from the Mead

The Irish Kiss

My friend the Mead shares a lot of things with me: Joel Stickley’s excellence, delight in the Inky Fool, all manner of Scottish and Irish music, the occasional road trip, and more often than not, new drink recipes worth trying.  Sometimes they call for ingredients beyond my pantry’s ken, but on occasion I have the necessary on hand.

Last month, she sent this:

Irish Kiss

2 ½ oz Jameson Irish Whiskey
1 oz lemon simple syrup
Dash of bitters
Combine in a shaker with ice.  Shake well and serve up.

Fairly simple-looking, is it not?  Indeed.  But wait.

Here’s how to make the lemon simple syrup:
Zest 2 lemons (using a microplane) into a small sauce pan.  Juice the lemons into a measuring cup.  Remove the seeds.  Note the amount of juice and add it to the pan.  Add the same amount of sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Stir and then allow to cool.

The syrup alone sent LR and me into raptures, never mind mixing it with whiskey or using it to top ice cream (which, it turns out, is a stellar plan, especially if one dashes some grapefruit bitters here and there).  The syrup is like a homemade sherbet lemon without fake coloring, or like a lemon meringue pie with no effort.  It is lemon custard with no guilt.  It is Turkish Delight without betraying your siblings or covering your clothing in confectioner’s sugar.

[Please note that as this was an experimental effort, and in order to avoid passing the point of hilarity, we split the drink in half.  Typically it would be served in a cocktail glass or perhaps a coupe.]

Mixed with Jameson and bitters?  Delicious.  We should only hope that an Irishman’s kiss would be delightful as this drink!

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Uniquity

The Little North Creek

Last autumn, I went hunting for the very first time.  My family owns land some hours north, with a cabin and plenty of trees and some number of deer.  We’ve paid taxes on it for years, so my mum felt it was a shame that neither my brothers nor I had gone and made use of it like we might have – and of course it was high time that we learn.

It’s been called The Rest Camp; the Mustache Club; and, in a story about my oldest brother at age 4 which my uncle loves repeating, The Greatest Place in the Whole World.

I was telling La Roomie about it while cutting up raw chicken in a feeble attempt to inure myself to the prospect of cutting up raw, still-warm meat.   We pondered the nature of the hunt; how Mustache hunting would be different from opening day, which I spent with a co-worker on his favorite hunting grounds; how awesome it would be if I were to bring back a freezer’s worth of venison; and the family camp in general.  For me, the most significant thing about the Mustache Hunting Club is that I was baptized there in the Little North Creek when I was about seven months old.  Obviously I don’t remember the event itself, but my father and brothers have seen fit to “put me in mind of my baptism” every time we went swimming (which is to say that they always took glee in dunking me three times.  I had a rather dim view of baptism in my youth).

And then we went back to discussing the hunt, and how all the men grow a mustache in November for it (dear No-Shave November, my family anticipated you decades in advance), and the film once made of the traditional “drink on the buck.”  In this home movie, my grandfather drives around to the homes of all my great-uncles and aunts with his prize buck tied to the hood.  Everyone takes a sip from a flask in a toast to the buck, and there is much made of the antlers and whatnot.  The motion’s a bit choppy (it can’t have been made earlier than the ’50’s), but I think the idea was that Grandpa got progressively drunker (or feigned it, anyway).

Bearing all that in mind, it was only a matter of time before La Roomie and I decided a new drink was in order, and it was also clear that Jägermeister (German for “hunt master,” if you are not a polyglot) had to be involved.  The name of the liqueur itself demands it, as does the stag-and-cross on the bottle, an allusion to the legends of St. Eustace and St. Hubertus.

Thing is, we weren’t sure what to mix the Jägermeister with.  I’ve eschewed Jägerbombs but have enjoyed a Starry Night (also called a Golden Elk), which is dark in color and tastes of cinnamon.  After some pondering, we elected to use gin, as its juniper flavor is reminiscent of the woods Up North; our thyme syrup, both because it needed to be used and because of its herbal nature; lime juice, probably because it was on hand at the time; and some manner of bitters.  Then, because it had been a while since we’d pulled out the blue curacao, we added some of that to the palette.  Before mixing the drink, we tried to figure out what amounts of Jagermeister and curacao would balance well by adding increasing amounts of each to an ounce or so of water.

It turned out a slightly murky yet somehow glowing drink.  Of course we dubbed it The Little North Creek.

1½ oz gin
½ oz thyme syrup
½ oz lime juice
½ oz Jägermeister
½ oz blue curaçao
2 dashes grapefruit bitters

When I went north, I took a few pictures of the creek (with and without flash) to see how they compared.  The real creek is mostly clear, really, but has enough vegetation in it to trick the eye.

next up: The Big North Sky

This is the hunter’s badge of glory,
That he protect and tend his quarry,
Hunt with honour, as is due,
And through the beast to God is true. 

Uniquity

ThARDIS

(c) JC Schultz 2012

As with the Carolingian Effort, the ThARDIS was born on account of a plant derivative that was languishing in the fridge.  In this case, we had some thyme hanging about, so I boiled it with equal amounts sugar and water and then strained it out.

If this sounds to you like one of those overly-involved syrups that people make after spending too long around mixologists at The Grange…well, you’re perceptive.  And correct to boot, though I will argue that making syrups assuages the guilt of buying an herb or spice and then not using the whole handful of it in the two days it retains any semblance of freshness.

Anyway, I made some thyme syrup.  I tried mixing it with a few other favorites – gin, Chartreuse, the aforementioned ginger syrup, lemon – but that was a lot of weirdness in a small glass, and the resulting mixture was not even christened in some wise.

Then I scaled back.  Instead of gin, I used vodka so the spirit wouldn’t outshine the syrup.  I left the lemon but cut out the ginger and Chartreuse to keep the Flavour Madness at bay.  Then, thinking that lemon, vodka, and sweetened thyme could get a bit thin, I added a few dashes of Fee’s Grapefruit Bitters:

1½ oz vodka
1 oz thyme syrup
½ oz lemon juice
3 dashes grapefruit bitters
Combine, shake, and strain into a small cocktail glass.

I presented it to La Roommate, who was most pleased, both by the drink and by the lightning storms then visible on the horizon.  In the face of summer storms, lemon and thyme and a few drops of bitters mix to create a harmonious blend of fresh, smooth, summery flavors.

As thyme was involved, it was nigh-imperative that the drink’s name involve some kind of pun.  Since we felt the drink would have the power to change one’s perception of time, and since we are quite fond of Doctor Who, we named it after the TARDIS – Thyme and Relative Distance in Space.

At this point, it’s winter where we are, but I’m pretty sure the ThARDIS will take us to warmer climes whenever we shake one up.

(c) JCS

literary, Uniquity

Carolingian Effort

…so there I was, with a bottle of Campari and no idea what to do with it other than “avoid drinking two ounces in the same day, much less the same drink, ever again.”

Therefore, using the time-honored culinary tradition of throwing an odd flavor in with That Which Is In the Fridge and Cupboard, I made up a drink:


1 ½ oz gin (Tanqueray or Plymouth in my house)
¾ oz ginger syrup
1 tsp Campari
Dash Angostura bitters

You will notice that there was no citrus in the fridge, which is sort of unfortunate.  However, we had a bunch of ginger going unused.  Instead of waiting for it to collapse into a distressing dry lump, I grated it up, boiled it with equal amounts water and sugar, then cooled, strained, and bottled it.

[Cats: bringing verisimilitude to the home bar and delight to the internet since 1998.]

It hit the tongue sweetly, but the grapefruit-like nuances of the Campari unfold as it is swallowed (in the passive voice), and then there’s a bit of a warm ginger finish (unless you let the ginger syrup age, in which case there is a spicy finish; it seems to grow sharper somehow).  It’s something like a digestif cocktail…which is a bit fun, but what to call it?  La Roommate (hereinafter LR) suggested calling it a Muchness or perhaps a Bandersnatch, but I replied that I would save such Carroll-ish things – such Carolingian efforts – for something involving absinthe at the very least, and perhaps less savory possibilities.

…and then that stuck, so there you go.  Since one of the ingredients of “The Jabberwock” is defunct, this is clearly the best backup for drinking whilst reading Through the Looking Glass.

Uncategorized

Campari Caper

To begin mixing drinks is to begin a journey; it is like any other skill, patiently learned and gradually honed, in that way.  Whether your senses wake in the presence of one particular smell or flavor, or whether they must needs be saturated by layers of distinct yet elusive flavors – either way, your feet are wet, your mind is engaged, your eyes and ears strain to see and hear what was that? and where can I get it? and how do I make it?

These are the first pebbles of the avalanche.  Had I not the example of others who understood the inevitability of ignorance in a hugely complex world, I might despair.  There is so much to learn, and perhaps so much that must be learned, before taking further steps.  There are so many spirits and heaven knows how many liqueurs, not to mention non-alcoholic juices and mixers, bitters and ices and other potables that evade characterization.

So as a beginner, I was pleased to find this list of so-called “Three Ingredient Drinks.”  How streamlined!  How simple!

…how disappointing to find that no, fruit and simple syrup and such things weren’t included in the count, and there wasn’t a single drink for which I had every ingredient.  I looked over every recipe and tried to obtain the ingredients for some of them, including the Campari Collins.  I’d have seltzer, lemon, and simple syrup anyway; I’d seen Campari mentioned here and there; I’d be delighted by this summery creation.  Right?

Perhaps I should mention that the proportions for the drink were 4 oz chilled seltzer, 2 oz Campari, ¾ oz fresh lemon juice, and ¾ oz simple syrup.

Perhaps I should also mention that using two ounces of Campari is something like using two ounces of bitters.  True, the Campari is less concentrated and has a deceitfully translucent color – but the Campari Collins was what you call a learning experience.  My friend the Mead and I poured in more and more simple syrup, more seltzer, muddled strawberries, attempting to assuage the bitterness.  Two ounces were just too much.  In the end, we spent the rest of our languid morning sipping a sort of strawberry lemonade affair, followed by a Thoroughbred:

2 oz bourbon
1 oz orange juice
1 oz brown sugar simple syrup
2 dashes bitters
Combine, shake, strain, and garnish with a twist of orange peel.

The Mead described it as “a julep with orange rather than mint.”  And unlike the Campari, we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Uniquity

Havana Bourbonade

This post was originally logged on my other blog, The Egotist’s Club, but I have edited it slightly for this page.

My roommate made reference last year to Havana bourbonade – but, seeing as the stuff is the product of this recipe macerating in my mind under the guidance of the Muse (or, you know, Bacchus), I wanted to acquaint you with it.

Having seen Deb’s recipe for Vermontucky Lemonade – so-called because Vermont’s maple syrup and Kentucky bourbon are involved – I was intrigued enough to attempt it, only to be brought up short as my house was empty of maple syrup.  I resolved to improvise with brown sugar, but then found that there were only two lemons to be found, rather than the pitcher-worth that the Smitten Kitchen called for.

So I improvised further, and here is the result: a concoction christened for that capital of cane and molasses (or…well…mostly I think it was the first Caribbean city that came to mind), whose name gives lemonade a nod while acknowledging that the proportions really favor bourbon.

Havana Bourbonade

Ingredients:  equal measures brown sugar, freshly squeezed lemon juice*, and water (I use an ounce of each), plus a shot or so of bourbon.

Combine the sugar, juice, and water in a small sealable container, unless you are convinced that a large sealable container is going to work for your sugar-dissolving purposes (or are making multiple servings at once).  I find that an erstwhile bouillon jar holds it all quite nicely.  Shake until the sugar dissolves.**  Once it does so, empty into a rocks glass; add bourbon; stir; add ice.

The virtue of this drink, should you fail to be impressed, is that it allows the bourbon’s character to shine through.  My roommate and I, among other friends, found that a smoother bourbon (e.g., Woodford Reserve) would create a much different drink than something punchier (e.g., Elijah Craig).  The spiciness of the latter shows up well.  Also, if you are one prone to nurse drinks, it does not suffer as the ice melts.

*I discovered quite accidentally how important this is.  Note the juicer on the right and how much more juice it gives than that on the left; this is due to how one may apply pressure more forcefully and evenly upon the rind.  The green press crushes out a bit of juice, but by no means all, and it has no hope of dislodging the pulp of each lith.  Anyone determined to get more juice with the green press must be reconciled to destroying the lemon shell, which could enjoy new life as a Sam Ward.  Anyone too apathetic to get at the pulp will end up with lackluster bourbonade; the mouthfeel is much duller without those lemony vesicles.  Anyone with a fancy electric reamer like Deb’s can just go to town.  Make sure you’ve got plenty of water on hand lest you pass the point of hilarity all too quickly.

**One might note that this looks a lot like lemon mixed with simple syrup, made with brown sugar rather than white.  However, simple syrup typically is boiled, which I think would translate into a less fresh, less piquant cocktail.

Go forth, friends, and make extravagant toasts.

To summertime!  To friendship, generosity, and ten Galleons a hair!  To the God who hath made sugar, lemon, corn, and distillers!

Uniquity

Salutations!

There comes a time when you have to acknowledge that Solomon was right when he said there is nothing new under the sun.  When there are seven billion other people out there, you can hardly expect to pursue something utterly different than all of them – and should you succeed, perhaps you should be concerned, because what sort of dangerously unique thing has crossed your mind?  Don’t fret always about “making it new,” because it’s demanding enough to do well that which has been done before.

All of which is to say, I’m pretty sure there are a good three million other blogs or websites out there about alcoholic drinks or mixology or drink recipes or what have you.  I’m starting my own anyway.

Part documentation and part delight, this is where I will record my impressions of various drinks, delve deeper into my recipe books, learn about as much history as I ever would from anything, make fun little forays into fantastic realms unknown.

There will be pictures.  I’ll do my best to make them appealing.

Vade mecum!