1/2 oz. dry vermouth
2 oz. of aloe vera lightly sweetened syrup
1/2 oz. cointreau
1 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. aloe vera lightly sweetened syrup
dash of Orange Bitters
Put down the knitting, the book, and the broom. It’s time for a German holiday for the Speakeasy. But in the cabaret city of pilsners and weiss bier, can we, should we order a cocktail? Is there room for cocktail culture in the land of hops? Well, yes and no. Bitte and Nein, danke.
That Germany is well known for its beer is obvious. According to the German Beer Institute there are about 1250 breweries in the country, almost as many as there are in the United States, which may not seem initially impressive except that Germany is about the size of Montana. With so many beers — and of such quality — it may seem nonsensical to even think about a Manhattan in Berlin, but surprisingly there is a strong American cocktail presence in the city. The bad news is that most of it isn’t any good. At least not yet.
Many of Berlin’s countless cafes advertise cocktail specials, but they usually run the spectrum from the Mai Tai to the Long Island Iced Tea to the Sex on the Beach, which is not much of a spectrum at all. Steering clear of cocktail menus written on street corner blackboards, you can find an enjoyable beverage if persistent and patient.
At one Mexican restaurant (it’s harder to find traditional German food than you would think), Santa Maria’s on Oranienstrasse, I found a Margarita with tamarind. The language barrier kept me from finding out just what form the tamarind came in — tamarind seed powder can also be used for glue — but it’s likely that the addition was tamarind ade. It gave the margarita a more earthy taste than a more typical American margarita. I appreciated the chance to try something not completely different but different enough. The great torta and the entertainingly lively street helped the flavor of the drink too. More on the fascinating tamarind here.
At Oscar Wilde’s (I told you it was hard to find a traditional sitdown German restaurant), I ordered an Oscar Wilde cocktail because I had to. It’s about time someone concocted a drink in homage to the great writer. I imagine one sip and epigrams come streaming from the lips to the laughing delight of all dinner companions, something along the lines of “work is the curse of the drinking class.” Unfortunately this Oscar Wilde is also the curse of the drinking class. The drink is made of Irish Mist, Amaretto, and orangensaft (orange juice): the fabulous Mr. Wilde will have to wait just a little longer for worthy recognition. It did, however, appeal to the American teenagers in the group because it did not taste like alcohol.
Speaking of the youthful drinker, Berlin has a variation on the beer cocktail that appeals to the child in the imbiber. Berliner Weisse beer is a wheat beer that is often served with a squirt of syrup to balance out its sourness. Raspberry (himbeersirup) will give the cocktail a purple-pink hue (below) and woodruff (waldmeistersirup) gives the beer a shocking green, medicinal color.
Also on subject of the technicolor cocktail, Absinthe has a profile in Berlin as well. Unfortunately I found this place on a Sunday: it was closed because everything is closed on Sundays in Berlin. For being a cabaret city, a party city, Berlin is unexpectedly conservative on Sundays. I suppose that when your bars and clubs have no closing time, there must be a time established for rest. More on absinthe later; it deserves its own column.
Maybe the misadventure was doomed from the beginning, looking for a cocktail in the garden of bier, but, as always, the fun was in the journey. Besides, who can complain about anything when it is white asparagus season?
One of the few success stories coming out of Haiti lately is the perseverance of Barbancourt Rhum in the face of the country’s devastation. At first glance, the survival of a distillery may not be something to cheer about in contrast to the life and death struggles of millions of Haitians, but then again, Barbancourt, a pure sugar cane rum, has always been a source of pride to Haitians, and as such is a source of comfort for Haiti and those who love her.
Before the earthquake, Haitian expatriates and knowing visitors at the Toussaint Louverture Airport in Port-au-Prince would return to the U.S. loaded down with as much Barbancourt as allowable by law and bicep. Barbancourt’s survival is a symbol of survival for all Haitians.
CNN features a longer article on the distillery’s fortunes since the earthquake; Barbancourt figures it lost about a third of its yearly profit, four million dollars, in damages incurred during the 36-second earthquake. Closed for about four months for reconstruction, the distillery is back open. We salute the return of Barbancourt Rhum, one of the world’s best dark rums, with a rum punch.
I’ve had many a rum punch, some I remember, some I don’t, on the porch of the famous Oloffson Hotel in Port-au-Prince. Following the Twitter patter of proprietor, Richard Morse, I’m happy to report the beautiful old hotel survived the earthquake, its wooden structure standing strong in contrast to the poorly reinforced concrete buildings of its neighborhood.
This is a recipe for the Oloffson Punch, lifted from the Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails of Boston. They claim to be dismantling the patriarchy... one drink at a time. And I for one support that.
2 oz Barbancourt dark rum
1 tsp maraschino liqueur
3 oz orange juice
1 1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
Shake in an iced cocktail shaker. Strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Serve with straws and garnish with twists of orange and lime.
Maraschino liqueur should not be confused with the juice from Maraschino cherries or other cherry liqueurs. Maraschino liqueur (Stock or Luxardo are two available brands) is made from Marasca cherries, pits and all, which gives the liqueur a clear, dry taste. If you cannot find maraschino liqueur — and a warning, it is hard to find — I suggest substituting a cherry liqueur (Heering is one) and eliminating the simple syrup. Cherry liqueur is sweeter than the maraschino liqueur.
Barbancourt not only makes a quality, consistentely medal-winning rum but it also serves as a model of how a business can be possible in the impossible state of Haiti. Before the earthquake, Barbancourt provided benefits for its employees, paid more than minimum wage, and offered scholarships and soccer fields to the town around its sugar fields. Here's hoping the company can extend that kind of community once again.
Mesi, Barbancourt, it’s good to see you back.
You have a year now to plan your vacation to NYC around the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, which wrapped up last night. The multi-day event in celebration of the cocktail is ever-expanding. It's an event not to be missed in 2011!
Article originally published on blogcritics.org
The word on the Kentucky Derby, and indeed on the whole summer racing season, is there are no quality horses this year. The economic downturn has greatly affected the thoroughbred industry with tracks and horse farms being put out to “pasture.” Here in New York State, we are facing the possibility of no Belmont Stakes, the third jewel of the Triple Crown, the Derby being the first. The New York Racing Association has had to ask a loan from the state which is a month overdue on its own budget, so you can see where this is heading.
Another sign that the gift horse has clearly left the barn, our New York City Off-Track Betting Parlours, the country's biggest betting receiver with an estimated gain of one billion dollars annually, filed Chapter 9 bankruptcy. This is beyond understanding - an operation whose business is to collect losing bets and many of them - goes out of business. But I digress. Weren’t we talking about juleps? Weren't we talking about bourbon?!
There's no lack of quality bourbon around despite the economy. And maybe because of it.
It's the first Saturday in May. It's time for the grand Mint Julep.
This recipe is lifted from Bobby Heugel’s Houston Press Cocktail Blog:
The Mint Julep
2 ounces bourbon
1 bar spoon rich simple syrup (two parts sugar, one part water)
8-10 mint leaves
1 large, pressed mint sprig
In the base of a julep cup, or a smaller glass, gently muddle the mint leaves and simple syrup. Pour bourbon over the mint leaves and syrup and mix thoroughly. Fill the cup with crushed ice and stir briefly. Pile more crushed ice onto the cup, forming a dome above the brim of the cup. Take a mint sprig and press it until it becomes aromatic. Garnish the julep with the sprig.
Notice how Mr. Heugel uses a sweeter-than-usual, simple syrup - a syrup he calls a "rich simple" syrup. It is a two-to-one ratio, sugar to water rather than a typical simple syrup: one cup of sugar completely dissolved in one cup of water. In making the julep, he recommends a moderate bourbon meaning a bourbon not too sweet or "wheated, an example of which he cites is Maker's Mark, or too rich or "rye-heavy" like Wild Turkey. He recommends Buffalo Trace, but I am fond of Tuthilltown's Baby Bourbon with the julep. Drinker's choice: the trick is to have a equilibrium between the mint and sugar with the bourbon.
For a cocktail in the same family, but something a little different, mixologist Bobby Gleason came up with a drink that every trainer, jockey, owner, and exercise rider could use - The Good Luck Charm. An appropriate expert for race day, Mr. Gleason is one of the world’s fastest bartenders. Last year, he broke the Guinness World Record for most cocktails made in an hour. But take your time with sipping this by the rail. You don't want to do a Danny DeVito under the influence of the Limoncello.
Gleason's Good Luck Charm
2 oz. Jim Beam White Label.
1 oz. Limoncello
3 oz. fresh lemon sour
5-6 fresh mint leaves
Shake all ingredients with ice until well blended. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass with an optional sugared rim. Garnish with a lemon wheel. Please note that the little pieces of mint that should be floating around in the cocktail are little bursts of flavor that are considered good luck.
In making the fresh lemon sour, another variation on the simple syrup, I looked to Kathy Casey. Her recipe makes two cups of fresh lemon sour. It simply combines one cup of simple syrup with one cup of fresh lemon juice. Place in a large jar with a tight jar. The lemon sour can be refrigerated up to two weeks or even frozen.
Good luck with the ponies. Good luck to the ponies. Without them, there will be no mint juleps on the first Saturday of May.
nce upon a time, the martini was simple—gin with a wave of dry vermouth. Today’s martinis come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and none of them are simple. Indeed, the only resemblance between the classic drink of Nick and Nora Charles and today’s martinis is the glassware.
And, of course, now we have the dessert martini. Credit for this yummy alcoholic sweet? Perhaps after so many green apple martinis in Jolly Rancher colors, the idea of throwing some chocolate into a martini glass caught on—after all, adding chocolate to anything is usually a good idea. Still, dessert cocktails are nothing new, and the dessert martini did have more than one forebear. There was the 1950s White Russian, with its milk-vodka-Kahlua combination, and before that, the 1920s classic, the Brandy Alexander—brandy, dark crème de cacao, and half-and-half. But brandy was then; vodka is now.
Vodka used to be flavorless, odorless, colorless. How times have changed. Today, there are more than 200 vodkas flooding the liquor market to keep pace with the Technicolor world of the modern cocktail, and there is nothing flavorless about them. Chocolate, espresso, caramel, vanilla, coconut…this resembles the dessert cart rather than a well-polished mahogany bar. But who’s complaining? The Olde Stone Mill (2 Scarsdale Rd, Tuckahoe 914-771-7661) has expanded its drink menu to include many dessert drinks; even the venerable Manhattan has raspberry in it.
There are gender expectations for drinks like these—men usually order the Scotch, women the sweet drinks. At Martinis & Chocolates (425 White Plains Rd, Eastchester 914-361-1182), however, bartender Deanna Mancini occasionally makes sweet martinis like the International-tini (vodka, coffee liqueur, Amaretto, Frangelico, and Bailey’s Irish Cream) for the gentlemen. Regardless of gender, it’s dessert first and martini second.