Monday, November 12, 2007

The Tangroni

2 oz. Gin (preferably G-Vine)
1 oz. Aperol
1 oz. tangerine juice

Shake over ice and strain into a large cold martini glass.

I have often thought that the Negroni suffered from a strangely medicinal taste so here I ofter this version. G-Vine is an incredible new grape-based gin offering from France. It has a flowery taste and rolls which lingers on the tongue. It pairs very well with the lighter taste of Aperol. The addition of light and sweet tangerine juice makes this my new favorite drink. Of course, the Tangroni would not suffer from another once of gin. As a matter of fact, pass the bottle, would ya?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A my name is Averna

Hello friends. I do apologize for the hiatus, but life has kept me quite busy as of late. Not too busy to drink, of course, but mayhaps too busy to write about it. I have recently become enamored with 2 Italian liquers: Averna and Aperol.

Averna is a wonderfully complex sicillian bitter (or "amaro" in Italian). The color is as dark as my soul (or at least as dark as the souls of my shoe) but the taste is smooth and well balanced. The bitterness is mellowed out by the sweetness. The fullness of the flavor makes it a great cold weather drink. So far my favorite way to consume Averna (aside from straight) is as follows:

The Rye Humour
2 parts Rye
1 part Averna
pour over ice

Aperol is a light refreshing Italian liquer made by the Compari company. The flavor is bright with strong notes of bitter orange and rhubarb (which may explain the rosey red color). Aperol is delicious in soda (and champagne, I bet). I will have to experiment more to discover my favorite way to drink it. And when I do find it, you better believe I will be posting about it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


How did I go through the first 35 years of my life never having tasted applejack? Well, I don't know that, but I do know this, it is mighty good. "What is applejack", I hear you ask? How kind of you to help my narrative along by asking questions. Applejack is an whiskey made from fermented apple cider and then cold-distilled (or "jacked").

My favorite applejack is made by Laird and Company (pictured above) and it happens to be the oldest native distilled spirit in the United States and is made in New Jersey. Their applejack is a blended whiskey with an apple brandy base and it taste like good whiskey with a lovely apple aroma and taste which lingers on the tongue. I was pleasant surprised that it wasn't sweet. I really look forward to trying their aged apple brandy which doesn't seem to be sold near here. Hmmm.. New Jersey is not far from here, this might be a good time for a road trip! Drink away, friends. Rest assured that I am not far behind you.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Buenos Aires Breeze

Note: This drink requires advance preparation

4 Tablespoons loose leaf Mate tea
1 cup vodka
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
the rind from 1 lemon (be careful not to include the pith)

Directions: Mix vodka with the Mate tea in a clean jar and let sit for no more than 4 hours but no less than 2. In the meanwhile, mix the sugar, water, and lemon peel in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Strain, discarding the lemon peel, and let the syrup cool. Once the Mate mixture has brewed long enough, strain it with a fine strainer and then strain a second time through a coffee filter. Mix the now sediment-free Mate mixture with the sugar syrup. Drink immediately or let mellow overnight. Pour over ice and enjoy.

Thoughts: Mate can be an acquired taste. It is a very strong tea made from yerba mate leaves that you drink from a gourd with a metal spoon called a bombilla. It is available at specialty stores or online. Here are a few places that sell good mate:

I became obsessed with drinking mate after reading Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar which is one of my favorite novels of all time. The characters prepare mate on every other page and by the time I was finished, I had to try some. It can be very bitter but it is quite wonderful. I have been wanting to make a tea liqueur for some time and this came out just as I had hoped. It is a little bitter bit the lemon sugar syrup provides a lovely balance with the intense bitterness of the mate brew. Mate is said to have many health benefits so if anyone asks, you are not drinking a cocktail, but rather a salad.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Scarborough Fair

3 parts cold vodka
1 part Scarborough Fair Syrup (recipe follows)

Scarborough Fair Syrup
2 sprigs of fresh parsely
2 sprigs of fresh sage
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Directions: in a small saucepan, combine the fresh herbs, the sugar, and the water. bring to a full boil, lower the heat, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, strain, and cool. It will keep several weeks in the refrigerator.

Thoughts: My inspiration for this drink came from a joke about the song. I never understood how the phrase "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme" was an answer to the question, "are you going to Scarborough Fair?". It seemed to me the perfect cop-out answer. Are you going to study for your Biology test? Parsely, sage, rosemary, and thyme. When are you going to wash the dishes? Parsely, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Well... you get the idea.

My wife and I went to one of Baltimore's excellent Farmer's Market, and we came away with a huge amount of rosemary. I had thyme growing in my garden and my drink idea fell into place. It was delicious in the vodka, but I bet it would work in other neutral spirits like grappa.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Pink Limey

3 oz Tanqueray Rangpur Gin *
Watermelon Basil Juice
* you can substitute any good quality gin and a 1 tablespoon of lime juice.

Directions: Pour the gin (and lime if substituting) over ice and then fill the glass with the watermelon juice.

Notes: Tanqueray Rangpur is a variety of their delicious gin that has very strong and wonderfully bitter overtones of Indian rangpur lime. It has recieved mixed reviews, but we tend to like bitter flavors so we enjoy it. I am lucky enough to have a wife who is a wonderful food blogger and she made this deliciously sweet watermelon basil juice which paired very well with the strong bitter taste of the gin. Feel free to be generous with the gin; I always am.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Slivovitz - Not just for Purim

For the last 10 years or so, I have been obsessed with slivovitz. Not obsessed in a stalker sort of way, but in a healthy admiration sort of way. Recently I discovered that there was a Slivovitz festival in Minnesota with a satellite festival right here in Maryland… and I missed it! Next year I am thinking that we need a Baltimore Slivovitz festival. Who’s with me?

For those of you who are not familiar, slivovitz is a very strong plum brandy (sliva means plum in Slavic). Most eastern European countries, particularly the Slavic ones, have a version of this strong delightful creation. It is often a favorite of Ashkenazi Jews because, not being made from grains, it is considered kosher for Passover. We ike to drink it on Purim, the Jewish St. Patrick's Day. One of my favorites, pictured here, is Jelineks from the Czech Republic. I highly recommend the gold variety as it is glass-aged to a smooth perfection.

My own relationship with slivovitz began as part of a re-claiming my heritage kick I went on in the mid 90s. As I passed thirty I began to realize that drinking slivovitz and eating bagels and corned-beef sandwiches, was about as Jewish as I was going to be. Having reached this epiphany, I can just relax and enjoy the booze and so, my friends, should you.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mango Cha Cha

3 oz. cachaça (or vodka if cachaça is unavailable)
3 oz. mango juice
juice of half of a lime
club soda

Directions: pour mango juice and cachaça over ice. Squeeze in the the lime juice and pour in the soda.

Thoughts: This is such a summer drink. During the hot months we tend to drink everything with soda: juice, vodka, cheese... okay, maybe not cheese. Everything taste good with bubbles. We found the mango juice at our favorite little Indian store and it was a great pairing with cachaça.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Pearing Down

Friends, countrymen, boozehounds, lend me your ear. I promise to give it back soon. 2 weeks ago I began my Pear and Ginger Liqueur project and today I strained and bottle it. For two weeks I let the following sit in a large sterilized glass jar :

1 liter of vodka
4 pears sliced with the skin and pits, two bosc pears and two red pears
1 2inch piece of Ginger, peeled and sliced
the peel of one lemon

Today, I strained out the solids through a fine sieve. I filtered the liqueur twice more, once through a coffee filter (as seen above) and once through a double layer of coffee filters. The coffee filters should always be wet first so they do not soak up too much of your liqueur. I then added 1 cup of sugar syrup* and then poured the mixture into 750 Ml bottles with caps. They will ages for 2 months more before they will be truly ready to drink. But can I wait that long? Well I will bloody well have to. It shan't taste so good before then. The taste now is quite sweet and cloying but the sugar will mellow over time and it will quite nice (hopefully)

* My sugar syrup is made from equal sugar to water. I usually mix up 2 cups of water and two cup of sugar and heat them to a boil stirring until the sugar dissolves. What I don't use for my liqueur making I will use later in cocktails. It stores nicely in a glass jar in the fridge.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Sangritzakov

2 parts cold vodka
1 part sangrita

Mix in a double shot glass and drink quickly. Repeat ad nauseum.

Note: Sangrita is a delightful sweet and spicy mixer from Mexico that is generally served with tequila. We drink a lot of vodka, so this seemed a logical progression for us. This particular bottle was left at our house by Jon after a debaucherous cocktail party where everyone brought some interesting liquor and we mixed and matched.

While tequila is delightful with anything sweet, I find that vodka's neutral taste brings out the wonderful spiciness of the sangrita.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Liquid Diet

Off Beat a Zane, Friends. I would really love to make my own alcoholic beverages from scratch. Short of being a bootlegger, there are relatively few options:
  1. Wine making - way too labor intensive. It requires hundreds of dollars worth of machinery including a grape press. What ever happened to the old purple feet method?
  2. Beer making - cheaper, but still required an equipment and accoutrement investment. Also my wife is not a big beer fan so I would be stuck with way too much liquid.
  3. Liqueur making - aaaaah! That's the ticket. All it requires is vodka and/or everclear, water, sugar and some fruit or herbs to soak in it.
I have started 3 different liqueurs: Limoncello, Pear Ginger Liqueur, and Grape Liqueur (which I call Grappa-port). The grapes actually came from our backyard. Unfortunately for people like myself who are short on patience, this process takes months. -sigh- I hope they come out. The one that I am most confident of is the Limoncello because it is relatively foolproof. You soak lemon skins in vodka and everclear for 40 days, then strain, add a sugar syrup, and let mellow for 40 more days to develop the taste and to make it more smooth. My only concern is whether or not I got too much pith on the lemon peels when I peeled them which could cause the liqueur to develop a bitter taste. Oh well, only 32 more days until I find out. Rest assured, friends If any of these turn out I will surely be posting the recipes.