Sunday, February 24, 2013

In Defense of Vodka

In general vodka is ignored or ridiculed by craft cocktail lovers. With brands bragging about how many times it's been distilled, creating flavors like cake, Swedish Fish, and Froot Loops, and purposefully having no taste it's easy to see why. However, it can be used in craft cocktails to good effect. Such cocktail authorities as Beachbum Berry and Ted Haigh have published recipes with no spirit other than vodka in them.

The important thing to remember with alcohol is that it is a solvent and thus causes some flavors to be heightened and better expressed. The obvious and most common use is in infusions, where any and every thing can be soaked in vodka to infuse that vodka with unusual flavors. But, you can do that same thing within the drink itself. Say you have yourself some locally made, cane sugar sweetened, spicy ginger beer  now you could make yourself a Dark n' Stormy but as we all know that's illegal if you happen to be out of Gosling's. But if the liquor fairy dropped off a nice, crisp vodka, (Platinum 7x in this case,) well then you have the makings of a Moscow Mule. The effect of drinking the ginger beer with vodka highlights some of the flavors from the ginger beer that are either not noticed if drinking it straight or lost if drinking with rum. Likewise if you have a nice vermouth some of the subtler flavors could be lost with a strong gin in a Martini. Perhaps the most important time for vodka in a drink is brunch. There are flavonoids in tomatoes that are only soluble in alcohol (which is why my spaghetti sauce recipe finishes with a shot of vodka,) so the vodka plus tomato juice mix for a Bloody Mary releases flavors that aren't there otherwise. This is why I will always have some vodka in my bar.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

MxMo Invert

It's MxMo time again. And this week the theme is Inverted Drinks. While the prospect of renting out the Vomit Comet to take pictures of upside down drinks did have some appeal, it turns out that the idea is turn the recipes upside down somehow. In the announcement post over at Putney Farm Stewart threw out the challenge of making a clear Manhattan adding "good luck with that." Well that was enough of a challenge for me. And with that I immediately sprang into action, first mixing a clear Manhattan, (left,) and then a clear Sazerac (right) just for the added degree of difficulty. My secret weapon, Wigle Whiskey's white rye, the 95% rye in this case. Now on to the recipes:
Clear Manhattan
2 oz Wigle White Rye
1 oz Dry Vermouth
2 dashes Barrel Aged Bitters
Stir over ice, strain into a chilled glass.

A few notes on this one: first my somewhat unconventional recipe comes straight off the glass that I mix it in. I was given a "vintage" portable bar set for Christmas a couple years back and the glass has drink recipes on it.  The Manhattan Recipe calls for that 2:1 whiskey to vermouth ratio, and that's what I've always used. Also key in maintaining it as a clear drink is to make it a Dry Manhattan, rather than a more traditional sweet version. To further invert this drink one can use aged bitters with an unaged whiskey.

Clear Sazearc
1.5 oz Wigle White Rye
.5 oz simple syrup
3d Bittermen's Burlesque bitters

Rinse a chilled old fashioned glass with a small amount of Herbsaint, (Pernod, or Absinthe,) in another glass stir the rye, simple and bitters. Discard the excess Herbsaint, (I usually read this as drink it straight,) and pour in the chilled whiskey/simple/bitters into the glass. While the traditional recipe calls for Peychaud's bitters, I really love the Bittermen's bitters in this drink.

(Bonus points to anyone who clicked on the photo for a bigger view and noticed that the globe has North at the bottom.)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

It's Traditional

The first thing that Wes Shonk did when he learned he was going to be behind the stick at 1947 Tavern was start learning. He hadn't been anything more than a bar back prior to then, so he threw himself into learning the classics, both how to make them and why they are the way they are. He also devoted himself to learning all that he could about bourbon, the tavern's signature spirit. This devotion to the classics and bourbon led him to Camp Runamok where he learned even more.