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.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Benefits of Aging

Let me set you at ease, this post has nothing to do with my own impending fatherhood or indeed about me growing older. I am still going to celebrate my 25th birthday next July, (for the ninth year in a row). Instead this post is about small barrel aging at home. Going back to my last 25th birthday in 2012 one of my presents was a 1 liter oak barrel for at home aging. I started almost right way in aging rum. I selected a pretty innocuous rum, DonQ Cristal, with the intent of aging it for almost a year with the idea being of turning it into a roughly 12 year old rum. Alas, I underestimated just how greedy the angels are, particularly in a small barrel, so when I opened it up at 9 months I had less than a 750ml bottle left. It was also over-oaked, it tasted far too much like licking the barrel. Not to say that it doesn't work in certain tiki applications. What I haven't already drunk is visible on the far left in the photo.

Next I noticed that the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had Neisson Agricole Blanc on clearance, so I went and picked up two 1 liter bottles. This was an easy decision to add the liter bottle of rum to the liter oak barrel. This time I was more judicious and removed it from the barrel after 6 weeks. This had a most interesting effect as now there is a distinct banana flavor in the nose and it is deliciously smooth. You can see the unaged Neisson on the left of the barrel and the now golden Rhum on the right of the barrel.

Once again though the barrel was empty. Time to try something else. It was also at around this time that the El Presidente really came back onto my radar. This Manhattan-like rum drink makes a delightful after dinner drink and as a bonus I can make it without having to squeeze a lime. I pulled up Jeffrey Morgenthaler's recipe and went with it. I used a bottle of Bacardi 8 that I had sitting around and Noilly Prat dry vermouth. It sat in the barrel for about a month and I just drained it into the bottle seen on the right. The oakiness is noticeable, but not overwhelming. The convenience is amazing though, I can have a really nice cocktail by doing nothing more than pouring 3 ounces over some ice to chill it and then strain it into a serving glass. This will be most useful during my impending fatherhood.

Once again though the barrel is empty and I need to find something else to put in it. I'm leaning towards another rum cocktail or a batch of bitters. Feel free to add suggestions below.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

MxMo Fire

It's time for Mixology Monday once again and this time we're en fuego. The theme for this month is fire, thought up and hosted by the Muse of Doom herself.

There is a story involved with my drink this month, more so than normal. In addition to boozy subjects I also have been known to photograph sailboats of various sizes. It is for that reason that I found myself getting up at 6 AM to drive to Cleveland on a Saturday in July. I had secured myself a place on a yacht for the Leukemia Cup races (you can see those photos here). However I am an efficient man with a nose for rum. Rumors of a Cleveland distillery making rum on the shores of Lake Erie had reached me and I wanted to look into it for myself. I found Portside Distillery and looked through their porfolio of spirits. Rums like Maple Vanilla and Hop infused rums served to inspire my creative drink juices, but I also wanted to be sure that the drinks had a definite Cleveland theme to them as well. 

One of the Portside Rums is a spiced rum, and I have been playing around with spiced rums a bit myself by substituting it for gin in classic drinks. My thinking there is that the basic idea behind spiced rum and gin is reasonably similar. With that in mind I came up with a Cuyahoga Fizz inspired by the Cuyahoga River that runs through Cleveland into Lake Erie. 

Cuyahoga Fizz
1.5 oz spiced rum
1 oz lime juice
1 egg white
.5 oz demerara syrup
1 oz cream
2 oz soda
Combine all ingredients save the soda in a shaker with ice and shake until you can't feel your hand anymore. strain into a tall glass and then top with soda water. The claim to fame of the Cuyahoga river is that it has a tendency to catch on fire. Yes, the river has caught on fire no less than 13 times. With that history of inflammation it hardly seems right to leave the top of the drink a pristine white meringue. instead sprinkle on a little brown sugar and 2 dashes of Angostura bitters, then get out your torch and brule that sucker. Not only does the brown sugar caramelize and form a crispy crust (like on a creme brule) but the generous application of heat to the bitters brings out a fruity quality that I had never noticed before. 

Hey! Still reading? Good. There's a reason why the old blog has been a little slow this year. I've been part of the committee putting together Pittsburgh Cocktail Week (and on Facebook). If you are available to to check it out it looks to be a good time.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

MxMo 74: Cherries!

  Time again for another Mixology Monday. This time the theme is cherries and hosted by Andrea of Gin Hound. While this could be an interesting opportunity to break out a shrub or a cherry infusion, I've been much more interested in classic cocktail both 'normal' and Tiki. So as I've been reading up and researching classic drinks I kept bumping up against a single ingredient that I didn't have. It was getting annoying. So I finally went out and picked up that ingredient. That mystery ingredient: Maraschino Liqueur.  Since most of the people who will read this post already know and love this liqueur it can be easy to forget that it's not that widely known among the commoners. This was well illustrated for me when the cashier at the store, actually asked me what it was and what you do with it. I just smiled and said that it's used in a lot of classic cocktails and left it at that. 

Anyway, I have been playing around with finally having a bottle of Luxardo and mixing drinks like Papa Dobles and Aviations because I could all the while chiding myself for not getting it earlier. So when the cherry theme came around this month I knew what I wanted to use for this month. A quick trip through Beachbum Berry's Grogalizer showed me a nice selection of tiki drinks that also used the lovely maraschino liqueur. I chose the Gold Cup recipe from Remixed. 

3/4 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz maraschino
1.5 oz gold Jamaican
teaspoon Pernod
3 drops almond extract

The ice shell for the glass was surprisingly easy to make with a little help from Dr Bamboo's advice on ice cones. I froze my blender to make sure that it was nice and cold so that when I made some snow the ice didn't immediately melt leaving only water and large chunks. This is an amazing drink with a depth that defies the simplicity of the recipe. 

It's definitely been useful studying up on the classics to see how just the right mix gets you an amazing drink. Look for more coming forward as part of a project that I'm slowly trying to put together. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Like Butter

Will Groves had a decision to make. He could continue to be the General Manager for  successful Pittsburgh restaurant and worry about things like being short on hours for the week; or he could be a bar manager and have to figure out what to do with large amounts of locally grown strawberries fresh from the farm. So now when you go to the Butterjoint and you have the strawberry infused tequila, be glad that Will chose wisely.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Craft Beer Week 2013

Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week has rolled through once again. Like last year there were a ton of possible events, too many to make it to all of them. I managed to make it out to a few events myself.  As always click on the pics to see them embiggened.

Like last year there were collaboration brews from the local breweries working together. I went out to Penn Brewery for their Collaboration Celebration to try and sample all of the brews.

Unfortunately I underestimated the attendance and overestimated the volume of the beers and by the time I showed up 3 out of 5 were tapped out.

One of the unique events was a chocolate and beer pairing. That by itself isn't that unusual, however the chocolates, made by Sinful Sweets actually featured Brooklyn Brewery beers as ingredients.
Tapping into my geek nature a little bit more I trekked out to Rivertowne Brewing to meet up with Pittsburgh's own superhero, Steelman. Thanks to the collaboration of Rivertowne and New Dimension Comics Steelman not only has his own comic book but his own beer, a smoked stout.

Of course East End Brewing once again announced that their Pedal Pale Ale was available by holding their Keg ride event. (As a side note, this may be the best group to ask for energy bar/beer pairing recommendations.)

This year the destination was Schenley Park, taking over the circle and partnering with the Porch. 

Once again the costumes were creative and plentiful as hundreds of bikers showed up to accompany the first  kegs of spring. 

This year they even had a portable soundtrack courtesy of DJ Zombo and Green Gears Pedicabs.

Once again if you couldn't find an event that caught your interest during Craft Beer Week you had to have been willfully ignoring it. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tends to Be

Most native Pittsburghers still have trouble with the idea of people moving to Pittsburgh intentionally. Fredrick Arnold is a perfect example of why Pittsburgh is becoming a cocktail destination though. After working in New York City Fredrick moved with his girlfriend to Kansas City where he managed the R Bar, one of Esquire's top bars in America. Deciding that neither New York nor Kansas City was right for them the pair decided to pick a new place to live. They Flew to New York and drove back to Kansas City stopping along the way and scoping out cities along the way. After just 6 hours they knew Pittsburgh was the place. Through a bit of serendipity on Craigslist, Fredrick found Tender just as they were hiring and developing their drinks menu. With that, another 'tender was found for Tender.

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.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

MxMo: Fortified Wines

It's Mixology Monday time again, unfortunately I've had to skip the last couple of them but we are back with 
a new drink. This month's theme is fortified wines.  My entry this month is the Puerto Anticado.  Lately I've been playing around with mixing up variations on the old fashioned. I've been using my Christmas presents to play with different bitters, different spirits and different sweeteners.This has been everything from using rum, rye, or even some aged Wigle Whiskey.  I've really enjoyed that so long as you stick to a pretty straight forward recipe and use quality ingredients you are reasonably assured of coming up with a satisfying after dinner drink. I was trying out using some resposado tequila, Maestro Dobel Diamond to be precise, with some of the jalapeno syrup from the B'ak'tun, and Bittermen's Xocolatl Mole bitters. Just as I was finishing up, my ship's decanter full of tawny port caught my eye. On a whim I decided to add some of that to the drink. It turned out a lovely color and the flavors melded well with some very nice depth to it. For once my luck worked out in such a way that it was the next day that the MxMo theme for the month was announced and my drink fit nicely. 

Puerto Anticado
1.5 oz Resposado Tequila (Maestro Dobel Diamond)
1 oz tawny port
.5 oz jalapeno syrup 
4d mole bitters (Bittermen's)

stir with ice strain into a rocks glass with service ice. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lovecraft Cocktails

As you can see above I was part of the Horror in Clay Kickstarter campaign to get a Cthulhu Tiki Mug. (You can get yours here.) In the photo above we have my Santa Cthulhu off of my Christmas Tree in my Cthulhu tiki mug, he's so cute and yet so evil. This kickstarter/mug was right in my wheelhouse H. P. Lovecraft has been one of my favorite authors for quite some time now, and my love of tiki drinks is well documented. Inspired by the Lovecraft/tiki crossover I set out to develop a series of Lovecraft themed drinks for my forthcoming mug. The first was the Cocktail of Cthulhu, (already posted here.) The others are Pickman's Punch and Haunter of the Dark and Stormy.

Pickman's Punch
2 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
1 oz Grenadine
1 oz Silver Rum
1 oz Gold Rum
.5 oz Lemon Hart 151
.75 oz Orgeat 
.75 Passion Fruit Syrup
blend with 6 oz ice

Haunter of the Dark and Stormy
2 oz Dark Jamaican Rum
1 oz orange juice
.5 oz key lime juice
1 teaspoon grenadine
roll with ice
top with ~6 oz ginger beer.

These are hardly the only Lovecraft inspired cocktails out there. For instance Kaiser Penguin has the Cthulhu Punch recipe.  If you have some other cocktails recipes from the eldritch blackness or cyclopean halls please feel free to share in the comments.