Thursday&The sign of four

Oh god how I love a bit of Sherlock. Having read these as a child, but in Swedish, I’m well aware who has done it for the most part but that takes away none of the reading pleasure I tell you. The dialogue between Holmes and Watson is just brilliant, and so are the descriptions and the intrigues. They are not however entirely politically correct but the are a product of their time and as responsible reader factor that in.

The Baker street irregulars was a term I came across in one chapter and it refers to the homeless children that Holmes employs as spies. The term then is in opposition to the regulars i.e. the police force. “Great name for a cocktail” I thought, and at that my imagination got the best of me.

There were actual drinking  whiskey in a few chapters, and an awful lot of talk of creosote, poison simply put, but smells like tar I guess ergo use a smokey whiskey.
Plenty of references to Pondicherry, and you know I love me a pun, so a cherry had to be in there. It’s the season for old-fashioneds so I was gonna make a twist on that anyways, it was just a question of what kind. With someone smoking a hookah at one point, events in India at another and a lovely lady being a part of the plot I turned to rosewater syrup. It is top of mind, always. Last but not least some Reagans No.6 orange bitters.

However this would not be the cocktail that it is without ice cubes in the shape of diamonds. I really must insist. We are talking about a hidden treasure here people, show some respect!

IMG_4839

The Baker street irregulars; makes one cocktail

1 cl rosewater syrup

5 cl Smokey single malt, I used Talker

2 dashes of Reagans No. 6 Orange bitter

for serving;

Ice cubes shaped like diamonds (or other precious stones, some emerald cut cubes would very nice)

Cocktail cherry.

  1. Add Whiskey, syrup and bitters to a tumbler, then add the ice and start stirring.
  2. Stir until well blended and chilled.
  3. Add cherry.
  4. Serve. Enjoy responsibly.

Maybe not the healthiest thing but a lot better than cocaine as used by Holmes. Not as advanced as a plot that Holmes would relish in solving but the kind of thing to keep Watson in a good mood I guess. And we do need to keep the good doctor happy.

-Suss

 

Advertisements

Thursday & Two cherry things

IMG_4056 (1)

Luckily for me, I have friends that give me berries and fruit on occasion. I like to forage for sure but I’m not above a bit of store-bought produce now and again if time is tight. And I’m even happier at being given stuff when I don’t have time to even browse the frozen section at the corner shop.

So I found myself with a couple of punnets of sour cherries. The are called Klarbär in Swedish and Amarelle in Italian (which I think we can agree is a superior name). They are, as the name implies, not as sweet as regular cherries. To be fair, it’s rarely enough sun and warmth for even the regular ones to be as sweet as they can be up here. But these are rather tart even when they are ripe. So what to do?

I did two things. First I tried a thing that I found on Martha Stewart, find the original here, which is basically equal amounts of cherries and bourbon that gets to sit in a jar with an orange zest for a few days and then is used for for an Old-fashioned. Mine has now infused for almost week; very nice and fruity but with warmth from all the spices in the bitters giving it a nice balance once blended into a cocktail. It’s giving me ideas I tell you. And this is such an easy thing to do. Just make sure the berries are in good knick (no mold or damaged berries) and always clean the jar properly. The bourbon of choice, if I’m gonna have it at home, is Bulleit bourbon. I have made scathing comments in the past about bourbon in general as I don’t find it a necessity but it is very nice on occasion. My main bourbon-peeve is people’s tendency to get their knickers in a twist about Maker’s mark which I find to be overly sweet and too expensive (does anyone else have a bourbon-peeve of any kind?).

The other thing was also drink related; I made a syrup/cordial with sour cherries. As I’m making this using something that has a stone it’s easier to boil them in water first and then let that filter through a clean cloth, and then mix the juices with sugar and bring it to the boil. As I plan to use this in the next couple of weeks I didn’t add any citric acid or anything else as a preservative. You can google recipes to get in measurements that you are used to. Basically I will use this instead of grenadine (i.e. pomegranate syrup) in some cases and I’m likely to experiment with using it as a replacement for regular syrup in a few classics. Will make the drink nice and pink, and it really is an interesting twist taste wise.

-Suss

Tuesday & transitional tipples

IMG_3905

We are rapidly approaching autumn. There might still be some lovely warm days but increasingly there will a crispness in the air and a need for a scarf in the morning. With the changing season comes a different mood and, obviously, a different selection of produce in the store. In short; other fruits to use in cocktails and a return to warm drinks. Might I make a few suggestions in regards to that?

  1. Plum and vanilla syrup mixed with almost anything. Those lovely plums from yesterday will be eaten but the syrup remain. It can be mixed with water for a cordial but is also a great base for drinks like with gin,soda and a twig of rosemary (orange zest is optional). The rosemary really plays of the plum well. Very fresh and fruity, and a lovely colour too. Or just mix that syrup with prosecco? Use it as a base for an old-fashioned? “Waste not, want not” I always say. This syrup is versatile stuff.
  2. Hot chocolate. Possibly with a dash of Amaretto. It’s the drink of comfort and doesn’t have to have alcohol in it to tempt me this time of year. I use flavoured sugar when making it for a dash of something spicy. But a spoon or two of a fancy liqueur is not a bad idea.
  3. Irish coffee. Because obviously.
  4. Port negus. As we move towards the season for reading big ol’ Victorian classics this drink of that time is a good companion. Here is how.
  5. G&T:s with elderberry syrup. I made this first time last year and I’m keeping a very close eye on the ripening of elderberries because I want to make it again. Same goes for the elderberry and red wine-syrup that I got from Elspeth Thompsons book.
  6. Warm spicy apple cider. The apples are ripening and there will be compotes, pies and what not. But don’t underestimate the comfort of warm apple cider with sugar and spices. A dash of dark rom can be added if you feel like it.
  7. Anything with blackberries, like a Bramble. A Bramble will taste best in the heat of summer but now is the season for fresh blackberries to use as garnish, so what are you gonna do? Save it for the hottest days is my suggestion. You don’t have to make your own blackberry liqueur (but it’s an idea although that will not be ready in time for this cocktail) but fresh berries as a garnish really is necessary.

-Suss

7 cocktail books to get you started

IMG_3459

I was pretty sure I had already written this list, but maybe I’ve just been thinking about  it a lot. When it comes to cocktails I stand on the shoulders of giants, knowing what has already been mixed has obviously been much of my learning in this. I don’t own or have read all of the cocktail books out there, but I have read many. If we excluded the ones that are written only in Swedish and ignore all of those that are so big they are more of an encyclopedia i.e. not very user friendly, then I’m left with this, admittedly arbitrary, list. You could start out at worse places.

1. Tequila mockingbird by Tim Federle. I’m on record not liking this book much but that is primarily because when I came across it I was already neck deep in mixology and having been a bookworm from an early age I take the whole “literary” very literally. That said I do know people like it and they use it. It’s small and fun and Federle has inspired people to actually mix cocktails so two thumbs up for that.

2. Storied sips by Erica Ducey. This is an easy to use and very stylishly put together overview of cocktails managing to get by a fair few classics and a couple of less expected ,but worthy, forgotten drinks. It gives a bit of cocktail history along with the recipes, that are organized from weak to strong. I like this one a lot and have given away copies as presents.

3. The Savoy cocktail book. This is the bible, the foundation of modern mixology and one of the most classic cocktail books out there. Not all the cocktails in it are suited for the modern palate and some ingredients are no longer available, but you can’t go all that wrong if you in addition to this know how to Google. There are excellent resources online for what to use instead and project The savoy stomp(here) is the best of them. I do admire that sort of undertaking.

4. The PDT cocktail book. The bar PDT (please don’t tell) has probably been one of the bigger players in the cocktail revival. The speak-easy style bar in New York(entrance through a phone booth in a hot dog place) has spawned many replicas and their mixology is on point. They mix classics and modern tipples (tequila is for natural reasons rather absent from the Savoy Cocktail book) and has a few very helpful chapters and charts about what a home bar needs, about seasonal ingredients and snacks.

5. Imbibe by David Wondrich. Not a cocktail book per se but a book about the history of cocktails mostly. It’s a good read however and you can learn a lot by following the evolution of cocktails. Wondrich is the the godfather of modern mixology.

6. Drinks by Tony Conigliaro. If the Savoy cocktail book is the cocktails of yore, The PDT cocktail book all about the here and now, then Conigliaro takes it into the future. Gourmet food that get three stars in Guide Michelin is wasted on me. Deep friend lichen? Come on. Applying the same sort of thinking to cocktails however and I’m intrigued. That Conigliaro loves perfume and uses that as inspiration obviously endears him to me. And lichen-infused gin with a syrup that mimics that taste of stone? Awesome. 69 Colebrook row is not the cosiest or most centrally located bar in London but I always leave with a smile on my face and a head full of ideas. This is as close as you can come at home. What I have also learned is that you don’t need an expensive laboratory to make the ingredients. I managed to make the salted caramel liqueur in my own kitchen. Will share the recipe at some point.

7. Shake,stir,pour by Katie M. Loeb. As I like to make a lot of ingredients myself I think this is a good book, and easing into mixology by way of cooking isn’t a bad idea. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to create a cocktail with a twist, to have made a syrup of seasonal berries or an infused spirit. Instructions are very good in this one even though it does not have the nice design that some of the others do.

-Suss

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