Back in 2011, I bought a bottle of Campari only to discover (with my eldest brother) how little I fancied it. Its bitterness was a slap with truly impressive follow-through: lingering far longer than expected or desired, like unwelcome houseguests.
Paul and I pondered the bottle, 750 mL like most any other spirt, and wondered how long it would last when we didn’t dare use more than half an ounce at a time – barring the time I made a bowl of punch and added a whopping 4 ounces for color and piquancy. We don’t often go in for aperitifs, and only rarely for digestifs.
Gin is like Mercury and Campari like Pluto, Paul remarked. A bottle of gin could last as long as a few months, or go down the hatch in a particularly lively night, as swift to disappear as Mercury hastens about the sun. Campari, consumed so much more slowly, has a lifespan of many gin-years.
How many, exactly?
Well. I couldn’t rightly say. A Campari year is at least 50, if not 72, gin years, but that’s only an estimate. All I know for sure is that, nearly six years later, we finished the last bit of Campari last night with this funny little pink thing:
2 oz gin (Aviation)
2 oz grapefruit juice
½ oz Campari
1 oz rhubarb syrup
Not sure what to call it, but I must say there’s something remarkably cohesive about those flavors and colors: bitter, but bright. Just the thing for when the weather’s getting as warm as it has.
The (solar) years, meanwhile, have mellowed me a bit where Campari is concerned. I’m now convinced that it’s a bit like olives: an acquired taste, best tried for the first time somewhere in Italy before dashing back Negronis every which way.
A full three weeks ago, my friend Katie and her husband sent me a box full of grapefruit. Eighteen grapefruit, nestled in foam, to be quite precise. When life gives you grapefruit, make grapefruit cocktails! read the label.
So make grapefruit cocktails we did. Cecilia and I have been making Palomas and Greyhounds and other inventions, but still haven’t consumed them all.
Sunday night, having made chana masala and rajmah chawal for my Holy Week lunches, I had a cup or two of aquafaba left over. This liquid from canned beans, which I used to pour down the drain, can be used in mixing flips or fizzes in place of egg or albumen…and, since Cecilia’s Lenten observations include a vegan diet, I figured this was the time to try it!
In a bid to use the grapefruit juice, here’s what I came up with:
The Echo Echo Flip
2 oz gin (violet-infused Beefeater)
2.5 oz grapefruit juice
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz falernum syrup
2 tbsp aquafaba, whipped with 1 tbsp. sugar
To keep the shaking to a minimum, I whipped the aquafaba in a stainless steel bowl for 1 minute before grabbing a spatula to scrape it into the shaker with everything else. After 40 shakes, I strained my doubled recipe into these three glasses:
Possibly a better name exists, but the Casper Fry restaurant in Spokane, WA seems to have created a gin/grapefruit/lemon/falernum concoction, with different proportions and sans any kind of foaming agent, and christened it the Echo Echo.
The Music Orange also has a similar flavor profile, and includes the egg white foam. We may try adding bitters to switch it up tonight!
I broke down on New Year’s Day
and I mixed my drinks
and I lost my way
I walked past the houses
of every friend I’d ever known
and I set off on my own
Having promised a description of the Meursault (pronounced “mer-soo” or something like), I am striking while the proverbial iron is hot within my soul. If you are not a gin drinker, then take heart and have patience; I promise I’ll get the Myers and Bulleit back out ere long.
This drink is the brainchild of my lovely friend the Mead, who once remarked to me:
we need to invent a cocktail called meursault (in honor, of course, of this band, this song in particular: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwCD8dWY6xk). it strikes me as gin-based, with not too sweet a flavoring — perhaps something along cran or other berry lines. a drink, in short, that could make you lose your way, sink you into melancholy over what you’d left behind, and yet somehow also brace you for continuing onward.
So, proceeding on that basis, I got out my gin. Initially I had no cranberry anything around, but I did have a pomegranate, a lime, sugar, and grapefruit bitters, which were mixed as follows: a shot (1.5 oz) of Plymouth, a shot of squeezed* pomegranate juice, ½ oz lime juice, 2 teaspoons sugar, and 3 dashes of grapefruit bitters. It was a good start, somewhat tart with an intriguing texture as well as some fun overtones from the bitters.
I added a bit more pomegranate juice and a touch more sugar the next time around, which edged it away from the tart end of the pH scale. The third time around, we juiced some fresh cranberries (which yields a fairly bitter extract, beware!) and mixed a tablespoonful of it with a shot of gin, a shot of pom juice, ½ oz lemon juice, and a tablespoonful of sugar.
The final iteration took what we’d learned from the first few rounds and fashioned it into something which, when partly prepared ahead of time, mixed up faster. There was still a shot of gin, and still a generous shot of pomegranate juice (I carefully bottled about 7 pomegranates’ worth). Having enjoyed both the lime flavor and the lemon flavor, I mixed and bottled equal amounts of both to use as the ½ ounce of citrus. The sugar was necessary to offset the extreme bitterness of the juiced cranberries, but dissolving it required more shaking than I preferred, so I opted to mix it into yet another jar, this one full of cranberry juice.
The effect of all the bottling was that I could head to my boss’s house and mix up some cocktails for the office’s Christmas party with relatively little vexation. Despite the last-minute substitution of Tanqueray for the less-piney Plymouth, even the people who “weren’t really gin drinkers” loved it. Merry Christmas and happy New Year.**
And I hope that someone is praying for me
out there at home
*Once upon a time, one of my brothers bought a Jack LaLanne power juicer for to make himself healthy drinks. He soon discovered that its purported “easy cleaning” was in fact rather complicated, tired of it rapidly, and handed it off to me. I don’t use it that often, but I love juicing pomegranates with it. POM Wonderful is one of the best pomegranate juices I’ve encountered, but it has nothing on the frothy fuchsia of freshly home-juiced pomegranate.
Which is sort of sad, I guess, for all the people who don’t have a juicer sitting about.
**But even those of us with juicers are doomed to suffer through Not Pomegranate Season, as I am right now, so POM is probably the best stopgap where I live. If one wanted to be really low-key about it, one could mix some gin, some Ocean Spray or Northland cran-pomegranate blend, and dash in some citrus to perk it up. Obviously it won’t give you the same texture, so be wary, as it might give you a touch more melancholy than intended.
Oh, hello. Yes, it’s been quiet around here for some time, hasn’t it? You probably thought I’d become some manner of Teetotaling Poop. I’m happy to report that’s not the case: I carried on mixing drinks but failed to carry on telling you about it.
But then the other night, La Roommate brought some cherries home, and it seemed a good plan to let you know what to mix with them should you find yourself having more cherries than you can eat.
The Yakimuddle/Traverse City Smash
At first I muddled about five of them (after removing the pit, and quartering them for easier muddlage), mixed that with 2 ounces of Plymouth gin, half an ounce of maraschino liqueur, half an ounce of lime juice, and some peach bitters. It turned out translucent and tasting rather like fruit punch, with a very strong maraschino smell and flavor, reminiscent of an Aviation cocktail. Not wanting the maraschino to dominate over the cherries or gin, which got a bit lost in the shuffle, I dialed it back and tried again.
The second iteration employed twelve muddled cherries, another 2 ounces of Plymouth, ¼ ounce lime juice, ¼ ounce lemon juice, ¼ ounce maraschino, ¼ ounce Amaretto, and 3 dashes peach bitters. This was more balanced, with a stronger cherry flavor and smell. It was an opaque crimson and rich, the cherry pulp giving it a dense texture, almost like a flip. The Amaretto’s nuttiness helped round out the flavors, and kept it sweet without being overkill.
The third iteration was quite similar, but I used a full 15 muddled cherries and 2 ounces of Tanqueray – partly to impart a stronger juniper flavor but also because I’d run out of Plymouth. When LR and I tried it, she said “Mmm, bit like Christmas, isn’t it? Kind of like a Meursault?” and I went “But the cherries, that’s like summer,” and we agreed that either way it was quite drinkable. It was also rather homogenous, so we threw in a bit of lemon peel and a bit of lime peel to contribute some zesty goodness and a bit of contrast.
One bit of warning: if you use the full recommended amount of cherries, it will take some time – a good three minutes by my clock – to muddle them. If I can bust out of my summer lethargy, I’ll try putting them through my juicer to see how that affects the texture.
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.
…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.