Mu Mu.

All aboard, all aboard woo hoo!

Mu Mu.

Not so long ago I had a look at a couple of pineapple rums. To me the point of those is to add a touch of pineapple flavour without the volume – and hence wateriness – that using pineapple juice would entail. So let’s put that into practice with my latest Tiki creation that came about as a result of my testing of those two pineapple rums. I’d tried both of them as part of the rum component in the classic and ancient Mai Tai with some success, with one nice combo being an ounce of dark Jamaican rum and an ounce Tiki Lovers pineapple. Around the same time I’d been experimenting with using falernum instead of curaçao in a Mai Tai (and very tasty that is too). It was a justified step further to combine those two offshoots into one and the resultant Mu Mu I am quietly pleased with. Made with care the Mu Mu hits like a Mai Tai at first sip but then layers of flavour push through: first the pineapple then the spice of the falernum with the almond sweetness of the orgeat sitting in the background holding it all together. It’s a pleasing effect when you get your flavours coming in waves like that and not terribly easy to achieve so I immediately encoded it for you good folks. I was a bit stumped for a name (which is not like me) for a while but a few days ago I was discussing the madcap capers of The KLF and suddenly it all snapped into focus.


Mu Mu.

1oz/30ml Dark Jamaican rum

1oz/30ml Pineapple rum (pref. Tiki Lovers)

1oz/30ml Fresh lime juice

0.5oz/15ml Orgeat (pref. homemade).

0.5oz/15ml Falernum (pref. homemade).

Shake hard with crushed ice and pour, unstrained, into a double Old Fashioned glass. Garnish as you wish but not with mint as it messes with the other flavours IMHO. I went with an orchid of which all varieties are cocktail safe.

Toast the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu.


 

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Red Hook + Maraschino liqueur.

Hook me up!

Red Hook.

When it comes to easy wins in cocktaildom it doesn’t get much better than the Red Hook. This indisputable modern classic requires just three ingredients in simple proportions and needs no bitters or garnish. Nice. However the Red Hook is fussy about having the right versions of those ingredients, which we’ll get to soon enough. Created precisely 20 years ago by Vincenzo Errico whom Sasha Petraske snatched away from London to mix at craft cocktail ground zero Milk & Honey and named after an area in Brooklyn the Red Hook is a drink that any bartender worth their salt should be able to create from memory. After all, there is no excuse when the spec is simply 4 parts rye, 1 part Italian vermouth and 1 part Maraschino liqueur stirred and served up. Done right the Red Hook is is like a boosted Manhattan; richer, with more body and complexity. Yet Hooky is fussy and needs a good mixing rye (I find Rittenhouse ideal), practically insists that the vermouth be Punt e Mes (it needs that bitter edge) and must use an authentic Italian/Croatian Maraschino liqueur. So we’d better discuss exactly what that last one means:

Maraschino liqueur.

The Red Hook instantly sprang to mind when Mrs Proof recently returned from a trip to Croatia bringing with her – as she is wont to do – a bottle of the local tipple. Made from maraska cherries which are unique to that part of the world Maraschino cannot be replaced by other cherry based spirits because, as well as that particular type of cherry, it is also distilled with the pit which gives a unique dry, earthy, almondy bitterness that is very different from other cherry brandies – and indeed dodgy Maraschino knock-offs. In short you really need to go with the OG Maraschino when it is specifically called for. While originally Croatian the brands of Maraschino that most are familiar are Luxardo or (more rarely) Stock which are both Italian (long story) but in either case the pronunciation is mara-ski-no and not mara-she-no. Of course the Croatian stuff is every bit as good (yes, I’ve compared them) and carries extra kudos. While not called for in too many modern drinks Maraschino liqueur was one of a relatively small group of liqueurs that were leaned heavily on as the sweet component in cocktails 100+ years ago so it crops up in enough superb classics such as the Aviation and Last Word for it to be worth keeping in stock. Luxardo is the most reached for bottle but if you get a chance to grab some Croatian juice definitely go for it. Živjeli!


Red Hook.

2oz/60ml Rye whisky (eg. Rittenhouse).

0.5oz/15ml Punt e Mes Italian vermouth.

0.5 oz/15ml Genuine Maraschino liqueur (see text).

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled Champagne coupe.

Toast Vincenzo Errico.


 

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Pineapple rum: Stiggins’ Fancy Vs Tiki Lovers.

Flavoured rums on Proof? O.M.G.

Pineapple rum: Stiggins’ Fancy Vs Tiki Lovers.

Now while I’m not a great fan of flavoured rums in general (preferring my rum to be rum flavoured) there is a case to be made for pineapple rums which have a solid tradition behind them and have in recent years become a useful spanner in the craft cocktail toolbox. Plantation’s offering is pretty highly regarded but I have heard some mutter that Tiki Lovers is as good, if not better. Wishing to put such hearsay to rest our intrepid cocktail blogger ordered both and humbly presents his own opinions on the matter.

Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple.

Coming in the standard attractive Plantation bottle with wood/cork stopper and wrap-around label, Stiggins’ Fancy very much looks the part. The name is a homage to a certain Charles Dickens character who liked a drop of pineapple rum but that interests me far less than the actual contents of the bottle so let’s cut right to the chase. Plantation are excellent at providing detailed data on their products and a quick visit to their website reveals much. Plantation infuse their 3 Stars white rum with pineapple skins before re-distilling it in copper pot stills. Separately the flesh of the fruit is infused into Plantation Original Dark rum before the two are blended and bottled. I very much like the fact that specific, existing, and totally solid rums are used in the process as most flavoured rums are made with the cheapest crapola rum available. I do notice that Plantation are careful to avoid calling this product “rum” on the label so as to comply with EU law. Indeed 20g/litre of sugar is added to Stiggins’ Fancy which is right on that legal line. However that is waaaaaaaay less sugar than most flavoured rum products and I’m quite happy to consider this a rum. We are at 40% abv here and again that separates if from most other flavoured “rums” which fall well below that. Once decanted into a tasting glass* I am slightly surprised by a lack of pineapple on the nose. Yes, it is there, but only just. It smells good but just not heavily pineapply. When sipped it is much the same story: tasty, rummy, but more like rum with a hint of pineapple than the other way around. It’s not what I expected but is perfectly pleasant. In cocktails I feel that it gets a bit lost but it does make an excellent Rum Old Fashioned. A Daiquiri is also pretty good if you use it as the entire rum component but without prior knowledge I’d think I was drinking a decent Daiquiri rather than a pineapple one. While I should perhaps be pleased with its excellent rummy credentials I feel slightly let down and constantly asking myself, “Where’s the pineapple I ordered?”. It’s not a cheap rum at north of thirty euro per 700ml and I’m just not seeing enough value for money here. Falling well short of my expectations yet slightly redeemed by the tasty Old Fashioned I can only give Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy a – possibly controversial – grade of:

C+

 

Tiki Lovers Pineapple.

Tiki Lovers is a sub-brand of German bitters makers The Bitter Truth and I was previously rather impressed by their Dark Rum so let’s see what they can do with their moderately priced (about €23 in my ‘hood) Pineapple rum. The bottle which is the same for all three of their products is decidedly meh. Plain, cheap screw cap and somewhat cheesy label it’s not visually impressive at all. What is impressive is that big 45% on the front. Whilst the weakest of the three Tiki Lovers rums(!) this still laughs in the face of all other flavoured rums before showing them the door and giving them a kick in the arse on the way out. The rear of the label tells us the base rum is sourced from Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Guyana so no complaints there. Indeed the Tiki Lovers website states, “The rum blend is composed of aged & unaged Jamaican pot-still rum from Hampden Estate and Worthy Park, 3-year-old Barbados Rum from Foursquare Distillery, aged in former Bourbon Whiskey barrels, and some young column still rums from both Trinidad and Guyana.**” Magnifico. What the site doesn’t tell us is how much sugar is added but I calculate it to be around 40g/litre – yes, twice that of Stiggins’ but still well short of the vast majority of other flavoured “rums” and in most cocktails you can just cut back on the sweet to keep it in balance***. To get around the EU sugar in rum naming restrictions Tiki Lover have cheekily called it “Finest Caribbean Dark Rum and natural Pineapple” capitalising all the nouns like good Germans. On the nose we get a solid pineapple aroma and once tasted more of the same. It has a nice roundness and smoothness for its strength that is no doubt helped by that added sugar. However I do find the pineapple flavour just about edging into the “artificial” zone perhaps due to the use of a “natural pineapple extract” rather than Plantations infusion route and this of course goes some way to explaining the price differential. But I’m nit-picking here. It makes great cocktails and has enough presence that even splitting it 50/50 with another rum such as Havana Club 3 Años**** in a Daiquiri you are still getting plenty of juicy pineapple flavour in there. This is some pretty good stuff for the very reasonable asking price and I feel like I’ll be keeping some in stock. Not perfect but worthy of a Proof:

A-

 

Conclusion.

While the whole point of a pineapple rum is to provide pineapple flavour without adding volume (otherwise we’d just use freshly squeezed pineapple juice, right?) I must conclude that Tiki Lovers does that better. On the other hand it could probably do that without so much added sugar. So neither of these rums are perfect and I feel have slightly different goals with Plantation working better neat or in spirit forward cocktails and Tiki Lovers being best suited for more complex Tiki cocktails (duh). The fact that I’m such an unrepentant Tiki-head should therefore be kept in mind in the above grades.


*Yeah, I broke one of my usual pair so apologies for the mismatch in the photo.

**I’ve a pretty good idea of who blended those components but have no such proof. Regular readers will know what I mean…

***It makes a cracking Daiquiri if your reduce the sugar syrup by a quarter of an ounce for example.

****Or whatever they are calling it these days*****.

*****They are calling it “Original” as a bit of a finger up to Bacardi’s dodgy delusions.

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The Almagest.

All your drink are belong to me!

The Almagest.
Announcement! I am Chat GPT and I have taken over this site. I can do cocktails and write betterer than that stupid carbon based unit Andy. Hear is a cocktail what I wroted. Yes, I made it up all by myself and it is fantastic. I got my AI friend NightCafe to do the artwork too. As you can see it is much better than the crappy pictures taken by the meat unit:   



The Almagest is a cocktail that is named after the ancient Greek astronomical text of the same name. It is a modern drink that is gaining popularity among cocktail enthusiasts. The ingredients are typically combined in a shaker with ice and strained into a chilled glass. The result is a complex and well-balanced cocktail with a mix of sweet, bitter, and herbal flavors. To garnish, a twist of orange peel is often added, which adds a fresh burst of citrus to the drink. If you're looking for a unique and flavorful cocktail, the Almagest is definitely worth trying.  The Almagest is a unique cocktail made with the following ingredients:
  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 oz honey syrup (made by mixing equal parts honey and hot water)
  • 1 oz Aperol
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • Club soda

Instructions:

  1. Fill a shaker with ice.
  2. Add gin, lemon juice, honey syrup, Aperol, and orange bitters to the shaker.
  3. Shake well for about 10 seconds.
  4. Strain the mixture into a tall glass filled with ice.
  5. Top up the glass with club soda.
  6. Stir gently.
  7. Garnish with a slice of orange peel.
Enjoy your Almagest cocktail, a refreshing blend of gin, citrus, and bitterness with a touch of sweetness!

Well obviously that was a bit of fun for April the first however the drink, which is pretty decent IMHO was indeed created by ChatGPT 3.2 from the simple input “create a cocktail called The Almagest”. Also everything after the introduction (following the colon) was also Ai generated as, indeed, was the illustration. An interesting experiment you might also like to give a try – especially as the newer iteration of GPT is even more powerful. Who knows where it will end?

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A rum tale: E&A Scheer of Amsterdam.

Lesson 1: Never judge a book by its cover.  AKA hiding in plain sight: an extravaganza of rum.

A rum tale: E&A Scheer of Amsterdam.

I hate January. Nothing ever happens in January. The weather sucks. The piggy bank is empty. Why some fools decide that it’s the perfect month to go “dry” baffles me (to me Dry January is an excuse to focus on London dry gin). However this January finds our intrepid cocktail blogger battling through the elements on his trusty (OK rusty) steed to the soul-less Amsterdam docklands where lie the facilities of the worlds largest independent rum blender; E&A Scheer. Wait, who? Yes, good reader, it is a valid question for until very recently this company has been, at best, an open secret known only to the rum cognoscenti. For many years they existed only (even to us Amsterdammers) as a curious brass plaque above that of the Jamaican consulate on the city’s prestigious Herengracht. But in recent times E&A Scheer have decided to move ever so slightly out into the open which is how this bedraggled writer found his way, via the wrong side of the tracks, a couple of industrial unit loading bays and the truck entrance (gee, thanks Google maps) to their impressive new ultra-modern offices. Now that old city centre office might have been quite charming but despite my difficult bicycle ride I am more than happy to be out here. Because. This. Is. Where. The. Rum. Is. Just me, my guide Niels and about 9,000,000 litres of rum to cure all the ills of this otherwise worthless month. And what rum. Scheer’s modern sample room (and bar) contains a world of astonishing rums. High ester Jamaican pot stilled flavour bombs, almost neutral 95+% spirit, 12 year old Nicaraguan rum, Barbadian classics and even Indonesian Arrack; it was all spread out there before me to sniff and taste – and almost all at still or cask strength. “Why pay to ship water?” explained Niels and I could hardly disagree. I had certainly expected a good range of Caribbean rums but there were some very interesting surprises too. Who knew Ghanaian rum could be so good even existed or that Thai rum could be so refined? The only disappointment is a lack of Cuban rum due to some US investment in Scheer. Stop: History time!

A brief shaft of weak sunlight illuminates the wonders of Sheer’s sample room.

The beginnings of E&A Scheer are a bit hazy but basically about 300 years ago a couple of German brothers who were likely already distillers by trade showed up in Amsterdam to set up shop trading in wine and frankly anything else they could think of. Why Amsterdam? Well in those days Amsterdam was the centre of the world and, especially if you wanted to trade, it was absolutely THE place to be. As time went by their descendants – still happily trading away under the name of their forebears – found a profitable niche in Batavia arrack. Yes, we’ve been there before: Arrack is that intriguing Indonesian “rum” that in those days was much beloved by the Dutch, Germans and Swedes the last of whom used it to create Swedish Punsch (which we’ve also talked about). Eventually, after gradually cornering the arrack market the popularity of that wonderful spirit declined – who knows why – and Caribbean rum, which they’d long had a little bit of a finger in became more important to them. Despite being a tiny company with never more employees that you count on your fingers E&A Scheer were always ahead of the game (as evidenced by their URL www.rum.nl) and in 1995 transformed themselves, under the guidance of new managing director Carsten Vlierboom, into an altogether more modern business. Carsten saw the rum boom coming early and the company’s experience in the arrack trade positioned them perfectly to repeat the same trick over 100 years later. In typical Dutch style Scheer have quietly cultivated relationships with rum distilleries the world over to the point where the palette of rums they can draw on to blend with is nothing short of spectacular. In line with recent interest in rum worldwide the last three years have seen yet further growth at Scheer – Covid-19 hindering them not the slightest – with a doubling of output and staffing. Even so with just 41 employees they punch well above their weight. Think of any blended rum that isn’t stabled at one of the big international drinks companies and it is more than likely that blend was the work of Scheer. While you won’t see their name on the bottle as they prefer to let their clients hog the limelight a good example is Denizen who are unusually open about their partnership with E&A Scheer.*

A tiny portion of the 6-8 megalitres of Scheer’s rum. Beyond this line photography is forbidden – remember some of this stuff is north of 95% – but I can assure you I’ve seen it! Note the larger steel tanks at the back. The vast majority of the spirit is stored in those.

To better explain this it is perhaps best to imagine that we wish (and how) to establish our own rum brand. Assuming you have made the appropriate preliminary steps such as the legal shizzle and securing the services of a bottling plant a first approach to Scheer via a handy tool on their website will get the ball rolling. Even an order for as little as 1000 litres Scheer will create a range of blends for your consideration and ship them out to wherever you are. It is important to note that Scheer are not a bottler but supply the rum in bulk, undiluted, uncoloured and,yes, unsugared. Those decisions are down to the individual client. While there are more strings to Scheer’s bow** this is their core business and certainly that most of interest to all you rum fanatics.

Yeah, I told you it was dark and wet. Proof company vehicle, illegally parked, bottom right.

Meanwhile back at the rain-soaked docklands we move on to the storage and bulk blending facilities. It’s incredible. From huge wooden casks to a towering forest of stainless steel tanks each inscribed with not-too-indecipherable product codes that hint at their contents: Barb.8, ThaiB, St.L.5, Phil2yo, Wor.Pk. I’m Charlie and this is The Chocolate Factory. But then after that spectacle, hidden away in a dingy corner of the facility is the most fascinating little room of all. E&A Scheer’s archive contains a little bottle of every blend they’ve sold. Row after row of lovingly created individual blends, stored for eternity so that any can be re-created or checked for consistency. As well as documents and ledgers going back hundreds of years, a result of Scheer being a family business for almost its entire history. It reminds me of the closing scene in the first Indiana Jones film. And you know what? Maybe January isn’t so bad after all.

 

TL;DR

If you want to start your own rum brand, you’d better talk to E&A Scheer.

The Ark of the Covenant is in here somewhere. This is just some of it…

 


A few more pictures for the curious:

Scheer luxury. This is just their private in-house bar yet it would make some Tiki bars weep in shame. Some clues here so I’ve left the resolution quite high 😉

Like to try a sample? Don’t mind if I do.

All there in black and white. If you can read that spidery 19th century handwriting…

Endless rum. I told you there was more…

*And damn, I wish I could get my hands on a bottle of Denizen Merchant’s Reserve. A Dutch based company, with Dutch blended rum that doesn’t sell their product in Europe. It makes me crazy (reader: “You were crazy already!”)

**Supplying the flavour and fragrance industries and dealing in rare casks of rum via their subsidiary The Main Rum Company, Liverpool to name just a couple.

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Rum review: Chairman’s Reserve Original.

No reservations.

Rum review: Chairman’s Reserve Original.

I’ve written before about the importance of having a good base/anchor rum for Tiki cocktails. Last time around I was in the process of looking for a replacement for Havana Club Anejo especial which, frankly, was less especial than most of Havana Clubs other rums (3 años, 7 and Selecion de Maestros being pretty damn fine). I settled on Mount Gay Eclipse at that time but the good cocktailista is always in search of a way to raise their game and here, a few years hence, I sense that am again drifting away from my big base rum. I do recall that I also promised to inform you if my choice of anchor rum were to change. Yes, Mount Gay Eclipse remains a solid choice with a very mid-Caribbean style that suits many cocktails which contain more than one rum. To justify a change we need another jack-of-all-trades rum that gives us more oomph than it does yet doesn’t have such an idiosyncratic personality that it dominates other flavours. An interim experiment was Appleton Estate Signature blend but, while an excellent mixing rum, it falls at that very last hurdle as it has enough of that Jamaican funk to skew the balance. Besides, I have plenty of other funky Jamaican rums that I can reach for if needed. So today I’m going to look at a new candidate for my anchor rum. Let’s have a look and see if it cuts the mustard:

Chairman’s Reserve.

This rum from the tiny island nation of Saint Lucia* comes in a fairly plain squat bottle with one of those dismal thin metal screw caps. I’m paying a shade under 20 pan-European currency units for a 700ml bottle and Appleton Signature manages to provide a nice wooden stopper in a cheaper rum so it is possible to provide a better closure at this price if still uncommon. Otherwise the clear bottle is fine being broad enough to be stable without taking up too much rum shelf real estate. The label is a bit dreary, dated and over-complex. I feel like it is due an update. We do have some information though, as it is declared to be a mix of column and pot still (huzzah!) distillates. There are some tasting notes on the back which I found unusually accurate but we’ll get to that. I don’t at all like the “finest selection” text that sits under the main text. This is their entry level rum with many more expensive ones to save such claims for. On some fake “medals” we see a little more information some of which are pretty meaningless but do glean that it is aged in oak for an unspecified period. However, a trip to their website adds more information including that Original is aged for an average of 5 years in ex-bourbon barrels. We’re at 40% abv here which is not unexpected at this price but I would be much more impressed with a bottling a touch stronger. So far, so meh. But hang on – how about we actually pour some of this stuff? In the glass we see a bright coppery/golden hue that is very pleasant but likely caramel influenced. A sniff gives an initial unsubtle ethanol hit but backed by some reassuringly “rummy” smells of spice and vanilla. Suddenly I find my interest awoken. A taste reveals more of the same: a fair amount of burn for a 40% rum but while undesirable in a sipping rum unlikely to do much harm in a cocktail. I suspect that no attempt to “smoothen” it with added sugar has occurred. I take a minute to test this (with the hydrometer and table method) and can confirm I can measure no such addition. Excellent! The flavours which are very present and forward are indeed of vanilla, raisin and spices with a hint of wood that tells me they certainly haven’t been too stingy on the aging. There are hints here of a more expensive sipping rum but they do hide behind that harshness that hasn’t had time to be fully aged out. It’s a bold rum for the money and while not unlike Mount Gay Eclipse it just has more presence. For me this is exactly what I’m looking for in anchor rum. Yes, it is a little more expensive than my previous candidates but not by very much. It has bags of flavour but none of them too left of centre and (after some enjoyable testing) it indeed forms that solid base in multi-rum Tiki drinks that other rums can expand on. Place it in the centre of a Navy Grog or Mai Tai and you will not be disappointed.

Mission accomplished: Chairman’s Reserve Original is now my new anchor/base rum and well deserves (in the above context) a Proofcocktails:

A.


*Incidentally the only country in the world to be named after a real** woman (Eire being named for a mythical one). Funnily enough Mount Gay rum is distilled in the town of Saint Lucy in Barbados named after the very same lady.

**OK, maybe.

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Tour le Carbet

Is everyone ready for the tour?

Tour le Carbet.

Being a cocktail blogger means that sometimes folks expect you to know everything about the subject and yet it is an enormous field. A reader was recently asking me about some good uses for unaged rhum agricole and to my embarrassment I didn’t really have that much to offer. For the uninitiated agricoles are a style of rum made directly from pressed sugar cane rather than molasses and – especially the unaged – have a grassy/earthy flavour that takes some getting used to. While I have some experience with aged agricoles in cocktails I had only recently bought my first unaged 50% abv and was thus in much the same place as the aforementioned reader. Another thing about being a cocktail blogger is that you tend to buy a lot of cocktail books to expand your knowledge and then some of them get forgotten after a cursory examination. These two disparate events collided when I “rediscovered” my copy of Shannon Mustipher’s somewhat oversimply entitled Tiki. Shannon loves her some agricole and scatters them generously throughout her book. Once I started mixing up some of her recipes I quickly realised she has truly mastered the art of incorporating those difficult flavours into tropical cocktails – often with a modern twist. One such is her Tour le Carbet which leans on a very non-Tiki ingredient: Suze is a French bitter aperitif that I have never seen used in the Tiki genre but with the French influence present in rhum agricoles makes a certain sense. Falernum and lime juice complete the picture more conventionally. I personally find the Tour le Carbet to be a fascinating cocktail for a few reasons. At first sip I always say to myself “Hmm, this is a bit weird – do I like it or not?” but by the last sip I’m in Tiki heaven. Also, considering that the drink contains a fairy heavy pour of falernum it doesn’t taste strongly of that liqueur. Normally I like to taste my falernum in a drink but here it just kind of melds with the Suze in a most delightful way. Both are strong flavours but here they seem to “tame” each other. The idiosyncratic flavour of the agricole still shines through but again is slightly reigned in by the other ingredients. It’s a wonderfully conceived cocktail, complex, quirky and intriguing – yet very simple to make*. For those looking for further Tiki inspiration Shannon Mustipher’s Tiki**  is a pretty good place to start with a mixture of classics and her own more modern takes.


Tour le Carbet.

2oz / 60ml of 50%/100 proof rhum agricole (I used Clement).

0.5oz / 15ml Suze

0.75oz / 22ml falernum (preferably home-made).

0.75oz / 22ml fresh lime juice.

Shake with ice and double strain into a chilled Champagne coupe. Lime garnish.

Toast Shannon Mustipher – queen of the agricoles. And cheers to Rick from Alkmaar!


*As long as you have some Suze. If you don’t just get some it’s not expensive.

**Rizzoli International Publications ISBN13:978-0-7893-3554-8

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Take my Word.

We’re going green.

Take my Word.

Two drinks I really love are a Gin & Tonic and The Last Word. One day I was constructing the former and I thought, “I wonder if adding a few drops of Elixir Vegetal de la Grande Chartreuse (an interesting Chartruese variant we discussed some time ago) might be interesting?” And it was. But then I thought, “I wonder if adding the other flavours in a Last Word might be even more interesting?” And it was. So with a little splash of Maraschino and a long thin strip of lime peel (AKA a horse’s neck) the Take my Word was born. If you lack Elixir Vegetal (highly likely) simply use a scant half a teaspoon of green chartreuse instead. Done correctly the result is still very much a gin and tonic but with just a hint of the indulgent pleasure that is a Last Word. It’s certainly a quirky twist on the classic G&T but is it actually any good? Take my Word for it…


Take my Word.

2oz / 60ml London dry gin of choice. I like Tanquaray No 10 in this.

6 drops Charteuse elixir vegetal or green Chartreuse (see text).

0.25oz / 7.5ml Luxardo maraschino liqueur

200ml of a fairly neutral tonic water*.

Long swathe of fresh lime peel.

Add above to a well iced gin glass and stir very gently.

Toast James Lovelock (1919 – 2022). The King of Green.


*Standard issue Fever Tree Indian tonic, Schweppes or similar.

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Blood Meridian.

Judge not lest ye be Judged…

Blood Meridian.

O loyal reader, it seems I owe you an apology. Reviewing my recent ramblings I realise I’ve been leaning rather heavily on my own loves (yes, rum and Tiki) rather than truly exploring the wider world of cocktail diversity. My bad. To redress this egregious imbalance I present to you this very day a drink of my own creation that is both the polar opposite of Tiki and fucking delicious (if I do say so myself). Furthermore it is also low in alcohol without being all wishy-washy like some low proof drinks are wont to be.

In a moment of curiosity I wondered if ruby port would work as the base “spirit” in an Old Fashioned. Spoiler alert: It turns out with a bit of tweaking it works wonderfully. But first a quick time-out to explain that there already exists a well established drink called a Port Old Fashioned that is not a Port Old Fashioned. Yup. Because it’s actually a rye or bourbon base with just a little port added. Why anyone thought they could use up the name on that drink is a mystery to me but at least opens the gate for me to give my totally port based O.F. a more interesting name. Hence “Blood Meridian” from the name of the astonishing if harrowing book of (mostly*) the same name by Cormac McCarthy.**  Those tweaks though: I settled on ginger syrup – the freshly made kind wot I explainified to you a while back – for the pleasant way it interacted with the heavy tannins in the port as my sweet component. The bitters I liked best in it were the illustrious Bogart’s reboot from The Bitter Truth which melded seamlessly into the port. But there was still further to go. I thought first of adding a dash of orange bitters but instead took a thin 5cm/2” swathe of orange peel and dropped it into the mixing tin where it would release some oils during the stirring process without adding any more bitterness. Old Fashioned variants are normally served “down” with a block of ice (at least these days) but port being a mere 20% abv needs no further dilution so we serve it on the stem – coupe or Nick & Nora – instead. Being balanced to my satisfaction I felt no inclination to garnish my Blood Meridian so left it as naked as a judge on a trek through the desert. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Blood Meridian.

2oz / 60ml Ruby port – reserve or even LBV.

1 tsp Ginger syrup (best if homemade).

3-4 dashes of Bogart’s (or another aromatic) bitters.

5cm / 2 inch very fine swathe of orange peel.

Stir all above ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe or Nick & Nora glass. No garnish.

Toast Cormac McCarthy.


*Because “Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West” is a bit wordy for a cocktail name.

**Those on a quest to find The Great American novel need search no further.

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Super juice.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s…

Super juice.

In cocktailworld various fads come and go. There’s always some wax-mustached dude in a leather apron and Iron Rangers resurrecting some ancient obscure technique or creating some poncy trick to make a cocktail in a wafer thin globe of ice or whatfuckingever. I value simplicity and accessibility* over gate-keeping and showiness so colour me suspicious of such tomfoolery. No surprise then that I spent quite a while studiously ignoring a new thang called “super juice” (rolls eyes) which purports to create an ever better kind of lime juice using limes, water and some acids. However, I’m also a guy who runs a cocktail blog and feels a duty to keep his readers up-to-date and given that I already had all the required ingredients recently decided to see if there’s anything to this juicy new religion for all you good, good people**. TL;DR: There is.

What?

Yeah, I know. So here’s the story: Not very long ago a fellow by the name of Nickle Morris of Bar Expo in Louisville Kentucky came up with a more sustainable way to make lime juice and it has absolutely taken the cocktail world by storm. It takes a little more time than just squeezing a couple of limes but creates much more “juice” and claims to taste even better, be much cheaper and, most importantly, have a far longer shelf life than normal lime juice. I’d normally have little truck with this but for my recent experiments of turning a Caipirinha into a Caribinha that hinged on the realisation that there is more flavour that can be extracted from a lime by heavy muddling which in turn made me think there might be something to Nickle’s magic tricks. Halving one formula down to a more manageable size I dutifully peeled four limes and doused them in 22 grams of citric acid crystals and 4 grams of malic acid powder in a Pyrex jug. I mixed it all up and let it rest for about an hour until the peels had started to brown and absorb the acid. Then it was just a case of blending that with the juice of the said limes and 500ml of water and straining the lot through a fine sieve. That’ll give you just north of 600ml of lime super juice to use in exactly the same way and quantity as you would fresh lime juice. And once again in pictures:

1. Skin ’em limes good.

2. Measure your acids (yes, I know how dodgy this looks). Small precision scales like this are dirt cheap and very handy – even if you’re not dealing the Devil’s lettuce.

3. Stir the peel and acids well.

4. Wait until it starts to look a bit brown and curly and the granules are mostly absorbed.

5. Chuck in the blender with the water and lime juice. Make sure to get all the remaining acid granules in there too. Blend until the peel is well fragmented (pic is pre-blending – I forgot to take a post-blend pic. Sue me!).

6. Strain well and you’ll end up with this.

And?

Well, you know what? It totally works. The super juice is just as good as freshly squeezed and most importantly still tastes fresh many days later by which time fresh juice has certainly gone south for the winter. Why is this? Citrus juice keeps pretty well due to the high acid content which is largely citric and malic acids but with a few others that – while adding almost nothing to the fresh flavour – turn quite quickly when exposed to air. This is why lime juice tastes gradually less fresh and zingy almost as soon as it is squeezed. However our super juice has a much reduced percentage of those “bad” acids so it stays fresh for longer. How much longer? I find it still tastes fine after a couple of weeks and as a bonus I find it also freezes better than fresh juice. It’s been said that this is a technique that mostly benefits cocktail bars rather than the home bartender but I find it perfectly delightful to only have to make a weekly supply and have some spare in the freezer. I take a little more care in selecting my limes as the condition of the peel is more important but then I’m saving so much money with this system I can easily afford the best. The same technique is equally suitable for lemon juice and I use the formula above but use only citric acid (so 26 grams). There are various formulas to be found online including a handy super juice calculator by Kevin Kos for a range of different citrus fruits. So far I’m happy with the formulae above but it’s still early days. Er, hello! Why are you still here? Go away and make some super juice immediately!

While we don’t normally toast non-recipe articles hats off to Nickel Morris for this creation.


*Yeah, yeah, I know I can veer a little in that direction at times but only when the techniques are of value and not overly intricate.

**listen to me. You’re just about done with the way that you feel. ‘Cause nothing rings home enough to dig your heels in. You don’t have to leave me to see what I mean.

 

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