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)

Monday, February 17, 2014

MxMo 82: Sours

This MxMo Ginhound invited us to examine sours. Sours are one of the most easily adaptable classes of drinks, to go from a daiquiri to a margarita to a whiskey sour to any number of other drinks requires only a little bit of tinkering. And this month, it seems like everyone is examining their fresh copies of Potions of the Caribbean as I've seen no less than 4 people talking about the Queens Park Super Cocktail. With that in mind I decided that I didn't want to just talk about existing cocktails, though I did want to work through the La Florida daiquiris. Instead I decided that I needed to create something new.

With that in mind I set out to finish reading my own copy of Potions, while setting the depths of my little brain to work on putting together something. Simultaneously, I also have way too much grenadine in the house and need to use (more on that later). So I started thinking about how to use the grenadine in a sour. I decided that I would follow the lead of such luminaries as Trader Vic, and start with an established cocktail. What I ended up with is the Eden Sour.

Eden Sour
1 oz Dark Jamaican rum
1 oz amber Martinique
3/4 oz grenadine
1/2 oz lime
1/2 oz demerara syrup
1/4 oz orgeat

Does the recipe look like a Mai Tai to you? That's the basis for this drink, I toned down the lime and orgeat and added grenadine. The grenadine adds a certain tartness to the drink that is different than the lime juice. It's not too sour, and the grenadine also adds a floral note. While this isn't a Trader Vic original it does appear, to me at least, like something he would have tried at some point.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ice to Meet You

I was asked to write a review of a new product recently.  I was asked to take a look at Arctic Chill Ice Ball makers. I decided that I would review them, and while I was at it  I would do some experimenting with Ice in general while I was at it.

Arctic Chills Ice Ball Makers

First off, let's talk about the Ice Ball Makers. they are blue silicon and come in a pack of four.  The MSRP is a thrifty $19.95. They are a rather simple design, from the outside looking like one of those stress balls. The bottom is flat which keeps them from rolling all over your freezer. They are filled through a hole in the top. this already is a plus in my book. I have some of the Tovolo Ice Ball molds too, and they are a pain to fill. To fill the Arctic Chills I simply stick them under the faucet and chuck them in the freezer. They are also easy to remove from the mold, because the mold is silicone it stays soft in the freezer and they pop right out. My Tovolos require running them under water to get them to release from the mold. So far they are easier to fill and unmold, is there a downside? Yes, but it is minor. The hole in the top tends to leave a nub on the top of the ice ball, so it isn't a perfectly round ball. Also, I have noticed that all four of my molds popped open a little bit along the hemisphere, leaving a ridge around the middle of the finished balls. Both of these could be easily remedied by pouring a little bit of water out before placing them in the freezer. Overall, I like these ice balls makers, they are easier to use than my Tovolos and a better deal. They are available here.

Before: At the beginning of the experiment
Now, I also wanted to take a look at the different strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of ice. I decided to do a head to head comparison test with some actual data collected as well. Here are the research parameters: I took 6 pint glasses, (mainly because these are the only 6 glasses I have that are all the same). Each glass had 4 oz of colored water, more on why it was colored in a bit, to which there were 5 different kinds of ice. The water came from the filtered water dispenser in my fridge so it was already chilled. The first glass was left iceless to serve as a control. The second glass had 4 oz of crushed ice, the third 4 oz of cube ice. Both the crushed and cubed came from the ice maker in my fridge. Next to that was a single large ice cube at 1 inch square. The fifth glass had an ice ball fresh out of the Arctic Chill maker. The last glass had 4 whiskey stones, small cubes of soapstone that are supposed to chill your drink without diluting it.

After: 1 hour later.
I used colored water to be able to compare the rate of dilution, the ice wasn't colored so the water would be become paler as the ice melted. I measured the temperature of the drink in each glass at the start, and then after 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 minutes. I also decided to stop the testing when the drink hit 60 deg F. There were some interesting results, I won't post the whole chart here, but it is available if you are curious. With the exception of the control and the stones, each drink hit it's lowest temperature through the first ten minutes. As expected the crushed ice was the coldest at first, but after 40 minutes all but the largest pieces were completely melted. The ice cubes were comparable to the crushed ice in temperature and lasted longer with slightly less dilution. The big ice cube and the ice ball were comparable in temperature through most of the test, with the ice ball being slightly colder. After 30 minutes, however the ice cube was noticeably smaller and the drink was correspondingly diluted. The Ice ball was still about 80% of original size after an hour. The Whiskey Stones were virtually useless. They started off only 4 degrees colder than the iceless control and after 20 minutes was only a degree or two lower than the control through the rest of the test. Maybe they work better with a pre-chilled drink. To summarize the findings: if you wanted the drink to chill quickly crushed ice is the way to go, likewise if you want the ice to dilute quickly (i.e. many Tiki drinks) crushed ice is the answer. If you want a drink that is chilled with some dilution, but over a longer period, the ice ball is the proper choice.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Por Cuba Libre!

Ok folks, hold on for the ride for this post, mainly because I don't really know where I'm going with it and I definitely don't know how it ends.

This month's Mixology Monday is all about highballs. (Given the polar vortex earlier in the month, I'm sure that lots of us had high balls, but that's probably different.) Since a highball is a pretty basic drink, generally just spirit plus fizzy stuff, I didn't bother trying to come up with a new recipe, but rather take a look at Cuba and one of their more famous drinks, the Cuba Libre.

Rum and coke is probably one of the first and most common drinks for teens and college students, there's no mixing required, the coke brings plenty of flavor to the party, and it works with just about any quality and style of rum. However, that doesn't mean that it's not good. I still drink these on occasion and every time that I do it reminds me of my trip to Cuba.

In late December 2000, as part of a college class, we flew to Havana out of Toronto and spent 2 weeks taking classes in the morning and touring the country the rest of the day. I wish now that I was old enough to truly experience it properly,though from a cocktail nerd perspective it certainly seems like I checked all the boxes. I toured a cigar factory, visited a rum distillery, went to the Hotel Americano, drank a Daiquiri at El Floridita, and had a Mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio. Despite all of that the drink that I most associate with Cuba is still the Cuba Libre.

Whether it's because they used Havana Club rum, Mexican Coke, or local limes; they were some of the best Cuba Libres I've ever had. I suspect that the most likely reason is the proportions. In Cuba, the Havana Club was cheap, my bottle of silver was $3, but the Coke imported from Mexico was expensive, ($5 a liter).  So when mixing the drink it was a whole lot of Cuba, and just a little bit of Libre. I remember specifically the drinks that we had at the resort at the Bay of Pigs, (yes that Bay of Pigs) the Cuba Libre was mostly rum with just enough Coke to color them.

If you insist on a recipe try this:
Bahia de Cochinas Cuba Libre
4 oz Havana Club silver
1 oz Mexican Coke
1 lime wedge.

Stir with mixing straw in a disposable plastic cup and serve to German tourists and stupid college kids.
Thanks to Joel over at Southern Ash for hosting this month.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Drinking

The Holidays have rolled around again, and whether that holiday is Christmas, Festivus, Saturnalia, or all of the above that means getting together with family. And for pretty much everyone (at least that reads this) that necessitates drinking. As to whether you drink with your family or drink because of your family that's up to you, we don't judge here. Of course the classics for holiday drinking will pretty much always work, and if you turn down eggnog, wassail, mulled wine, or possibly just shots I will judge you in a lesser light.
That doesn't mean that there isn't room for new drinks, and with that in mind I set out to create a cocktail for a gathering of local food and booze impresarios. I wanted to make a drink that just screamed Christmas, obviously pimento dram had to be included, gin for the piney influence and finally cranberry juice for the flavor and the color.

Saturnalia Sling
1.5 oz Gin
1.5 oz Cranberry Juice
.5 oz Pimento Dram

Once again I must be off... On Tender, On Acacia, On Harvard and Highland, Butcher and Rye!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Rum in the Strip

It's no surprise that I am a rum guy, whether that rum is in a Tiki drink, a classic cocktail, or even straight; I always enjoy rum. Which is why I am so happy that Pittsburgh has a new distillery in the strip that makes rum. Tim Russell made the news locally, nationally, and even internationally after his label approval was delayed by the government shutdown. After being brought up in Congress as part of the efforts to refund the government Maggie's Farm Rum received label approval and is ready to be sold. The first batches will be appearing behind local bars first but Tim hopes to have the rum available for sales to the public at the distillery by Black Friday.

I've also had a chance to sample this rum, and it's a very nice white rum. There aren't many white rums that i would sip straight but this might be one of them. It's made from turbinado sugar and distilled to a lower proof leaving it a lot of body and a little residual sweetness. I haven't had a chance to mix with it yet, but it should do very nicely with recipes where a white rum really shines, such as a daiquiri.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pittsburgh Cocktail Week

This September 16-22 marked the first annual Pittsburgh Cocktail Week. The week's events were geared towards the industry professionals during the day and to the general drinking public at night. As one of the co-founders of the week I somehow managed to make it to almost every event. I'll give you a brief visual rundown of the week. As always, click the pics to see them larger.
Jeff Catalina provided a seminar on Agave spirits, providing a rundown of the spirits beyond tequila and mezcal. 
Later, Verde bartenders taught customers how to make their own margarita. They provided the ingredients and instruction on how to mix the perfect margarita. 
Tuesday, Giuseppe from Bar Marco showed us all how to cut ice, and in a remarkably brave turn of events he passed off the chainsaw to let participants try it. 
Wednesday was Wigle Wednesday, and Eric taught a class on the aging process. Which included a chance to taste each of the aged whiskeys Wigle has produced to date. 
Thursday we took a group out to Glenshaw to tour local Vodka producer Boyd and Blair. 
We invited Johnny Foster from Smooth Ambler Whiskey up to talk about the difference between a craft distiller and a craft blender. 
The Butterjoint and Will Groves hosted a sold out class on shrubs and preserving for cocktails. Each participant came home with the makings of a pineapple-ground cherry shrub. 
On Sunday night during our wrap party we announced the winner of the week long cocktail contest. Erika Jiggerfingers Joyner won the event for Salt of the Earth. She was presented with a certificate and a prize pack by Andrea from Steelite and Chip from Rhomania.

There are many more photos from Cocktail week over at my 500px site.