7 classic cocktails to know.

When I say “7 classic cocktails to know” what I’m getting at is proportions and techniques. Once you have those baseline parameters everything is just an extension or an adjustment of that. If you take a White lady and replace the lemon juice with limejuice and the gin with tequila, you have a Margarita. If you know how to make a Mojito you can figure out a Mint Julep, or replace the one of the ingredients like say the mint with basil for a twist on a classic. The last is obviously arbitrary, we could discuss which one’s to included for days, but these are well-known cocktails that most people like and knowing how to make them is an investment that pays off, even though it might make you a very picky customer if you go to a bar.

IMG_1688

  1. Negroni. I love a Negroni, I really do. Campari is a complex ingredients as it is so keeping it simple was probably the best idea all along. Supposedly the idea came from Count Camillo Negroni who wanted to make a twist on what we now know as an Americano(Campari and red(sweet) vermouth) by adding gin, all in equal proportions. A third of each is a good idea for many cocktails And I often exchange the sweet vermouth for dry, or use sloe gin insert of of regular. Change the gin for whiskey and you have a Boulevardier if I remember correctly. I don’t know is swapping gin for tequila has a name but it should because it’s delicious. I have blogged more about this here.
  2. Martinez. Many people are familiar with Martinis but not all like them. Somewhere in the evolution there was a thing called a Martinez and I would like to bring that to your attention. With a base of gin it has both dry and sweet vermouth as well as some Maraschino( a cherry liqueur) and a few dashes of oranges bitters. More aromatic, and a bit sweeter, than a Martini it is the best of many worlds. That said I like it best with gin,dry vermouth only and the Maraschino and bitters. What I have also learned in my cocktails explorations is that 4 cl of gin, 2 cl of dry vermouth, a barspoon of whatever sweet and some bitters is a great start for a cocktail. Like this one.
  3. Old fashioned. I spoke about the deceptive simplicity and the usefulness of this cocktail not so long ago. It’s strong but is also such a treat to get. Mad Men has made it very popular gain and I for one am very glad about that. Now if only people stopped getting their knickers in a twist about Maker’s mark which comes in a cool bottle but really is overly sweet. Get a bourbon with some complexity people!! Instructions etc. here.
  4. Mojito. I could make a bit of a face and mumble “10 out of 10 basic bitches would choose” but Mojitos done right? A fresh good thing. What I mind when getting these are when they are stingy with the mint. And nowadays I only make Rosa Cubanas for myself because I’m always gonna be the oddball who likes the taste of roses in my glass. I do think you should join me in that, here is how.
  5. French 75. Another great template to play around with. The base is gin and then there is sugar,lemon juice and topped with champagne. If you swap the champagne for soda water you have a Tom Collins.I’ve fiddled around with this cocktail to make my own La Colombe (here). It’s great with light rum,limejuice,sugar and champagne too.
  6. The White lady. To mix a bas spirit with citrus juice and Cointreau is a winning concept. A White lady does is with gin and lemon juice, A margarita uses tequila and limejuice and a Sidecar contains cognac and lemon juice; the first and the last is usually shook with an egg white in the mix.  Many people adhere to the notion of equal proportions with all of these but let me tell you those people are either deluded or lazy(or both) The best way is to use them in 4 cl of base spirit, 3 cl of juice and 2 cl of Cointreau. And then, as I’m always myself sadly, I go and swap some of the Cointreau for either homemade orange liqueur or bergamot syrup. Hopelessly trying to achieve the perfect balance. It really is a wonderful concept to work with, like here.
  7. Kir Royal. The basic concept of something sweet in the bottom of the flute topped with sparkling wine rarely fails. Kir Royal is with Créme de cassis and champagne but many have enjoyed a Bellini which is peach purée(at Harry’s bar in Venice where the Bellini was invented they only use white peaches) and that brunch time staple the Mimosa is in that vein. I love to use elderflower cordial, strawberry purée or sloe gin to mix with. Either of those three are wonderful with sparkling wine, so you can adjust to the season.

-Suss

Weekend & What I’ve done with elderflower

The elderflower season is short but sweet. On these few days in June when the trees blossom their scent spreads with the wind, and the freshness after a rain is augmented by that distinct smell released by the droplets hitting the flower heads. The allusiveness is probably part of the allure. It’s a scent and taste so connected with a certain time of year; the end of the school year and the midsummer celebrations, in short; the beginning of summer.

The other day I made the by now annual collecting of elderflower; as always with foraging make sure you know what you are picking, that it’s allowed and do so away from roads with heavy traffic. Then it’s off to the kitchen!

I do not rinse them as some do, I just give them a proper shake to make sure no bugs make it into cordials etc. So far this year I’ve made vinegar, cordial and liqueur.

Vinegar

This is a recipe I got from the oft mentioned Frances Bissell. It’s very simple; add flower heads to white vinegar. Bissell recommends using 2-3 flower heads for a small bottle of white wine vinegar( which I’ve interpreted as the 37.5 cl ones). She thinks that the flowers should be replaced after a week but I have never done that because of time and availability. I find that infusing the vinegar for two weeks give a good result and supermarket vinegar is just fine. I usually make a few small bottles as it’s the kind of thing I don’t use loads but love giving away to culinary mined friends. I use it mostly when making sallad dressing or mayonnaise that’s gonna be served with seafood. Elderflower and salmon go very well together.

Cordials

I’m not gonna give you an exact recipe as the internet is full of them. It’s well worth making as mixed with water or mineral water it’s a wonderful thirst quencher to say nothing of the possibilities as far as cocktails are concerned. I will say this; play around with the choice of citrus fruit. I’ve used lemons and limes which is quite traditional but also grapefruit peels and those of oranges. I’ve used bergamot syrup instead of sugar with great results. There is room for improvising as far as that is concerned.

Liqueur

I use vodka as the base. The thing is to pour a a couple of centiliters (like 4 cl) from the bottle, then add all the elderflower and just a bit of simple syrup* (like 5 cl) as it helps the flavor develops. Then use the poured vodka to seal the whole thing. Elderflower that are in contact with air will oxidize and turn brown, giving the whole thing a bi-taste and less then savory colour. Then it should sit on the window sill for a week, a two three more weeks in the back of the cupboard. Not until it’s done do I really mix it with syrup to the desired level of sweetness. The flowers will turn a little brown and give the vodka a slightly yellow colour but usually that just looks nice. Makes it artisanal looking or something. Cordial is also a shade of yellow and no one minds that?

I don’t know if the seal is visible but there is one. Since it’s there feel free to open the bottle up and smell it during the time it infuses. Depending on how much elderflower you add it will take different amounts of time. I make a strong one, I can always dilute it with plain vodka in the end.

*I refer here to simple syrup made with caster sugar and water. It’s easier to use then pouring caster sugar into the bottle as I don’t have to shake or turn the bottle during the time it infuses to make sure everything blends.

Hopefully this can be of some help to someone.

-Suss

Bashō&Bourbon

IMG_2398

I’ve been reading Bashō again. This time it’s been a slim volume called On love and Barley.

Having been introduced to his work by a Penguin little black classic called Lips too chilled last year I found much I recognized in this, indeed the small volume draws from this. However I did also get a good introduction which taken together with that in A narrow road to the deep North and other travels sketches has taught me more about the man behind the haikus.

Born in 1644 Bashō bridges the gap, or indeed seems to be the conduit, between a time of stagnation for Japanese poetry and the Tokugawa-era which saw the blooming of culture.

His love of nature (his pen name comes from a tree), a lifelong curiosity and adherence to Zen buddism imbues his lines with an awe of nature but also act to point our eyes to what is important. He doesn’t have to spell it all out but rather makes the reader notice his or her surroundings. Haiku was an established form of verse but it was outdated and Bashō reinvigorated it by making the most of the rules and on occasion breaking them. Haiku with it’s limited space still allows for much experimentation. In the end he was a traditionalist and respectful of the limitations but I interpret it as he sometimes found that the art had precedence over convention, and thus mixed it up so to speak.

Speaking of mixing it up (I’m stretching it when I compare haikus to Old-fashioneds but bear with); The Old-fashioned has through the reinvigorated cocktail scene in general, and the TV-series Mad men in particular, again become very popular. Like haiku it’s defined by very simple rules but it’s  hard to make an outstanding one for that very reason.

The list of ingredients is short and to the point; bourbon,sugar cube, bitters and and orange zest. Possibly a cocktail cherry; I rather like them but the trend is to skip the fruit. I don’t know why. Then there is the difficult part; the mixing of said things.

I’ve heard more than one bartender say that they judge other bartenders on how they make them, it’s a test. And there is a difference I can tell you. That said, if making them at home-lower your expectations. But it’s also a good opportunity to break the rules.

One of my most tried examples of blasphemy is using single-malt whiskey instead of bourbon. Most bourbons are too bland and sweet for me and when making bar cabinet priorities the single-malt is of the utmost importance, I use it for all manner of cocktails.

I got the idea to use it also for Old fashioned from none other then Tony Conigliario, or to be precise, a visit to 69 Colebrook row which is one of the best bars in the world according to me. Having one was an epiphany. If guests want more of a standard version I use a blended whiskey (which also is of higher importance than bourbon in my book, and easier to find a good version of to be honest). Then I’m lazy and use a syrup instead of a sugar cube which means the stirring is is kept at a minimum, and is a good opportunity to add another dimension. Last but not least; there are other bitters than Angostura. In short; by playing around with the elements there is a good opportunity to make something that is familiar and yet original.

Baseline Old fashioned; yields one drink

0.5-1 cl of syrup

5 cl bourbon, blended whiskey or single-malt

2 dashes of bitters

for serving; tumbler full of ice

orange zest (or grapefruit or lemon; whatever works from the citrus family)

  1. Pour the sugar syrup into a stirring glass full of ice and begin to stir.
  2. Add half of the spirit and continue to stir.
  3. Add the rest of it and the bitters and stir some more.
  4. Strain into at the tumbler of ice and garnish with the citrus of your choice.

With this as the format there is no reason why you shouldn’t make a drink with mezcal, elderflower syrup and Scrappy’s black lemon bitters. It’s a variation on this theme that I haven’t tried but I probably should. As always; enjoy responsibly.

-Suss

Booze & Botany

Things are  growing on the balcony, not as much as I would like but at least my mint and my basil has become big enough to actually use. Feels like a miracle considering the cold and rainy weather we’ve been having of late.  In addition I brought some freshly cut herbs from the cottage; some to freeze and a handful to make what I often refer to as “garden syrup”.

IMG_2285

The recipe originally came from The Drunken botanist by Amy Stewart. It’s a wonderful book that contains competent gardening advice, some very good cocktail recipes and loads of fun anecdotes about herbs, spices and other cocktail ingredients; their history and other uses, that sort of thing (which I very much like). Stewart knows her stuff, I’ve learned plenty from this although mostly about gardening and that sort of annoying little tidbits of information that I insist of telling everyone at the most inappropriate time.

As I make this, it is a handful of herbs that’s added when making a syrup giving you a fresh and flavorful sweetener to your cocktails. Most herbs are good but I basically go with a combination of mint,basil and a little thyme. Makes for a good partner with gin, blanco tequila and if adding some fruit or berries* too, light rum. But you can experiment and find your own cool mix that works with what you want to make. I often add a bit to a G&T (I’m basic) or some kind of sour (not only basic but also a lazy mixologist in summer). Terrific added to a bit of prosecco. Also a very handy thing for non-alcoholic drinks, mixed with soda and some citrus juice.

It’s easy to make, and easy to use. I’ve poured this stuff on fruitsaladf (to be fair I’ve poured most kinds of syrups over fruit and it usually works. Ginger syrup is especially good, as is green jasmin tea syrup. Very sophisticated that last one if I might say so myself but not necessarily for everyone (pour it over lychees I tell you)).

Garden syrup; last about 2-3 weeks in the fridge. Best made in many small batches.

2,5 dl of water

2,5 dl of caster sugar

a handful of herbs (about 1,5 dl loosely packed).

  1. On medium heat add the sugar to the water and stir gently until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add the herbs and let simmer for about 7-10 minutes.
  3. Sieve it and then let cool before transferring to a bottle. Keep in the fridge.

*strawberries, blackberries or melon are particularly good. Makes sure to muddle those with the syrup so the flavours properly blend.

Also check out;

The drunken botanist 

-Suss

Lilacs&Libations

IMG_2167

Lilacs is one of those scents that I really love, and it is so linked to the early days of summer. I have smelled many perfumes with lilac (it feels like) but only En passant from Frederic Malle has made a good impression on me, as so many of the others are missing the freshness that the smell should evoke, to me at least. Others may have a different view on them.

That constantly referred to source of floral wisdom Frances Bissell has a mere paragraph in her book about cooking with lilacs; basically she hasn’t managed to capture it properly in food or drink but advises that using the blossoms as decoration is always a good idea.

I have tried many times to make cocktails with lilacs, and still haven’t succeeded. Just the other day I made a blueberry-& lilac syrup according to instructions I had been given, and prepared drinks with it. Nice but no lilac-flavour to speak of.

Putting lilac flowers in a cocktail however means that you burrow your nose in them when you take a sip and that does lift the experience and it really is the best option. Very nice to do in a Martini  just make sure you are using lilacs that have not been sprayed with pesticides or have grown near roads. Be cautious about what you let in to your body. Alcohol is a toxin I agree, but lead is so much worse and the effects do not wear off.

The elusiveness of some scents and why they are impossible to capture made me bring Essence & Alchemy by Mandy Aftel down from the shelf looking for answers. This book has meant a lot to me in terms of understanding perfume, and as an extension of that, how I think about cocktails. It is a book in that explains it to someone how knows nothing in an entertaining and understandable way but is still a relevant source of information for the more advanced, in short it is a reference point. Aftel was one of the people that put handmade perfumes back on the map.

And the line between perfumery and mixology is thinner and thinner, the trend to put ambergris in cocktails was just the beginning. Add to that what Tony Conigliaro has been doing for a long time, the Ritz-Carlton in Berlin etc. When I started talking about perfumes and drinks a few years ago I got a few skeptical looks (and I would write so much about this) but the point is that I wasn’t alone in my thinking. I’ve had no influence in this trend whatsoever, it’s more like sometimes when bartenders tell me about the stuff they made I nod my head and think “made that in my kitchen three years ago” because I caught on very early. As I was already interested in perfume and cooking it wasn’t a big step to extend to cocktails, probably shorter then for most.

Aftel has since she wrote this brought not only her perfumes to a wider audience but also her wonderful food essences to the world. Those essences, of which I have sampled a few, are a wonder to work with. Expensive, especially with shipping and taxes, but to be able to make cocktails that taste of fir needles and ceder wood was amazing. She does not have a lilac essence but I hope someone will make that happen.

And now that I have opened “the perfume and cocktail-box” again you’ll never hear the end of it.

Things related to this post;

Aftelier

Which perfume-cocktail are you? There is now a quiz for this FFS!

Ambergris in cocktail

-Suss

Voltaire in love

NB; This cocktail came about when I was reading more than one book about Voltaire, so this is a translated and edited post of what was on my old cocktail.-blog.

I saw rhubarb in the store the other day, and my heart skipped a beat. It’s one of those things that is so connected to the start of summer and those tender stalks are a joy to make into jams, crumbles and , obviously cocktails. The other year I was reading two books about Voltaire, I like to dig into to a topic if I can, and came across a passage in one of them that triggered my imagination.

That book, translated from French to Swedish, is apparently not available in English so I shan’t give you the whole quote or attempt to translate it myself. It was about some of the culinary habits of  Voltaire and his long-time life partner (but never his wife) Emelie du Châtelet.  Voltaire is a name that is familiar to many to this day, she has been somewhat forgotten despite being a scientist and a successful one at that. She was married to someone else, but the husband seemed to understand her setting up house with another man. And Voltaire wasn’t faithful to her for which she forgave him. It was all very dramatic I assume, but times were different then. The relationship for a good story however, of which both Nancy Mitford and David Bodanis has written.

The latter was the one with the section about drinking coffee, eating rhubarb and snorting quinine. I know, I jolted awake by just reading about the last thing. Voltaire, you old scoundrel! But malaria was a genuine problem back then. I claim that it’s still rampant where I live and insist on tonic, Dubonnet and home-made quinine syrup on occasion. Tonic is the British solution to getting soldiers to ingest quinine, the French invented Dubonnet for the same purpose. Dubonnet, rhubarb and coffee were then some of the things I wanted to included in the cocktail and I added gin as the base as a reference to Voltaire’s exile in good old Blighty.

Rhubarb-syrup; yields ca 5 dl (which will be used up in a flash I tell you)

1 liter of rhubarb stalks sliced, ca 0,5 cm thick, and try to use tender stalks so the the pink/red skin does not need to be peeled off.

2,5 dl water

2,5 dl caster sugar

  1. Slowly bring the ingredients to the boil in a heavy-based saucepan on medium heat.
  2. When it boils, gently give it a stir and lower the heat.
  3. Let it simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally but don’t break the fruit.
  4. When the rhubarb is tender, take it off the heat and pour it all through a fine sieve.
  5. Let the syrup cool of a bit before transferring it into a bottle.

The syrup is also a nice thirst quencher with soda and some lime slices. The left over rhubarb is a tasty compote that I suggest you eat with ice cream immediately.

IMG_3748

 

 Voltaire in love; yields one cocktail

4 cl gin ( I’ve used Beefeater 24 or Gilbey’s for this)

2 cl rhubarb syrup

1 barspoon Dubonnet

3 dashes of Bitters; I used chocolate&coffee bitters but you can use Angostura.

For serving;

cocktail glass

Orange zest

  1. Stir the ingredients with plenty of ice in a stirring glass until properly chilled.
  2. Pour into the glass, twist the orange zest over it and then add the zest to the drink.
  3. Enjoy responsibly.

This has a mix of nice flavours; the freshness of the gin, the sweetness from the rhubarb syrup and a hint of spice and bite from the Dubonnet.

The name came from the Mitford book as it had a nicer ring to it but if I’m to say anything about the literary qualities of the books in question I will say that Mitford is the better storyteller but Bodanis wrote a more interesting book. Feminism would have happened in between the publishing of the two and du Châtelet comes of a lot better in Bodanis book. He  goes into detail about her work as a scientist thereby painting a fuller picture. She was not just a clever woman, she was clever and happened to be a woman so wasn’t always taken seriously as a scientist because of her sex.

Yeah, that sad old refrain. I propose a toast to the end of the patriarchy; hopefully we’ll soon live in a world where women can be smart, smart and beautiful or just smart and not have to be judged on their looks as well but will be so on merit alone. Here is to hoping!

-Suss

 

La Colombe

Speaking of rosewater syrup have I told you about the time I won a cocktail competition? They are rarely open to amateurs but as it was hosted by a bar and they allowed submissions from anyone, I sent them a recepie and won. My drink was featured on the menu for a week or so.

I still think it’s a nice tipple, and very suitable for this time of year. The inspiration was the classic Paloma with tequila and pink grapefruit juice but made like a French 75, and I added a bit of that rosewater syrup that I had become, and still am, so fond of. “Paloma” means dove in Spanish, “colombe” is the french word for the same bird. So there was a bit of wordplay involved in naming it. Make sure all ingredients are chilled before making it.

La colombe; yields one drink

2 cl of rosewater syrup

3 cl smokey tequila

3 cl pink grapefruit juice

6 cl champagne

for serving;

A reasonable glass, I prefer flutes but I totally get the allure of serving this in a tumbler.

  1. Pour syrup,tequila and juice in the glass and give it a stir so they blend.
  2. Top up with champagne.
  3. Enjoy responsibly.

You can use prosecco, and dilute it more with the sparkly stuff on a warm day but there should be distinct flavours, and these are wonderful together.

Things mentioned in this post;

Rosewater syrup

-Suss