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Title quote taken from a tee shirt.
Preliminary results from the St. Germain are positive. It's very sweet, however. In fact, so sweet that I almost recommend one substitute it 1:1 for simple syrup. Why dilute all that delicious booze with sugar water, I ask you? When you can sweeten it at forty proof?! Hee hee I will be substituting St Germain for the syrup in a mojito shortly, to put my theory to a real test.

Here's actual recipes I've tried

The French Gimlet (from the St. Germain booklet)
2 oz. gin
1 or 1 1/2 oz. St. Germain
1/2 oz. fresh lime
Stir or shake with ice, strain and serve. This is really where I got the whole "simple syrup" thing: the St-G really did all the sweetening of this gimlet that I could desire. While totally bringing the lovely floral freshness that it's legend it build upon. Pretty much worth the price of admission, this particular drink.

Also tried out a version (don't have all the precisely same ingredients) of the Cheapskate/Unwelcome Houseguest from Cocktail Chronicles.
The Cheapskate (adapted)
2 oz. gin
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
1/4 oz. St Germain
1 tsp absinthe (I only have pastis)
dash of orange bitters

Stir with ice, serve. Oh man this was quite delightful—warming, refreshing, and how can I put it... constitutional. It was a rich gold/amber color. It was almost what I imagine an ent-draught to be.

In fact, it was this Tolkienesque thought that led me to start fiddling with a recipe of my own, and throw open te whole cabinet. This is a first draft. Still working on this, because I think the combinations don't quite do it. I know I want the floral parts, and at least a little rum. But I want to massage the rest of the flavors. Maybe more sweetness, or maybe some fruit. Or maybe let it stand as it.

The Garden of Earthly Delights
2 oz. gold rum
2 tsp. Herbaint
2 tsp. St. Germain
1 tsp. Cynar
1 tsp. Maraschino
1 tsp. Creme de violette
2 dashes bitters
4 mint leaves
Rub a mint leaf around the inside of a cocktail glass and set aside. Put all ingredients in a shaker with plenty of ice. Shake good and hard—not only does this chill, but it will pulverize the mint and distribute tiny mint flakes throughout—it's quite a striking visual effect.

Obviously I can't exactly put hashish in it, but I think to really implement the "garden of delights" concept, I'm going to have to work a little further east. Maybe some rose water with the bitters, maybe some lemon or muddled lemongrass. Or I know: sumac, and saffron! I was also thinking to amp up the effect of the suspended particles, it'd be fun to include some gold leaf along with the mint. You know, the kind of edible gold leaf you can get, the stuff they use for Indian desserts. That distributed amid the mint flakes? That'd be gorgeous.

I played with vermouth in this, but I was dissatisfied. I'll also try different base spirits, but I have rum in mind. So maybe a split with something else—whisky, cachaca (when I get some), gin of course...

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The Martinlez

2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1 1/2 tsp. Cynar
half an orange, sliced
leaves from two branches off a sprig of fresh thyme—about 1/8 tsp leaves

Muddle orange, thyme leaves, and Cynar in shaker or mixing glass. Add plenty of ice, gin, and vermouth. Shake or stir, strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. (uh, simple conversion tells me 1.5 tsp = 1/4 oz. so... yeah... not sure what I was thinking)

I made three variations, one with sweet vermouth and one with dry, each with 4 drops of Peychaud's, then one with dry vermouth and no peychauds. They were all pretty good. I found I liked the dry vermouth-no-peychaud's version best—and in this case actually preferred the shaken version over the stirred, since clarity was not a requirement. But use a fine strainer, not a bar strainer or the shaker top. Otherwise you'll have a bunch of pulp and shit floating in your glass and it looks gross and feels dreadful in the mouth.

The others were very rich but I liked the tight tartness of the dry vermouth version. It felt more focused and also I think the two bitters didn't compete. We had all these oranges around the house and I was staring at the Cynar (I don't spend a lot of time staring at my bottles, normally) thinking about ways to play off its funkiness. Then I realized sweet oranges might actually balance it really nicely. The thyme—well, I've been wanting to get more herbal with cocktails. I thought about the original Martinez, which in one variant I've tasted (not all, as google reminds me), used healthy quantities of orange bitters, liqueur, or both. This reminded me of a Martinez in that sense, only much more funky. So I thought the L in the name would communicate a little more funk. Try one today!
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The Twin Cities finally have Creme de Violette liqueur and it's wonderful. Just wonderful: sweet but not cloying, perfumey without being chemical. I have finally had a taste of the Aviation cocktail. Oh my gosh. You know that guy (or gal) who tells you you gotta try a negroni? That guy is pretty cool and isn't going to steer you wrong, not exactly. The negroni is a very cool cocktail (gin, sweet vermouth, campari), don't get me wrong. But the guy who tells you you gotta try the aviation? That guy (or gal) is someone you should be prepared to follow into battle. That person is a complete badass. I'm not saying I'm that person per se (I am recommending the aviation cocktail) because someone else recommended it to me first. Wow does that drink pack in the sophistication. So tight and bracing, so ghostly sky-high blue. Just lovely.

2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. lemon juice
2 tsp. maraschino liqueur
1 tsp. creme de violette

shake with ice and strain

garnish with a single cherry
preferably one that's been soaked in brandy (I didn't have one, so I used a lemon peel or nothing at all) but don't garnish with one of those candied maraschino cherry things.

I strongly recommend you don't substitute anything for the recommended liqueurs. don't use cherry something or other. don't use parfait d'amour. If you want the elevating experience of the Aviation, make it as shown above. Between the color and the airy I think the Aviation is one of the most aptly named drinks ever because of the high flying balancing act and of "working without a net" since it has only the lemon juice

Now, fully enjoying my creme de violette one teaspoon at a time, I got to try some other delightful drinks.

Blue Moon
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce Crème de Violette
1/4 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice, strained

Shake or stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass;
garnish with a twist of lemon.

The Blue Moon allows you to more aggressively feature the violet flavor and deep color. Very good, not as complex as the Aviation and sweeter by dint of the larger amount of creme de violette.

The Attention
2 oz. gin
1/4 oz. dry vermouth
1/4 oz. pastis (or absinthe)
1/4 oz. creme de violette
2 dashes orange bitters

Stir with ice and serve in cocktail glass. This is a really really fine cocktail. Since I served it stirred, it comes out clearer than the Aviation--I think the clouds are pretty important to that one though. The Attention comes out a beautiful clean cold gray that leans blue. It's gray in a way that is not unappetizing. It has a more refined structure, probably owing to the vermouth which has more bottom than naked lemon juice does.

After drinking an Attention, I came up with a variant that the bold ones among you might like (man it took me three tries to type that sentence, after drinking all these cocktails) in which I sub lellet and akvavit for the vermouth and pastis

2 oz. gin
1/4 oz. Lillet blanc
1/4 oz. akvavit
1/4 oz. creme de violette
2 dashes orange bitters
stir with ice

This has a little more aggressive flavor from the akvavit, which works at a more oblique angle than the Herbsaint (my pastis of choice- I should say I'm using bombay gin, rothman and winters creme de violette, the aforementioned herbsaint, and luxardo maraschino*). I think using Lillet is really fun and I recommend it instead of vermouth sometime when you're loking for for a change-up in any cocktail. I don't know what I would call it. It's a little blunter than the Attention so... Maybe I'll kcall it the Interruption cocktail? The INterjection!

Here's other interesting variations —instead of the Attention some people call it The Atty, so here's a link to a version of the Atty from adob

*btw, did you know it'spornounced "mare-ah-Skee-no" ? or "mar-a-skee-no" anyway the interesting thing for me was the K sound.
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So I was right: the Cynar is really good in low concentrations with whisky.

This one time a sales guy was taking me and my boss out for dinner when we were on a trip to Denver. We were there to learn about some equipment we wanted. It was one of those open-kitchen type places with lots of fire and noise and everything was moving fast and made me feel cosmopolitan in a way I hadn't felt for awhile. We were living in Spearfish at the time and being in Denver was being back in the big city doing "big city things" like going to a nice restaurant and hanging out. For a starter we ordered the first fire-roasted artichoke I'd ever had. I'd always had boiled ones, or the pickled hearts. Well, this handsome black-tipped artichoke on a cheese board landed at our table with a lemon wedge, some good rustic-tasting aioli and some butter sauce--rosemary butter perhaps? I loved it. It was extremely unfussy, it was easy to pluck and eat while listening to sales guy talk really fast, and it was totally delicious. I even said that to my dining companions (neither of whom cared one whit), "I like this. It's really clean and pure. I really like pure foods like this." I was transported for a little bit: away from the mundane one-upmanship which normally dominates these kinds of sales guy dinners and felt lucky, wise, and fancy free under the spell of this roasty, earthy, sharp delight. Nonplussed by my commentary, they went back to talking about something stupid, like anaerobic exercise.

I say all this because I took one sip of that perfect paddy cocktail (manhattan with irish) I was talking about the other day, the one that I thought could be made with cynar. Upon that one sip, damned if that LoDo roasted artichoke didn't come singing through my mind. I mean, the choke picture sits there on the bottle like a dare, what did I expect? Well, I might have been planning my memorial to Black 47 like a little mr. know it all, and I still feel good about that conceptually. But in the execution, this was much more evocative of a specifically personal event. So I have to slap a name on it accordingly

My Lodo (aka perfect Paddy + Cynar)
2 oz. Jameson
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1/8 tsp. Cynar (a little more than one-eighth teaspoon, maybe surface tension if you have a deep spoon)
Stir briskly with ice, pour into chilled cocktail glass. twist of lemon optional--I had a first taste without, then with, and I liked the lemon.

The muted smoke of the whisky and the cynar meld really well. The two vermouths absolutely provide structure and some velvety texture. I'm learning that I prefer perfect manhattans over the standard variation. To each their own, but the experience of my tastebuds makes me feel the Cynar works better with dry vermouth in the mix. Another option is to add 2 drops of Peychaud's. This also makes things a little more fragrant. Truly maniacal dry-manhattan/Cynar huffers should enjoy this with 1/4 oz. cynar, 1/4 oz. sweet vermouth, the rest stays the same.
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So this weekend I got some cynar. wow, that is... potent stuff. ten years ago, I would have thought it completely vile. Now, I'm thinking about ways I can build interesting drinks out of it in strict moderation. It is like a funky Campari and for trial, I made a negroni with it. Might be a little too assertive in the vegetal dimension for me to make a lot of those regularly. I would like to try it in something where I dial it back a touch, or use it at what I'll call—lacking a better term—"bitters strength", i.e., measured by the teaspoon or percentages thereof instead of whole shots of the stuff.

I'm going to tackle the aforementioned Spirit World's/zigzag cafe's Trident Cocktail1 with Akavit, as well as the Bensonhurst I saw in last month's Surdyk's "drinks" mag2 We're also going to try their hot buttered rum variation with the pumpkin flavoring sometime this week. I do love hot buttered anything and now that the weather's turning I think the time is right.

While a straight up negroni, subbing Cynar 1:1 for Campari, came off a little too medicinal for my palate, I think using it in fractional quantities in some drinks could be very pleasant. I'll also have to admit that maybe Broker's was the wrong gin to use in this case, but I don't have anything else in the house to confirm. I will give it a second chance with Plymouth, since I'm not running out of the Cynar anytime soon. But I wonder if maybe whisky also has what it takes to mesh with this spirit. Right off I've got a plan to sub it for a similar quantity of Angostura that I might normally use, in a Dubliner3 variation of the Manhattan. With that earthier/veggie edge to it, I propose it's appropriate to think of a Dubliner made this way as a kind of tribute to the memory of victims of the famine and the coffin ships, a tipple for toasting their sacrifice and cursing the name of Lord John Russell4. I'll try it in a standard and in a perfect version, just to see if a little dry vermouth uplifts the Cynar harmoniously or fights with it5. Anyone else with the nerve and a bottle of artichoke liquor lying around should give it a spin on my behalf, we'll need a good sampling for scientific study!

We had a nice dinner and toast to the memory of Michael Jackson at Town Hall last night. I enjoyed their casked IPA, [livejournal.com profile] mrs_lovett had oatmeal stout. I reminisced about reading the Michael Jackson world guide to whisky when I was a sophomore/junior in high school. I reflect now as an adult that I have pretty much always had an interest in spirits, and I'm further led to reflect that...gosh that's kinda weird for a teenager. But the passages were so descriptive! And it's not like I was able to get my hands on the stuff then. The bottles were $30+, and we lived in South Dakota for crying out loud! Well, he's dead now, and I do thank him for so many lucid and formative passages.

1 for those of you reading this far...do I need so say "hence the title of the post"? yeah? yeah. the trident, same as the link above, presumably the medicinal taste I'm complaining about is remedied by the caraway in the akavit? we'll see.
2 there's some clever 3-D marketing. I wonder who the real publisher of that content is and how many other large stores drop their site-specific content into it for republishing to their customers.
3 I think it's Regan who gave me that title: a Manhattan made w/Irish whisky.
4 May your blackhearted soul rot in hell
5 Yes, this is the point where you go "oh lord, how much more fucking precious is this going to get?" and the answer of course is, "baby this rabbit hole goes all the way down."
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When oh when? Why o why? Tasting the Faberge cocktail* at La Belle Vie** this weekend confirmed for me my creeping suspicion that I really really want to try creme de violette. Or as you can see, make lots of drinks like these at cocktailchronicles and dashofbitters.

*The Faberge sounds a lot like a variation on the Blue Moon, The Attention, or a violet-Aviation-- ingredients were gin, vodka, violet syrup and lemon. Well, that says to me that they don't have any violette on hand and are using vodka as the neutral grain spirit to punch up some sugared violet syrup (monin? built from scratch?) in any case, I suspect it won't be long after creme de violette reaches our city that the faberge gets that in an update. It did inspire me though, to try making another gin-vodka combo cocktail at home that I liked, but thought it was too cloying so I won't dish that info here. Once I figure it out though, keep watching the skies!

** you can expect a series of glowing reports about our La Belle Vie experience over the next several days.
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cocktail blogs being all the rage now, I have been attending to their contributions with interest. this has been a good summer for cocktails, i tell you what. So anyway, I've finally gone ahead and plunged in to working out my own recipes. Here's one I made that I think has legs; let's call it the Northwoods Sling or perhaps the Smokehouse Sling:

Recipe makes either 2 lowball cocktails or 1 highball (iv'e developed this appreciation for smaller drinks lately, so I can have more of them, share, stay upright, etc.)

Northwoods Sling - standard
1.5 oz. whisky
1 oz. cherry brandy or liqueur
.5 oz. gin
dash of bitters
club soda

Pour booze into mixing glass with ice, shake. Strain into two glasses with ice. Dash in the bitters. Fill with soda. Squeeze and drop lemon. Serve and relax.

I can predict some good variations I look forward to attempting -- use blended scotch for a true smoky smokehouse version; use lemon sour or lemon soda instead of club; throw out the soda, double it, stir instead of shake and strain to a cocktail glass; push furhter into fizz territory with an egg white; would probably garnish with medium sized lemon twist regardless, but totally essential if served up. etc.

The original version involved some specific brand names of hooch. I'm not a total snob but I tend to keep hands off the bottom shelves. So I dunno. I guess if you want to experience it in the form I determined was what I liked at first, then here's the brand loyalty you need to display:

Northwoods Sling - original
1.5 oz. rye whisky (Wild Turkey)
1 oz. Heering cherry liqueur
.5 oz. gin (Brokers)
dash of orange bitters (Fee's)
club soda
shake booze with ice, pour over ice in 10 oz glass, perfume with bitters, top with soda, eschew garnish. Drink quickly and make another!


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May 2009

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