Hanky-Panky + Fernet Branca.

The real Hanky-Panky.

Hanky-Panky + Fernet Branca.

The Hanky-Panky is a seriously old school cocktail created by Ada Coleman of the American Bar of the London Savoy Hotel sometime before 1923. Ada or “Coley” as she was affectionately known was very probably the first female celebrity mixologist (at a time when the profession was almost totally male dominated) and because of this we know the creation story of the Hanky-Panky from her own words as printed in a 1925 edition of The People newspaper:

The late Charles Hawtrey… was one of the best judges of cocktails that I knew. Some years ago, when he was overworking, he used to come into the bar and say, “Coley, I am tired. Give me something with a bit of punch in it.” It was for him that I spent hours experimenting until I had invented a new cocktail. The next time he came in, I told him I had a new drink for him. He sipped it, and, draining the glass, he said, “By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!” And Hanky-Panky it has been called ever since.

Sir Charles Hawtrey (not to be confused with the post-WWII comedian of the same name) was a prominent comic actor and theatre producer of the day and a regular of Ada’s – along with Mark Twain, Marlene Dietrich, Charlie Chaplin and the Prince of Wales. While “hanky-panky” later came to have a sexual connotation at the time it meant something more like “trickery”. It’s hard to see just what Sir Charles was getting at but the name has been a source of amusement ever since. Anyway, what Ada had done was add a teaspoon of Fernet Branca to an already popular drink of the time, the Gin and It. Now that might not sound like much but Fernet Branca is an intensely powerful ingredient that punches well above its weight. Let’s take a time-out to look at it:

Fernet Branca.

Fernets are a sub-type of Italian Amari, or bitters, and Fernet Branca (Branca is the brand and Fernet is the description; kind of like Coca-Cola, but in reverse) is by far the best known. More intense and medicinal than their cousins they have a fearsome reputation yet hold a special place in the peculiar world of cocktail bartenders. For Fernet Branca is known in such circles as “the bartenders handshake” – a little shot of bravado that shows you are part of some special elite. If, after an evening sitting at their stick admiring their work and comparing notes, the bartender places a shot of this dark elixir before you, rest assured you have been paid the highest of compliments; “brother/sister you are one of us” being the implied message. That aside, there is also a kind of secret bartender game (especially in the USA) that involves special Fernet Branca “coins”. Should a visiting bartender produce such a coin the resident bartender is morally obliged to furnish the former with a free shot of Branca. However if the latter produces his own coin the visitor must pay for a shot each for them both. Basically, a kind of Branca “chicken”. If that wasn’t already bonkers enough, Fernet Branca and Coke (Fernet con Coca) is the unofficial national drink of Argentina. Yes, that’s right; it’s Italian. At 39%ABV and at room temperature Fernet Branca tastes like a potent dose of old school cough mixture, sweetened by about twenty dashes of Angostura bitters. It goes down better ice cold but is still somewhat “bracing” to put it mildly. I happen to know for a fact that Satan pours it over his Cornflakes in the morning. But, on the other hand, used sparingly, Fernet Branca adds layers of complexity to a cocktail like no other ingredient can. Which brings us back to Ada and the Savoy.

Interestingly, the 1930 Savoy Cocktail book, written by Ada’s successor, Harry Craddock, contains (as well as the Hanky-Panky) a drink called the Fernet Branca Cocktail which appears to be a re-proportioned version at two parts gin to a part each of Italian vermouth and Fernet Branca; basically a Hanky-Panky on steroids. Harry rarely added any notes to the recipes but in this case he states;

One of the best “morning after” cocktails ever invented. Fernet Branca, an Italian vegetable extract, is a marvellous headache cure.

That may be but I’m sticking to Ada’s version. Of late some bartenders appear to be adding a little orange juice to their Hanky-Pankies but we’ll be having none of that hanky panky here at Proof. Below is the original “Coley” recipe that has stood the test of time perfectly well thank-you-very-much.


Hanky-Panky.

1.5oz / 45ml dry London gin.

1.5oz / 45ml Italian vermouth (aka red/sweet)

1 teaspoon (5ml) Fernet Branca

Stir with ice and strain into chilled champagne coupé.

Garnish with an orange twist, cut or squeezed over the glass.

Toast Ada “Coley” Coleman (1875 – 1966), the first female “startender”.


 

Posted in Ingredients, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Treacle.

A tale of two treacles.

The Treacle.

We looked recently at The Bramble created by Dick Bradsell. This time we’ll explore a less well known drink of Dick’s called The Treacle. Now if you’re British you’ll need to be patient for a minute while I get everyone else up to speed. The term treacle covers two products used in baking; golden syrup which is sweet, sticky and, well, golden and black treacle which is black, sweet, sticky, tarry with a bitter edge and a hint of spice (and the one that’s relevant to us here). It’s easy to say those are just British equivalents to corn syrup and molasses but they have more complex flavours than those. As well as that treacle seems to occupy some mystic place in British children’s literature, not least as a favourite of a certain annoying little goody-two-shoes teenage wizard. But back to the cocktails. Mr Bradsell’s The Treacle is an unlikely sounding mixture that, as originally written, also has a slightly convoluted mixing process. But don’t worry about that; I’ve straightened it out for you and it works just fine. That’s right; it’s a Rum Old Fashioned with an apple juice float – there’s no fooling you guys! I wasn’t sure what to expect of this cocktail but when I made it for the first time and took my first sip I actually laughed out loud and exclaimed in wonder, “It taste’s just like black treacle!” Not bad for something made of rum, bitters, sugar and apple juice. That’s exactly the kind of trick that makes a man like Dick Bradsell a cocktail legend. So if you’re wondering what black treacle tastes like there’s no need to track down that little red tin of Tate and Lyle’s, just mix up one of these.


The Treacle.

2oz / 60ml Myers’s dark rum (really it must be Myer’s).

2 dashes of Angostura bitters.

2 teaspoons of 1:1 demerara syrup*.

Stir with ice and stain into a DOF glass containing fresh ice or a large block of clear ice.

Add a strip of orange peel.

Float 0.75oz / 22.5ml of cloudy apple juice (apple cider in American English) on top.

Toast Dick Bradsell (1959 – 2016).


* Make just like regular syrup but use demerara sugar or a mixture of white and demerara sugar. If you can’t find demerara other types of brown sugar will get you close enough.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Syrups – simple and not so simple.

L-R: Simple, demerara, ginger, grenadine and passion fruit syrups.

Simple – and not so simple – syrups.

As you will have noticed a fair number of cocktail recipes call for some kind of syrup. Usually simple syrup but often some other variation. I’ve given a rough explanation of those as we went along but maybe it’s time for a bit more detail.

Our base level syrup is something we call “simple syrup” or “1:1 simple” and there’s just nothing to it. Boil some water and add it to an equal amount of white sugar and stir until fully dissolved. Easy.

But why? Well, simple syrup allows us to sweeten a cocktail (to balance sourness or bitterness) with a liquid that we can measure in our jigger, just like all our other ingredients. Thus it’s faster and less messy than using actual granulated sugar. Of course white sugar doesn’t add much flavour and this is where all those variations come in. We’ll get back to those in a minute. The avid cocktailien should always have a bottle of simple syrup in their fridge so it’s worth going into a bit more detail than the above recipe. Firstly the usual equal volumes simple syrup is just a little off. Water is heavier than sugar and the more astute bartender will make an equal weights simple syrup. In the good ole metric system 100ml of water weighs exactly 100g (wow – what a lucky coincidence!) so there’s really no point in weighing your water. Sugar, depending on how fine it is, will come in at about 90g per 100ml. You can either weigh out your sugar or you can proceed on the basis that you should add about 10% more sugar than water by volume. The best sugar to use is the fine grained stuff which will dissolve more quickly and that is especially important when we get to the following recipes. But first the question of storage.

Storage.

Sugar is a natural preservative. Given their high sugar content, syrups keep pretty well but not indefinitely. There are too many factors to give you any specific shelf life estimates for these syrups but you can extend their stability in a number of ways. Commercial manufacturers use chemical preservatives. We say “no thanks” to that. Some bartenders add a little vodka to their syrups but I’m not a big fan of this method either. First of all you can’t use it for any alcohol-free drinks and secondly there is a better way of keeping your syrup from going bad. Sterilisation. It’s a lot easier than it sounds. Choose a good solid glass bottle for your syrup; either bought new or re-purposed. Either way, clean it well with soapy water. Fill it with the hottest water that comes out of your tap (about 60-65ºC) while you boil some water. As soon as the water is boiled empty the bottle and refill with the boiled water. After about 10 minutes you will have killed anything in the bottle. Chanting “die, you filthy little microbe bastards” has been shown to maximise the effect. Fill your sterile bottle with your syrup while the glass is still hot (ie. before any new microbes settle inside). Give the cap the same treatment in a small cup for good measure. Congratulations – you’ve just massively extended the shelf life of your syrup. Keeping it in the fridge is also recommended. Signs of spoilage are cloudiness, thin strands of gunk forming near the bottom or anything floating on the top. But if you’re diligent with your sterilisation and use your syrups within a sensible time you’ll probably never get any of that.

Rich simple syrup.

While 1:1 syrup is fine for general use there are advantages to making a stronger 2 parts sugar to 1 part water syrup (aka 2:1, rock candy syrup or rich simple syrup). Without getting too technical (I’m no scientist), water can only absorb about twice it’s volume in sugar and when made this way this 2:1 syrup has a couple of advantages over regular simple syrup. It keeps a lot longer. If made properly and stored in a sterilised bottle you don’t really need to worry about spoilage. It also gives a more pleasing silky mouthfeel to cocktails that it is used in. Of course you have to use a little less of it. An instinctive reaction is to halve the amount but if fact rich syrup is only 33% sweeter than 1:1. Reducing by that amount will get you in the zone (typically 0.75oz > 0.5oz and 0.5oz > just over 0.25oz). Remember that you should be fine tuning your cocktails for sweetness anyway. The one downside of 2:1 is that you have to push the water pretty hard to soak up all that sugar which means using very hot water and a lot of energetic stirring. A halfway house between these of 1.5:1 is also quite popular. Always use 1.5:1 or 2:1 if making anything (liqueurs, amari, limoncello, falernum, bitters etc) where longevity is required.

Demerara syrup.

Unrefined brown sugars, such as demerara, have a bit more flavour and colour than plain old white sugar. Using those as your base – or a mixture of white and brown – will be especially worthwhile in the likes of an Old Fashioned or Tiki drinks. Or everything really.

Honey mix/syrup.

Honey is too thick and sticky to use on its own but when mixed with hot water becomes a useful cocktail ingredient. Unlike white sugar syrup honey brings a wonderful flavour as well as sweetness. Some Tiki recipes call for a honey mix that is equal volumes of honey and hot water (so 1:1 honey mix) and many Petraske recipes call for a rich honey syrup (3:1). Much of the above jibber-jabber also applies to these syrups. I make the 3:1 honey syrup which keeps for much longer and adjust accordingly (just over half the amount) for my Navy Grogs.

Ginger syrup.

Take a couple of sticks of fresh ginger. Cut it into slices (don’t even bother peeling it). Mash it up in a mortar and pestle or food processor. Put the remains in some (200-300ml?) freshly made, and still hot, 1.5:1 syrup and leave it there for a couple of hours, stirring now and then. Sieve it and put in a sterilised bottle. I know that’s a bit vague but it works.

Cinnamon syrup.

As above but with 2 or 3 sticks of cinnamon. I like to use two sticks of cassia (aka Chinese) cinnamon and one stick of Ceylon (or true) cinnamon.

Passion fruit syrup.

This is an essential ingredient in a number of Tiki drinks and can be a problem to source – especially for us European types. Some commercial syrups can be borderline acceptable (Finest Call’s passion fruit syrup is surprisingly decent) but there is a better way that isn’t too tricky and makes for amazing cocktails. If you have any Mexican or South American specialty shops in your ‘hood there is a good chance they sell frozen passion fruit puree. The sachets shown in the picture came from a local Brazilian shop in a five pack of handy 100ml pouches. Simply gently defrosting this and mixing it with 100ml of freshly made 1.5:1 simple syrup results in a mind-blowingly tasty tropical syrup.

Other syrups.

By now you’ve probably realised you can make almost anything into a syrup and that the technique is pretty simple. Things like cinnamon and ginger need some time for the sugar to extract the flavour but juices just need mixed in. Feel free to experiment. Grenadine can be made by simply mixing pomegranate juice with syrup but I have a more nuanced recipe for it here.

 

Posted in Ingredients, Make | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Bramble.

Bramblin’ man.

The Bramble.

One of a tiny number of classic drinks to come out of The Dark Ages, the Bramble was created in the mid 1980s by legendary British bartender Dick Bradsell. Sadly we lost Dick to cancer last year but his spirit will live on in the many drinks he created such as the Espresso Martini, The Treacle and this his most famous creation. The Bramble is quite a simple drink but a little attention to detail makes it seem quite special. The heart of the Bramble is a humble gin sour which is augmented with some crushed ice, a berry liqueur float and a garnish of brambles (otherwise known as blackberries). The correct float is crème de mûre, a French blackberry liqueur but you could certainly use other berry based liqueurs if you wished. For example I’m quite happy using bramen jenever, crème de cassis or even Chambord. Ideally you should match the garnish to the liqueur. The trick to the Bramble is to fill a glass past the brim with finely crushed ice. Shake your simple gin sour with cubed ice and strain into the glass and then carefully drizzle the berry liqueur over the top whence it will bleed down through the crushed ice rather beautifully. Pop your fresh berry or berries on top and add a couple of sipping straws to complete. Tasty, easy but visually impressive; what’s not to like?


The Bramble.

First fill tulip or DOF glass with as much crushed ice as you can cram in.

Then shake with cubed ice:

2oz / 60ml London dry gin

0.75oz / 22.5ml fresh lemon juice

0.5oz / 15ml syrup simple (1:1). A touch more if you prefer.

Strain into the prepared glass.

Drizzle 0.75oz / 22.5ml of crème de mûre (or other berry liqueur) over the top in a circular motion.

Serve with a short straw and garnish with appropriate berries.

Toast Dick Bradsell (1959 – 2016).


 

 

 

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bitters: down the rabbit-hole?

This bitter be good…

Bitters.

Look, we need to talk. It’s a difficult conversation I’ve been putting off for too long but I think we’re both know it’s time to get it out in the open. Yep, it’s time to talk about bitters. When it comes to bitters it’s all to easy to go down the rabbit-hole but hopefully we can have an adult conversation here without that happening so let’s give it a go…

What are bitters?

These little bottles show up relatively often in cocktail recipes. Why? What do they do and where did they come from? It might seem strange to put something bitter in a drink but it’s important to remember that, as always in cocktails, it’s part of of a balancing act. Bitter combined with sweet play a similar trick on us to the more common sweet/sour combination of, say, a Daiquiri – the balance is pleasing to our palate. Think of chocolate; cocoa on its own is very bitter but with the addition of sugar – well I needn’t go on right? But I will anyway. We use them in tiny amounts which we call dashes. The term dash is a bit vague – a solid flick of the wrist is considered a “dash” – and it’s tempting for manufacturers to enlarge the hole in the cap (hello Angostura and Bitter Truth!) so care needs to be taken. A dash is about six drops or just short of 1ml. If you want to test your dashing skills you should fill a teaspoon in about six or seven dashes. If you feel you need more consistency you can invest in a dasher bottle (as seen at either end of the picture above) or use an eye-dropper or pipette.

Like so much in the world of alcoholic drinks, bitters started out as medicine. Or at least an attempt at medicine. It seems that in the past stomach complaints were rife – my theory being that a lack of knowledge of hygiene and refrigeration might have been a major factor. Soaking various dried roots, barks, herbs and spices in alcohol to extract their stomach settling properties was one attempt at at a cure that accidentally resulted in the creation of many of the staples of cocktail assembly today. While amari and liqueurs mitigated the inherent bitterness of all those botanicals with the addition of sugar and a little extra dilution, cocktail bitters remained in their original concentrated form making them more stable and portable but also rather unpalatable on their own. As a result bitters would be mixed with some brandy, whisky or rum, a spoonful of sugar and a little water or ice. Hang on – isn’t that the recipe for an Old Fashioned? Bingo! Pretty soon people were taking their medicine recreationally and the rest is history.

In the golden age of cocktails (1865 – 1920) there appear to have been a wide range of aromatic bitters to choose from with Abbot’s and Boker’s being most popular judging by old recipe books. American prohibition killed the vast majority of those off and the remainder of the 20th century was something of a bitters wilderness with little more than Angostura and Peychaud’s being widely available. Orange bitters, once called for in a wide range of cocktails were practically impossible to find. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that just twenty years ago you could only get your hands on two or three different bitters without major difficulty but now you can find upwards of 200. So what happened? Well the internet, the cocktail renaissance and hipsters all happened – more or less in that order. While it’s great that bitters are easily available again it’s not all good news. The problem with bitters is that they’ve become something of a monster. They’re too often used to exclusivise recipes taking them out of reach of the home mixer. Or they’re used to tart up a cocktail menu. Or they’re just used to show off. Don’t fall into – or for – these traps and use bitters only as needed as an integral part of the drink. Think of them as your salt and pepper, fine tuning the balance of a drink or perhaps adding an extra dimension. If you invent a recipe try it with and without bitters. Ask yourself; are the bitters really adding anything material? If not, leave them out. Whatever you do, please don’t turn into a bitters bullshitter.

While I try to keep the recipes on this site from including exotic bitters I also happen to enjoy tinkering with flavours and making my own bitters and tinctures. If that sounds like that might be your thing too you can take the red pill and I’ll take you there in a future article but for the rest of you who just want to make some good drinks, take the blue pill and proceed as follows:

Angostura bitters. The one and only (well actually that’s not quite true) Angostura are the by far the most successful example of what we call “aromatic bitters”. The first bitters you should buy and the only bitters you should never be without. Deep, powerful, spicy, bitter and with the most ridiculous label ever, Ango rule the roost. You should be able to get them at any booze shop and, in some countries, in your supermarket. Anywhere a dash of bitters is called for without specifying which you can be assured Angostura is the right choice. You should be aware that Angostura made the hole in the top a bit bigger about 10 years back (it boosted sales by 30%) so older recipes may require a lighter touch. Anything that calls itself “aromatic bitters” will to some extent be interchangeable with Angostura. Bartenders still shudder in horror at the memory of the 2009 Angostura shortage, also known as the Angopocalypse.

Orange bitters. Happily available again, orange bitters should be your second purchase. There is no definitive choice with many bars using a mixture of two brands and the arguments about which brand or mix is best will continue but handily enough Angostura orange bitters are pretty damn good. They have a bit more spice to them than more conventional orange bitters such as Regan’s, Fee’s or Bitter Truth.

Peychaud’s bitters. Aniseedy, floral and bright red, you’ll need these peculiar fellows if you want to make Sazerac‘s – and who wouldn’t? They’re not used in too much else but they can put a bit of life in an otherwise bland drink. If you’re really not a Sazeracker you can probably skip these.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to point out that The Bitter Truth – a relatively new bitters superpower from Germany – make a great sampler pack of their range which gives the beginner a great introduction to cocktail bitters. They also make great bitters in general, although I find their orange bitters a bit dull and I’d rather have seen their superb lemon bitters in the kit instead. You get aromatic, orange, celery, creole (think Peychaud’s) and Jerry Thomas’ own decanter bitters (which I think is an attempt to recreate Boker’s and is pretty damn good). In other words your bitters needs are pretty much covered in one purchase.

One of these would be a great place to start.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Ingredients, Recipes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Powder Monkey + tea infused rum.

Monkey magic!

Powder Monkey + tea rum.

In the days of sail it was quickly discovered that storing large quantities of gunpowder next to the guns on the upper decks of your warship was a bad idea (hint: ka-boom!). A much better idea was to store the gunpowder below the waterline out of reach (mostly) of enemy fire next to the rum and other valuables. In a battle this necessitated the fetching of smaller quantities of powder to the guns in a sort of early just-in-time system. This fetcher needed to be small (ships were pretty cramped) and fast. Yep, you needed a child. And this poor child was called a powder monkey. Which is, of course, an excellent name for a cocktail. Often I start with the name and kind of work backwards from there and this is one of those cases. My next thought was to infuse some rum (well, duh) with some of that super smoky gunpowder tea. This was going great until I discovered that I had my teas all mixed up. The smoky tea I had been thinking of was actually lapsang souchong so it was back to the tea shop for me. Now Lapsang Souchong Monkey didn’t have quite the same ring to it so I stuck with plan A and hoped no-one would notice. Luckily my mistake worked out for the best. While the gunpowder infused rum was quite pleasant and the lapsang souchong rum was very tasty, if a bit over the top, a combination of the two was right in the Goldilocks zone. Lapsang souchong has the lovely smokiness I was after but it lacks the bitterness of other teas and the gunpowder tea restored the balance beautifully. Huzzah! Given how good this was already I didn’t see much point in drowning it in other ingredients so the Old Fashioned treatment seemed to be in order. With appropriate twists of course. But first, the tea infused rum. Throw a small pinch of really good lapsang souchong leaf tea and the same of gunpowder tea* into two ounces (60ml) of rum and let it sit for more than an hour but less than two. Stir it once or twice for good measure and then strain it through a fine mesh strainer. I’ve not fully scaled it up yet but I’d estimate this to be about five level teaspoons of tea (2.5 of each type) per 700ml bottle of rum if you want to make it in bulk. Again, remember that tea infuses much more quickly than other substances so about 90 minutes is long enough. Use a good rum but nothing too high end. I’ve found Havana Club 7 year old to be quite receptive. A navy style rum is tempting here but might well be a little too sweet. For the same reason we’ll go easy on the sugar syrup – just shy of a teaspoon of 1:1 syrup (I like a demerara syrup here). I used a homemade pimento (aka allspice) bitters but you could use Dale DeGroff’s pimento bitters or try something more standard such as good old Angostura. A good swathe of orange peel and the Old Fashioned treatment is all that is required to set your Powder Monkey off.

I wonder if this would work with some tea infused Monkey Shoulder whisky or Monkey 47 gin instead of rum? Watch this space…


Powder Monkey.

2 oz / 60ml lapsang souchong and gunpowder infused rum – see text*.

1 scant teaspoon (3.5-4ml) of simple syrup (1:1)

1 dash pimento bitters (or another aromatic bitters such as Angostura).

Stir with ice and strain into a DOF glass containing a large block of clear ice.

Add a good long orange twist (don’t be tempted to skip this as it makes a big difference).

Toast powder monkeys – and I thought delivering newspapers in the rain was a shitty job.


* As usual I urge you to experiment with other teas. Please feel free to report back in the comments if you discover any other killer combos.

Posted in Make, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Honi Honi.

Honi Honi – how you thrill me, a-ha.

Honi Honi.

The Honi Honi is the forgotten little brother of the Mai Tai that uses bourbon instead of rum. Trader Vic was probably just catering to dyed-in-the-wool bourbon drinkers when he came up with the Honi Honi (which apparently means “kiss kiss”) but it doesn’t seem to be a drink that really caught on. I can see why not. It just doesn’t sound like a great idea – but bear with me here. In recent years there has been much renewed interest in the original Mai Tai with a great deal of discussion on which rums to use to get either the most authentic – or just the tastiest – result. You know, at this point you might want to re-read my Mai Tai article… …OK, welcome back. Anyway, the largely forgotten Honi Honi never had the luxury of the same treatment. That seems wrong. Recently I’ve been thinking that it’s strange that we think nothing of blending a number of different rums in a Tiki drink to get exactly the balance of flavours we want but we never think to do the same with, say, whisky. You can see where I’m going with this, right? All the Honi Honi recipes simply call for two ounces of “bourbon”. That sounds a bit vague to me so I ran a few experiments using different bourbons. I soon discovered here was little benefit in using similar bourbons but I hit pay dirt combining the super smooth Gentleman Jack with the powerful and spicy Wild Turkey 101. With an ounce each of these two the Honi Honi just snaps right into focus – but as with the Mai Tai I do encourage further experimentation. With the right attention to detail the Honi Honi need no longer be the poor sibling of the Mai Tai.


Honi Honi.

1oz / 30ml Wild Turkey 101*.

1oz / 30ml Gentleman Jack*.

1oz / 30ml fresh lime juice.

1oz / 30ml Mai Tai mix. (2:1:1 mix of curacao: rich simple syrup: orgeat).

Shake hard with about half a shaker of crushed ice. Pour, unstrained, into a DOF glass.

The usual Mai Tai garnish of a lime shell and mint sprig is a bit more optional in this version.

Toast The Trader – yet again.


*Feel free to try other bourbons and ryes but I suggest similar spicy/smooth combinations at least as a starting point.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Americano / Milano-Torino.

The right Americano.

Americano / Milano-Torino.

Not to be confused with the warm drink (a perfectly good espresso completely ruined by the addition of hot water), the Americano is a mixed drink that has a difficult time of things. Like its namesake it’s all too easy to see as a watered down Negroni and its spiritlessness can have the effect of leaving it out of much cocktail discourse. But, make no mistake, the Americano is a really rather superb drink. We don’t doubt that Count Negroni’s substitution of gin for soda water was a genius move but there are times when a Negroni is simply too much. The Negroni is a drink that repairs the world after a difficult day and sets one up for a relaxing evening or a good meal but the Americano – despite the similar formula – is almost the opposite: The Americano will pick you up and put a spring in your stride making it the perfect drink for when you still have things you need to do. As such it makes the ideal lunch drink being refreshing, appetizing and relatively light in alcohol. Indeed, that is precisely its role in Italian culture.

Originally created at Gaspare Campari’s cafe in the 1860s, the Americano is almost as old as its key ingredient although the name itself is not. For the first half of its life it was known simply as the Milano-Torino after the cities of origin of the ingredients. Legend has it that it was renamed during prohibition to reflect its popularity with thirsty American tourists. While I’m no linguist, I suspect there is also a bit of a play on words going on there too with amer/amaro being French/Italian for “bitter”.

The Americano should be served in a tall glass for two reasons: To preserve the fizz and to avoid the assumption that it is just a Negroni Lite™. There is some variation in Americano recipes, perhaps unsurprising for such an ancient drink, but the general consensus is for equal proportions of Campari, Italian vermouth and soda water – and how we love equal proportions, right? This being established the next question is exactly how much of those ingredients to pour. To me that depends on the time of day. For lunch an ounce and a half of each is plenty, with perhaps a little extra soda water. In the evening a strict 2/2/2 pour is de rigeur or should that be di rigore? Either way the Americano is simplicity itself to prepare requiring just a tall glass full of ice, a slice of orange, three commonplace ingredients and the gentlest of stirs. The Americano opens up the flavours in the Campari and vermouth in a way that the gin-soaked Negroni simply can’t. And, thinking about it, that makes perfect sense. We add add a little water to whisky or even gin to “open it up” and taste the flavours more fully and exactly the same principle applies here: We experience the full complexity of the Campari; bitter orange, rhubarb, gentian and the mild sweetness and botanicals of the vermouth. Magnifico!


Americano.

2oz / 60ml Campari.

2oz / 60ml Italian vermouth (I like to use an ounce each of Punt e Mes and Dolin).

2oz / 60ml soda water.

Pour into a Collins glass filled with ice and stir very gently to combine. Add a slice or twist of orange. I serve without a straw or stick to prevent the drinker bludgeoning the fizz out of it.

Toast Gaspare Campari, creator of both Campari and the Milano-Torino/Americano.


Note: For a lunch Americano I suggest 1.5oz / 45ml each of Campari and vermouth and 2-3oz / 60-90ml of soda.

 

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Batavia Swizzle + arak

Swizzlin’ time again.

Batavia Swizzle.

It’s swizzling time again folks but this time we’re transplanting this Caribbean classic all the way across the world to make an “East Indies” version. Yes, today our base spirit will be Batavia Arak [sound of needle scratching across record]. OK then, let’s back up a little bit. Arrack/arak/arac is a bit of a minefield. First there is a Middle Eastern spirit called arak or araq that is an anise based drink and thus related to raki, ouzo, sambuca and pastis. But we’re not interested in that one right now. There are also other araks scattered across the Indian Ocean area that are completely different from the Middle Eastern variety – and each other. The spellings are all over the place and don’t really help us much either. Before we get totally tied in knots let’s just focus on the one we need: Batavia Arak from Indonesia (Batavia being the old colonial name for Jakarta). Batavia Arak is more of a rum cousin than any of the above, being made from molasses, but with a fermented red rice starter. It’s tasty stuff with a kind of beguiling funky sweetness. Although it can be hard to find it’s well worth seeking out. The one I can find is the superbly mixable Arac Java Baru imported to Amsterdam by A. van Wees – them wot make the Best Bitters in the World. Since we find ourselves out East we should test the “what grows together goes together” mantra that so rarely lets us down. Cinnamon, lime and the wonderfully aromatic kaffir lime leaves would be a good start. Maybe a little ginger? And some Peruvian bitters. Hey, rules are made to be broken, right? At the core we’re just using the basic 2 strong, 1 sour, 1 sweet formula here but adding in some extra flavours along the way, but no so much as to overpower the personality of the arac. This one is a great summer drink and I’m breaking it out now in a desperate effort to bring about an (East) Indian summer. No luck with that so far…


Batavia Swizzle.

2oz / 60ml Indonesian arak/arac (I used Arac Java Baru).

1oz / 30ml fresh lime juice.

1oz / 30ml cinnamon syrup†.

2 dashes Amargo Chuncho* (or another aromatic) bitters.

2 or 3 kaffir lime leaves (from a Thai or Chinese grocery).

Swizzle with crushed ice and garnish with a piece of ginger and a kaffir lime leaf.

Toast the arak distillers of Indonesia. Nice work guys!


† or just under if using my cinnamon syrup recipe.

*I like to float a couple more dashes of Chuncho on top as it is quite a mild bitter.

Note: Outside of the Netherlands you might find the stronger Van Oosten Batavia-Arrack easier to find.

Posted in Recipes, Spirits | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goodnight Vienna.

It means nothing to me.

Goodnight Vienna.

Does there always have to be a story? Nah. Here’s a tasty cocktail that I named Goodnight Vienna. It’s a sort of stirred sister to the Solipsist. End of.


Goodnight Vienna.

1.25oz / 37.5ml mezcal (of good quality – no worm).

0.75oz / 22.5ml Grand Marnier (use lesser orange liqueurs at your peril in this one).

0.5oz / 15ml Punt e Mes.

0.25oz / 7.5ml Amaro Ramazzotti (Averna would also work well).

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled champagne coupé.

Garnish with an orange twist.

Toast Ultravox.


 

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment