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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!