The white version has added pineapple, coconut, and other flavors, like amaretto. Basically this makes it a cocktail in a bottle, and having sipped some over ice, it works well for that, sort of a premade tropical drink. 
For me though, a fortified wine with tropical flavors and spices? Sounds like a tiki vermouth. I first tried it in a cross between a martini and an el Presidente.
1.5 oz gold rum
1.5 oz Spodee White
2 dashes orange bitters. 
As expected the Spodee plays well with the rum and the bitters keep it balanced. The extra flavors from the Spodee White livens things up and gives it a tropical feel.

I stepped things up a bit for the second cocktail and looked to the past again. I decided to riff off of the Queen's Park Hotel Super Cocktail:
1.5 oz gold rum
1 oz Spodee White
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz Grendine
4 dashes Angostura Bitters
What I particularly love about the Spodee White in this cocktail, and the one above, is that you get tiki-like flavors without a 12 ingredient recipe list and it will still fit in a coupe.

I like the Spodee, and while it's fine by itself, I really like it in cocktails.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Gypsy Bartender

Giuseppe Capolupo has a name straight out of the 19th century. Instead of being an immigrant bartender who learned his trade in Florence before coming to Pittsburgh in 1898, Giuseppe took the route of first being an internationally touring drummer before starting as a bar back at Bar Marco. He learned his trade there and worked his way up to heading up the program in the strip. He's so dedicated to the life that Bar Marco has let him achieve that he has their logo tattooed on his arm. Stop in and tell him what you like and let him mix you up something.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Frankly My Dear

Chris Matrozza mans the bar at Franktuary and is one of curators of their collection of cocktails both classic and original. Their classic list offers three options for each cocktail. A house version, a classic version, and most importantly a local version with all the spirits coming from Boyd and Blair, Wigle, and Maggie's Farm. Hit them up for some of the best hot dogs in the city and enjoy your locally made cocktails.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


An interesting thing happens when you start hosting events. The amounts of ingredients suddenly goes up. When we at Pittsburgh Cocktail Week planned and hosted the grand opening event at Maggie's Farm Rum I found myself making enough simple syrup and grenadine to outfit a brand new bar to make drinks for 4 hours for 30 people. (Note, this is much more of either than I make for home use.) The downside afterwards was having about 20 oz of fresh grenadine to hopefully use before it goes bad. Thus began my quest for grenadine heavy drinks, and there aren't a ton of them out there. 

Before we get to the drinks though, let's talk about the grenadine itself. Like many other boozenerds it started out with Pom Wonderful. In this case, 32oz to be exact. I decided to try and use Morgenthaler's recipe over here. I measured out an equal amount of sugar, (by weight not volume,) stirred that in to the pomegranate and then heated it in the microwave to speed things up. I didn't boil the syrup just heated it, this is important as Morgenthaler points out, boiling the syrup gives you brown grenadine. Now here is where i differ slightly from the illustrious Mr. Morgenthaler. He calls for pomegranate molasses and orange flower water. I didn't have any pomegranate molasses and lacked time to track any down. I did add orange flower water but also rose flower water. 1/4 teaspoon of each to entire batch. The flower waters really added a noticeable floral quality to the finished product, without either being overwhelming. Since then I've been trying to use grenadine in bulk with things like Cesar's Rum Punch (pg 120 Beachbum Berry Remixed) which uses a full ounce to offset the lime juice and Rhum Barbancourt. My wife has been particularly enjoying it as I end up with a lot of pink drinks which she finds "pretty". I'm still working on other recipes that call for grenadine, and I'm striking out from just drinks. You wouldn't think that grenadine goes with Kung Pao chicken, but you would be wrong. (I take no responsibility should you actually add grenadine to Kung Pao chicken)