Compass Rose + blood orange syrup.

Love like blood.

Compass Rose + blood orange syrup.

Blood oranges are a delicious fruit that at their best have raspberry-like flavours that ride on top of the usual oranginess, beautiful marbled flesh and peel that is often dusted with red flecks. But they have issues. You see, blood oranges only grow in quite specific conditions that require cold nights yet in a climate that can support orange trees. In Europe this means they mostly are grown in Italy where those conditions exist. This also means that blood oranges are very, very seasonal being available (in Europe at least) only from late January until mid spring. Damn. But they are in season as I write this so let’s make use of them while they’re here! I’ve always loved them for their garnishing powers, either as just swathes of the peel or dehydrated slices (which allows me to make a supply for the off-season) but I’ve been feeling I need to make better use of these magnificent fruity treasures so I made some blood orange syrup which borrowed from the super juice method to get the most from them. Method follows:

Carefully peel 3 large (or 4 smaller) blood oranges making sure not to get much of the white pith – a decent vegetable peeler being the best way IMHO. Keep the fruit. Cover the peels in 24g of citric acid crystals, stir in and leave for an hour stirring now and then. Squeeze the juice from the 3 naked blood oranges, sieve and add to the peels along with 400ml of water. Blend all of this for 15-20 seconds and strain what remains. Weigh this liquid and put in a clean pan. Add the same weight of white sugar and bring to the boil while stirring. Kill the heat immediately when it hits 100ºC or starts to bubble. Bottle in clean, still warm sterilised glass bottles – smaller ones will help preserve your supply. Fill those you want to keep longer right to the rim to minimise the air gap. They should keep at room temperature for quite a while if you do this right but this is my first attempt so time will tell (I’ll report back in due course). Refrigerate once you open a bottle. My yield was about 800ml and it makes a delicious soda syrup but we, being the evil little tinkerers that we are, will be using it for more nefarious purposes (heh, heh, heh).

Aeons ago, before I got into cocktails in the dying days of the 20th century the cocktailiest thing I did was to put some Myers’s rum and some ice into a glass of orange juice and damn if that was not pretty decent. I thought to use my blood orange syrup to re-create that nostaliga yet uplift it by a good few levels. And thus was born the Compass Rose. Yes, it’s an Old Fashioned variant which I feel I’ve not gone into often enough upon these pages. The rum is of course your choice but, if I may, I advise the following: Something from an island*, with no added sugar and a bit of barrel age in the 7-10 years bracket. Because of the citric acid content of the syrup we up the quantity a touch but again, personal preference applies. As to the bitters I found good ‘ole Angostura the most pleasing but feel free to try others – I know you will anyway you little monsters. And there’s little more to say – other than that Mrs Proof likes her blood orange syrup utilised in a Daiquiri. And she is never wrong**.


Compass Rose.

2oz/60ml aged Caribbean rum (See text but I used Appleton 8).

1.5 teaspoons of blood orange syrup (see above).

2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters.

Stir with ice and strain into a double Old Fashioned glass containing a large ice block or sphere. Garnish with a swathe of blood orange peel or if out of season a dehydrated blood orange wheel (as pictured) or just regular orange peel.

I toast DJ Steve my fruit-loving colleague who keeps me up to date on when and where to find the best blood oranges.


*This being my general golden rule for quality rummage, the sole exception being the Demerara rums of mainland Guyana.

**I am contractually obliged to state this.

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Remember Your Name.

1,2,3 1,2,3 come get it now…

Remember Your Name + riffing on classics.

The dirty little secret of the craft cocktail movement (I dislike the term, but whatever) is that the vast majority of cocktails on the menu are just riffs on classic recipes. In fact I quite enjoy going through the modern cocktail menu – which is typically just a list of flavours followed by a price – trying to spot which one will be the Old Fash rehash, the Daiquiri derivative, the Manhattan mutation, the Collins conversion or the phoney Negroni. The tweaking of the age old classics might at first glance seem a little lazy but the truth is that there is really nowhere else to go as there has been no truly innovative cocktail formula in the last 50+ years. In the same way that there are only 7 story plots there are really only a limited number of cocktail formulae that are palatable to the masses: The Old Fashioned (spirit, sugar, bitters), the Daiquiri/Sour (spirit, sour, sugar), the Manhattan/Martini (spirit, vermouth, bitters) and the Collins/Planter’s Punch (spirit, sour, sugar, soda/juice). For those trying to create their own drinks for the first time take the advice of one who spent too long trying to create something new from scratch and just start by making small changes to some classic drinks. There’s absolutely no shame in it at all and it’s what all those “high end” craft cocktail bars are doing anyway. Example follows:

Let’s look at my variation on the Remember the Maine (which we recently discussed), itself a version of the Manhattan. I was looking for a “new” cognac based drink to add to my repertoire and the Remember the Maine looked like a good candidate. Switching one oaked spirit for another is a pretty safe bet but a bit of further fine tuning is often required. Bitters are a great way of nudging a drink in a desired direction and here I reached for Fee’s excellent Black Walnut bitters to create a woodier and deeper cocktail. I cut the cherry brandy by just a touch because I wanted the walnut bitters to come forward but you could easily leave it at half an ounce too. And that’s how easy it can be. My new cognac cocktail is different enough from the original yet familiar and comfortable. Were it appear on a modern craft cocktail menu it would be all:

Cognac – cherry – vermouth – absinthe – black walnut –  14

and not informing us we would be sipping on a hundred-year-old drink with a decidedly iffy back story. But that’s how it goes these days. It’ll need a clever name which preferably alludes to the original and thus we have the Remember Your Name.


Remember Your Name.

2oz/60ml Cognac (I used Courvoisier VS).

0.75 oz/22ml Italian Vermouth (I used Punt e Mes).

0.33oz/10ml Heering cherry brandy.

2 dashes Fee’s Black Walnut bitters.

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled Champagne coupé which has been rinsed (or spritzed) with absinthe. Garnish with a cocktail cherry (I used a real Maraschino cherry).

Toast Grant Hart (1961 – 2017).


 

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Remember the Maine.

The Maine event.

Remember the Maine.

I first approached the Remember the Maine with the intention if riffing on it because I hate the name of this drink so much but then I remembered how good it actually tastes and have left my riffed version for a later date in order to share this hideously named drink with you. So about that. In 1898 an American warship USS Maine exploded in Havana harbour killing most of the crew. While it was known almost immediately to be a accident (burning coal and gunpowder not being a peaceful combination) the USA decided to blame the Spanish and proceed to nab the mineral, sugar, tobacco and rum-rich colonies of the remains of the Spanish empire* for themselves. American newspapers lead the rush to war with the rallying cry, “Remember the Maine! To hell with Spain!” the first half of which became a cocktail name. You see my distaste I think. At least this name makes it fairly easy for us to date this cocktail as it certainly cannot predate the events of 15th February 1898. The first mention of it is in Charles H. Baker’s Gentleman’s Companion of 1939 where he writes,

REMEMBER the MAINE, a Hazy Memory of a Night in Havana during the Unpleasantness of 1933, when each swallow was punctuated with bombs going off on the Prado, or the sound of 3″ shells being fired at the Hotel Nacional, then haven for certain anti-revolutionary officers. Treat this one with the respect it deserves Gentlemen. Take a tall bar glass and toss in 3 lumps of ice. Onto this foundation donate the following in order given: 1 jigger of good rye whisky, ½ jigger of Italian vermouth, 1 to 2 tsp of cherry brandy, ½ tsp absinthe or Pernod Veritas. Stir briskly in a clock-wise fashion – this makes it sea-going presumably! – turn into a big chilled saucer champagne glass, twisting a curl of green lime or lemon peel over the top.

While there is barely a word of Baker’s that I can agree with** there are things we can deduce from his text. The drink already existed and was not an invention of Baker himself. Absinthe was banned in the US in 1912 so likely it predates the ban. The version Baker was drinking was not garnished with a cherry as it almost always is later on. And that’s a lot of absinthe compared to more modern versions! In any case I theorise that the RtM was indeed concocted immediately following the events of 1898 as the ingredients and formulation are typical of the time. The Spanish-American war war very brief and I can’t see it being in the public’s attention enough for a drink to be named this way some time later. I tried at various formulations from Baker’s to the modern and settled on the one I present you here. It’s a slight outlier in that it uses a split base of rye and bourbon while most specs call for one or the other. The cherry garnish is unshakably installed by now so I didn’t mess with it but I did try something new. I’d read a tip that mixing the ingredients of a Manhattan a day before and resting overnight in a glass bottle makes for a smoother drink so the RtM being basically a tweaked Manhattan I gave it a go. There might be something to it – I certainly notice that effect in some other things I make. That’s up to you to try here if you like but in any case:


Remember the Maine.

1oz/30ml Rye whisky (I used Rittenhouse).

1oz/30ml Bourbon (with some rye content eg. Wild Turkey 101).

0.75 oz/22ml Italian Vermouth (I used Punt e Mes).

0.5oz/15ml Heering cherry brandy.

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled Champagne coupé which has been rinsed (or spritzed) with absinthe. Garnish with a cocktail cherry (I used a real Maraschino cherry).

Toast the brief but progressive Cuban Government that Baker and the USA hated so much.


*Long in decline and certainly no angels themselves.

**For example the “the unpleasantness” included, according to Wikipedia, “autonomy to the University of Havana, women obtained the right to vote, the eight-hour day was decreed, a minimum wage was established for cane-cutters, and compulsory arbitration was promoted.” Nasty, nasty stuff alright but not to worry a US-friendly right-wing dictator was soon safely installed. Phew! /s.

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The Anarchist + Calisay(a).

I am an anarchist…

The Anarchist + Calisay(a).

In my idle moments I enjoy paging through ancient cocktail books (or reprints thereof) for interest, information or inspiration. To be honest there’s not a great deal of the latter as 100+ years ago things were pretty spartan in terms of ingredients in cocktailworld. Upwards of 80% of pre-WW2 cocktails are some combination of spirit, vermouth and bitters, with the odd dash of liqueur. And when it comes to liqueurs most of the time the choice is Curaçao. It’s a bit puzzling as there were certainly plenty of liqueurs bouncing around Europe at the time but I can only imagine that most were consumed locally and never made it to London, Paris or USA where most of the cocktail culture was flowering. And why did Curaçao make the jump coming, as it did, from a tiny Caribbean* island? Who knows? Where we do find other liqueurs it gets even weirder: WTF are Hercules and Calisaya that are called for in a few cocktail books from the pre-prohibition era? This puzzle lay unsolved by me until recently when while scrolling through the liqueur section of an online supplier I noticed something called Calisay. Could this be the strange liqueur I thought long extinct? Obviously I ordered some and also dug a little deeper. The internet was not particularly helpful with different sources claiming it was Italian, Spanish or extinct and then recreated in the USA. Well my bottle says “Legitimo licor desde 1854”, has medals from around 1900, it is very, very made in España and Difford’s Guide concurs** so I reckon we’ll just have to go with that. The US product may be quite different for all I know so please keep that in mind. The missing ‘a’ on the end remains a mystery to me. But you want to know what this is made of right? Well Calisay(a) is a liqueur based on chinchona (aka quininne) which is familiar to us from Indian tonic water. In this form it is delivered in a brandy base and heavily sweetened which gives it a pretty powerful bittersweet character. To me Calisay is to chinchona as Suze is to gentian. I quickly put some to use in the cocktails from my 1900 cocktail manual reprint but found the results pretty unappealing. One is a 50/50 mix of Calisaya and whisky and the other one part Calisaya to two of Plymouth gin. Both are completely dominated by the massive hits of chinchona and sugar which means that either Calisay of old was far milder, palates were sweeter (evidence points the other way) or these were just pretty poor unbalanced recipes. That means we’re gonna have to go freestylin’ – which suits me just fine. It transpires that Calisay/a is a challenging product to work with having a peculiar, if addictive, flavour. The sweetened chinchona is very dominant so a light hand is needed and I found myself dialing that component down quite a long way until I found the right balance. The recipe I finally arrived at pays homage to the common ingredients of 100+ years ago whilst adjusting it to more modern tastes. It also honours some of those who fought Fascism in Spain in the dark years from 1936-1939.


The Anarchist.

2oz / 60ml of Irish whiskey (I tried a few but Jameson is just fine).
0.5oz / 30ml Italian vermouth (I used Punt e Mes).
0.25oz / 7.5ml Calisay.
2 dashes Bogart’s bitters (or another aromatic bitters).

Stir with ice and strain over a big block of ice and add a swathe of orange peel.

Toast Spain’s bold experiment.


NOTE: If you can’t get your hands on any Calisay you could try any Italian amaro with China in the name (pronounced “keena” which is Italian for quininne) which may be somewhat similar. You best chances of getting some Calisay are in Spain. If you live in the Netherlands, Belgium of Germany you can order it here.

*Ok, technically Antillian rather than Caribbean but let’s not split hairs.
**Their guide shows an older bottle but clearly the same product.

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Fallback.

Legends of the fall.

 

Fallback.

This autumnal cocktail, which was created by the late legendary cocktailista Sash Petraske, caught my attention because of the somewhat unusual preparation instructions. According to his book Regarding Cocktails the ingredients are just built (cocktailspeak for poured into) in a whisky glass, a large ice cube added and then stirred until “sufficiently chilled”. This goes against everything we have been told about making aromatic style cocktails and almost all subsequent re-tellings of this drink attempt to normalise it by using the usual techniques of stirring it with ice, straining it and serving it either up or down over ice. Sasha was a cocktail genius but it sounds to me like a lot of people don’t trust him. I do. I believe his instructions are very specific for a reason. We stir with ice to achieve cooling but also dilution but it seems to me that Mr P was going deliberately for some chilling but with minimal dilution in order to keep the drink strong and luxuriant. Something to be enjoyed after a fine meal – it was, after all, created for the menu of a high end oyster bar – as a digestif like a glass of Cognac or port. As such it doesn’t need to be diluted or ice cold as a full stomach can handle that potency in a way that an empty one cannot. I make my Fallback exactly as Sasha described with only minor substitutions for what I have available: Calvados instead of applejack and Punt e Mes vermouth rather than Carpano Antica*. The amaro Nonino might be tricky for some but well worth seeking out as it also essential in the delicious Paper Plane. Made this way the Fallback is indeed punchier and more intense than a stirred and strained aromatic cocktail. You find yourself taking smaller sips as each contains oodles of flavour and, wow, are they beautifully integrated. Your tastebuds are just dancing all over the place in a way you just don’t experience with a more diluted drink. So there we have it folks: Sasha Petraske, now some 8 years departed, was doing something interesting here that those who came after him failed to properly understand. Message ends.


Fallback.

1oz/30ml Rye whisky (eg. Rittenhouse).

1oz/30ml VS Calvados (originally bonded applejack).

0.5oz/15ml Italian vermouth (I used Punt e Mes*).

0.5oz/15ml Amaro Nonino.

2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters.

Add all ingredients into an un-chilled double old fashioned glass. Add a single big block or ball of ice and stir gently in the glass for about 60 seconds. Garnish with a long swathe of orange peel.

Toast Sasha Petraske (yes, yet again).


*This is simply my personal preference as I like the extra bitterness that Punt e Mes brings and as a home bartender I can’t have various bottles of vermouth open at the same time. Feel free to use any other quality Italian vermouth.

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Humbaba + turmeric.

Mellow yellow.

Humbaba.

It’s official! Apparently we can all be much healthier if we get more of the wonder-spice turmeric in our bellies. Having no greater concern than our ahem collective healths I reckoned I could make my own little contribution to packing more curcumin into our diets. I hereby present the Humbaba, a twist on the Whisky Sour or perhaps more accurately (and appropriately) the Penicillin. If you are not familiar with turmeric it is a wonderful spice much used in Indian and Persian cuisine with a pleasant bitterness, pungent aroma and incredibly intense rusty orange colour. So intense that almost no matter how much you dilute this stuff you’ll get a final drink with a rusty/yolky hue. I found that a level teaspoon of fine turmeric powder in every 100ml of home-made ginger syrup was the right ratio of sweet to bitter. Thereafter I proceeded to make a whisky sour but with a bit more syrup than usual because of the bitter content. The basic formula of 2 parts whisky to a part each of the syrup and lemon juice was quite pleasing so I then turned my attention to finding the right whisky. After some trial and error I settled on a 50/50 mix of peaty Islay malt and a milder whisky – initially Irish but finally a Scottish blended malt. Either will get you somewhere desirable. Specifically I went for 1oz of Finlaggan Original, an incredibly good value Islay malt that while lacking in subtlety and age is a great affordable way to get some peat smoke intensity in your mixed drinks. An ounce of reliable mixer Monkey Shoulder completed the picture. My Irish choice was Teeling Small Batch but my bottle ran dry before the tinkering was done and Monkey Shoulder worked just as well – or maybe just a touch better. So besides the making of the ginger & turmeric syrup – which I’ll go through under the recipe for those not used to making their own ginger syrup – this worked out to be a nice easy equal parts spec (always nice) with a very standard mixing process. And to me the interaction of the turmeric with the whisky is simply epic. Speaking of which you might be wondering about the drink’s funny name. Well, way long ago Humbaba was simply minding his own business doing a bit of guardianing in the cedar forest when along comes this dude Gilgamesh and his mate Enkidu and kill him to death for no apparent reason. Poor Humbaba. I reckon he needs a drink.


Humbaba.

1oz/30ml Islay malt whisky

1oz/30ml mild Scotch or Irish whisky (see text)

1oz/30ml fresh lemon juice

1oz/30ml ginger & turmeric syrup (see below)

Shake with ice and strain into a double Old Fashioned glass containing a big block of ball of ice.

Toast Humbaba – guardian of the cedar forest.


Ginger syrup and ginger & turmeric syrup.

Peel a chunk of fresh ginger about the size of two fingers with a potato peeler. Don’t worry about getting every last piece of the skin off. Chop into thinish slices. Hopefully that should be around 70g. Throw that into a blender along with 200g of fine sugar and 200ml of very hot water then pulse blend about 20 times. Leave it in the blender (or in a bowl) for about 2 hours then strain through a fine sieve pressing down on the ginger pulp with a spoon to get maximum gingeriness. Put into a sterilised bottle. Shake well and keep in the fridge. To make a ginger and turmeric syrup simply divert some of that and add fine turmeric powder at the ratio of 1 level teaspoon per 100ml. Shake this syrup well before use as the turmeric tends to settle towards the bottom of the bottle.

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Review: Edinburgh Gin.

You can leave me on the shelf,
I’m an Edinburgh man myself.

 

Edinburgh Gin.

Every now and then it’s a good idea to re-evaluate your house spirits. Why? Well, some spirits can be re-formulated by the manufacturer over time. Sometimes for the better and sometimes not. Also, tastes change: for example your palate can become more developed with practice – and ageing. And thirdly new products may become available to you that you would be wise to evaluate to see if they have a place as your baseline spirit. The gin market is particularly diverse and fragmented with an almost constant deluge of new gins coming to market and gins are particularly difficult to evaluate without tasting as there is no age statement to guide you as there is with brown spirits. Additionally price is not always a good indication of quality in Ginland. And, yes, you’ve guessed it, it is time for me to evaluate a gin that is new-ish to me to see if it might become my (and perhaps your) standard house pour – as far as that is possible with gin. For a long time Tanqueray was my choice but in recent years I’ve drifted around without having a fixed choice which is simply unacceptable of me (bows head). In Cocktailista mode I require such a gin to be outstanding in cocktails and not just in a gin and tonic which is not always an easy balancing act. In this role I’m certainly not looking for anything to whacky of flavour hence the timeless London Dry style is where we’ll be going.

Edinburgh gin has been in my gin selection for a little while now and I’m trying to decide whether to enthrone is as my house mixing gin or not which requires some analysis. You may as well benefit from my musings and I sincerely promise not to be be too biased by being Edinburgh born myself. Edinburgh Gin Distillery make quite a number of different  gins but I’m evaluating their standard offering which is a classic London Dry style as is attested to on the label. In recent times the label has had something of a facelift from the rather dull previous version and we have a nice painting of some of the botanicals used on the front. The clear bottle is attractive and practical with a foil sealed cork and plastic stopper which is all just fine for it’s mid-priced market position. Between the bottle and the website we have a partial list of the 14 botanicals used: Juniper, pine buds, lemongrass, mulberries, orange peel and lavender. The picture on the bottle hints at thistle and some other flowers but that may be no more than a bit of artistic licence. ABV is a healthy 43% which is always preferable to those cost cutting gins that bottle at 40% or the legal UK  minimum gawd-’elp-us of 37.5%. Let’s see how this all stacks up!

An exploratory sniff doesn’t reveal a great deal. A little juniper of course but then only mildly and then some peppery notes beneath. Sipped I immediately get a nice peppery hit which I always like in a gin. Other flavours are difficult to pinpoint but merge together very well and I’m reminded of my very favourite gin Etsu which pulls off the same trick. In my view this is very welcome in a gin in this time where flavoured gins (sigh) are on the rampage. It does, however, make it a little difficult to describe. Importantly the gin is well balanced and not too bitter nor too sweet. Orange always goes a long way to temper bitterness if used judiciously and I suspect the mulberry may too. It doesn’t come over as too floral which was a concern of mine and I was happy enough to not detect much influence from the lavender which is a flavour I generally dislike. The combined effect is of a bold and flavourful spirit and as one who dabbles in making gin it’s clear to me that the makers have not skimped on the botanicals nor otherwise watered (or ethanolled) down what comes off the still. There are no huge surprises or quirks here, just a very well made and balanced gin at the very centre of the gin flavour gamut – which bodes well for my expectations for a house standard gin. So far so good but how does it fare in a G&T or a cocktail? Mixing it with some Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic and a swathe of orange peel was a delightful experience and it shined just as well with a more neutral tonic and a lime garnish. In cocktails its inherent boldness was a great benefit in a Bee’s Knees cutting through the lemon and honey where some more subtle gins fall flat. On the aromatic side of the spectrum an EG based Gin and It stood up well to the Italian vermouth and finally a sneaky sip of Mrs Proof’s requested Bramble further convinced me that Edinburgh gin is a very mixable spirit. In my area a 700ml bottle of Edinburgh gin costs about €25* which is a fair price for such a tasty and versatile gin. Yes, Edinburgh gin is now my house gin and scores a straight:

A.


*I tend to pick a bottle up when I pass through Edinburgh airport where you can get a litre for just a shade more. The bottle in the picture is indeed the larger of those sizes.

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Blending rums: Dark Jamaican rum.

We’re jammin’, we’re jammin’, we’re jammin’, we’re jammin’, I hope you like jammin’ too…

Blending rums: Dark Jamaican rum.

The sharp-eyed among you may have noticed a funny looking bottle in my recent article on the MuMu. That would be my home blend of dark Jamaican rum and it occurs to me that such home blending of rums might be of interest to some of you. Quite a while ago we talked about infinity bottles which is tangentially related and might be worth re/reading but there are specific reasons for blending rums that don’t apply to other spirits. Rum is without question the most diverse of all the base spirits with myriad varieties, styles and production rules depending on location. A bottle of Bacardi Carta Blanca is light years away from a bottle of Lemon Hart 151, which in turn is parsecs away from a bottle of Captain Morgan Spiced, which is astronomical units away from a bottle of Clement Agricole. The world of Tiki drinks exploits this wide palette of rums to its full by calling for specific rums or at least styles of rum for certain drinks. Why? Because the range of flavours is so interesting and diverse. Take the venerable Mai Tai and the endless discussion on the perfect rum mix to create either an authentic one – or simply a tasty one. Indeed there are even commercial rum blends created largely for that specific drink. Arguments even abound about the categorisation of certain rums – are we using the colonisation based, colour based, age based or Smuggler’s Cove based (there are more) system? For some budding Tiki-heads it can be difficult to lay their hands on the specific rums called for in a recipe and so some substitution (aka “subbing”) of rums is often necessary. Us Tiki nuts are used to blending rums at the point of creation (as in a Mai Tai or Navy Grog) but we can go a step further and create a bottle of rum “of our own” for the simplification of the mixing of a house favourite, to plug a gap in our rum shelf – or simply as a flex. Perhaps a case study is a good way of illustrating what I’m trying to say here.

One much used rum category is as common as it is nebulous: Dark/Black Jamaican rum. It is called for in myriad Tiki classics yet the style can be funky or completely funk-free and various brands can taste of anything from molasses to brown sugar. It’s a minefield. I have used various Dark Jamaican rums but never found one that I thought “this is the one*”. And then. A kind reader – Grüße Felix! – generously sent me a sample of Hamilton black pot still rum from a visit to the USA and it was good enough to make me realise immediate action was necessary. I did a bit of experimental blending with some Jamaican rums and came up with a very satisfactory formula of equal parts of Worthy Park 109, Coruba NPU overproof 74% and filtered water. The trick is to find the key qualities you are looking for from two or more rums, combine them and then bring them to an appropriate proof. In this case the WP109 brought the deep chocolate, spice and coffee notes and the Coruba delivered the powerful ester-rich funk. Both are very high proof rums so quite a bit of water could be added to bring them down to around 43% which also made the final product pretty damn good value for money**. As a result I now have a “house” Jamaican Dark that, while not identical to the Hamilton is certainly in the zone and negates the need for having a handful of examples of that particular style. While this one just happened to work perfectly in an equal parts formula we can also make a more complex blend as long as we make sure to write down the proportions for future repeatability. If those rums are difficult for you to find a more available version might be Smith & Cross and Myers’s which is not quite as rich but serviceable. In that case a ratio of two parts of each rum to half a part of water gets you to an abv of 43%.

If you have any good rum blends along these lines feel free to post them in the comments and perhaps together we can build up a small catalogue of DIY rum blends. I’ll certainly be posting a few more here as I experiment further.


Proof Dark Jamaican rum about 500ml 42.8%

170ml Worthy Park 109 rum 54.5%

170ml Coruba (EU not US) overproof rum 74%

170ml filtered water


Proof Mai Tai rum about 500ml 45.7%

170ml Smith & Cross rum 57%

170ml El Dorado 8 year old rum 40%

170ml Brugal 1888 40%

Changed from a previous version, this adds the 14 years of aging from Brugal 1888 to get closer in profile to Wray and Nephew 17 year old used the original Mai Tai. I can’t know exactly what that tasted like but this makes a tasty Mai Tai.


Proof Navy Rum 500ml 57%

200ml Smith & Cross Jamaican rum.

300ml Wood’s Navy rum.

I always felt a Navy Rum of old would have had some Jamaican content but more recent blends lean more heavily on Guyana and Trinidad. This is my tasty fix although for many of you Wood’s might be hard to find.


 

*Blackwell’s came quite close but it’s not easy for me to get and is a bit pricy.

**For me that works out at a pretty palatable €11.35 for a 500ml bottle (or €15.89 for 700ml)!

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Naked & Famous + the Chartreuse Crisis.

The brothers gonna work it out…

Naked & Famous + the Chartreuse Crisis.

If we’re looking for modern classic there is nothing that fits the bill more perfectly than the Naked & Famous created by Joaquín Simó at Death and Co. NYC in 2011 as the bastard love-child of the only recently resurrected Last Word and the equally equally proportioned Paper Plane, itself created only a few years previously in the same city. If we’re looking for the ingredients to make one on the other hand we might have a problem – but we’ll get to that. Riffing on the Last Word the Naked & Famous, which I thought was either named for a Canadian denim company or a song by The Presidents of the United States of America but is, according to Joaquin, from a lyric in a Tricky* track, consists of equal parts of mezcal, lime juice, Aperol and yellow Chartreuse and is really, really good and really really easy to make. Or at least it used to be. Let’s talk about the key ingredient of the Naked & Famous:

Chartreuse: Monky Business.

Chartreuse is an ancient and secret liqueur made by monks – or as they call themselves Carthusian brothers – at their monastery in the French Alps. In spring the brothers wander the mountains gathering the 130 herbs and plants that go into their spectacularly bonkers 55% green liqueur (and derivatives; the most salient being the yellow used in the N&F). And yes, the colour is named after the booze and not the other way around. So far, so idyllic. Despite some early problems things have trundled along quite nicely over the last 100 years for the brothers with just enough sales to support their simple lifestyle and quiet devotion to God and nature. But then the likes of us came along and started using their gently crafted products in Last Words, Chartreuse Swizzles and (shhhhh) Naked & Famouses. Demand continued to expand and recently the brothers decided it was all getting far too commercial. And these good dudes certainly not being in this for the money said, “Fuck this for a picnic in the Alps, we’re just gonna respect the environment and just make enough to keep us in smocks and bread.” Well, not literally**, but you get the drift. Their distributor – for the brothers do not dirty their hands with such things – announced this decision to an aghast cocktail community and declared that production of Chartreuse would be limited to 1.6 million bottles per year which would mostly be distributed to it’s “traditional markets”. I was very respectful of their decision. I could afford to be as I live in one of their traditional markets. Until I popped into my local and magnificently stocked bottle emporium and asked for a bottle of Yellow Chartreuse. Five minutes later, when the proprietor had stopped laughing, I realised the problem was more serious than I thought. I’m pretty sure a wave of panic buying has made the issue far bigger than it needed to be yet here is the current situation: In general it is green Chartreuse that is nigh on impossible to acquire at this time of writing with yellow being merely incredibly difficult to source. Strangely, reader Diego from Chile who got hooked on N&Fs while in NYC could only find the normally grailesque Elixir Vegetal de la Grande Chartreuse that we discussed ages ago but more on Diego’s experiments very soon. I was eventually able to get my yellow Chartreuse but I’ll be damned if I’m telling any of you vultures where, just in case I need another one. However, I shall now discuss a few ways to ride out the current crisis which I’m hoping will subside once the panic buyers feel they have enough:

Clooster bitter/liqueur.

This Dutch product makes a pretty decent substitute for green Chartreuse. Despite being only 30% rather that 55% and containing 17 herbs rather than 130, the flavour, colour and mouthfeel are very close. That it’s typically about a third of the price is an added bonus. While no longer made by monks it seems to be based on a similar age-old recipe. That’s where the good news ends because it might be hard to find outside of the Netherlands and Belgium although it does pop up in the USA sometimes at a 40% strength. Even in the Dutch market it’s pretty thin on the ground because a) the ceramic bottles it traditionally comes in are/were made in Ukraine and b) it’s an excellent green Chartreuse substitute. If you are lucky enough to find any be aware that whether it is branded Boomsma and/or Claerkampster it is exactly the same juice in the bottle.

Diego’s sneaky yellow C.

Aforementioned Diego came up with an interesting innovation using his elixir. Despite have no yellow Chartreuse to compare it to he formulated something that made a decent Naked & Famous. I now do, so I present a tweaked version closely based on his excellent work. Dissolve 25ml of runny honey in 50ml of warm water and then stir in 2.5ml (half a teaspoon) of Elixir de Chartreuse vegetal and the resultant liquid will be enough for three (ok – and a bit) N&Fs. It doesn’t taste quite the same as yellow Chartreuse head-to-head but the colour, texture and flavour are close enough to mix with.

Elixir d’Anvers.

I happened to have a couple of miniatures of this lying around and it turns out this Belgian liqueur made of 32 botanical is similarish to yellow Chartreuse if somewhat less intense. At 37% the strength is close enough and the colour is spot on. In a pinch you can use it instead of yellow C but if you fortify it with a few drops (4 per 0.75oz is what I like) of Elixir de Chartreuse you have a very serviceable substitute. Of course your chances of finding both of those esoteric products might be slim.

Order from Italy!

Regular reader Quiddity reports that there appears to be no lack of supply in Italia so EU readers could just order some from there. Ensuring that they get some decent Amari and Maraschino at the same time to help justify the shipping costs of course.

All of the above are pictured. Diego yellow C in the clear flip-top bottle and Cloosterbitter decanted into the vintage Chartreuse bottle so you can see the colour. And so that I can show off my vintage Chartreuse bottle.


Naked & Famous.

0.75oz / 22ml Yellow Chartreuse (or sub^).

0.75oz / 22ml Joven mezcal.

0.75oz / 22ml Aperol.

0.75oz / 22ml Fresh lime juice.

Shake with ice and double strain into a chilled coupé glass.

Toast The Carthusian Brothers – keeping very quiet and making the good stuff since 1737. Respect brothers.


*Admittedly not that Tricky track but Black Steel is too good to miss.

**We don’t really know what they said because they don’t really speak much and when they do it’s mostly amongst themselves. And I can use all the bad language I like because they don’t do internet.

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Blackthorn and Patxaran.

Txotx!

Blackthorn and Patxaran.

The Blackthorn is one of those awkward cocktails to write about as while it is arguably a “classic” it has also had several versions over the years. Over time this has settled into two versions but they remain wildly different. The “Irish” version consists of Irish whiskey, Italian vermouth, bitters and absinthe whereas the “English” spec is sloe gin, French vermouth, bitters and absinthe. Having said that, as far as I’m aware Irish whiskey doesn’t grow on a Blackthorn bush whereas sloe berries most certainly do, so I’m more inclined to side with the English variants. Furthermore the oldest Blackthorn recipe I can find in my cocktail library is one part sloe gin, two parts Tom gin and two dashes of orange bitters and no vermouth whatsoever (this from about 1900) which sounds like a logical starting point to me. In any case lacking any certainty as to the definitive identity of the Blackthorn I’ll leave you to your own devices and simply tell you where this tangled mess took me. Always looking to plug gaps in my cocktail knowledge I determined to mix myself up a Blackthorn, which, as I’d understood it, was a sloe gin cocktail (‘parently not always). Having neglected to make or buy any sloe gin I was in a pickle. At least until I remembered I did have something on my shelf with some sloe berry content.

Patxaran* is a sloe berry liqueur from the Basque Country of north-east Spain which I have oft sipped upon on my many visits to this wonderful region which takes its food and drink very seriously. Enjoyed as a digestif following one of those four hour Basque “lunches” it is made from macerating sloe berries and a few other ingredients – but always including some anise and sugar – in neutral spirit for many months. It’s very nice chilled on its own with the bitterness and astringency of the sloe berries countering the sweetness but, eyeing up that bottle of Zoco I liberated from Donostia/San Sebastian, I was thinking that maybe with a bit of tweaking this could make yet another version of the Blackthorn (I mean why-the-fuck-not at this point, right?). Patxaran is pretty assertive on it ownsome so I decided to split the base with some gin. Using a bittered Italian vermouth would also help and, of course, Punt e Mes will be happy to be of assistance here. We can skip the absinthe as those notes are already present from the Patxaran so it is just a question of applying the right amount of aromatic bitters to tie this unlikely alliance together. After that it’s just a pretty standard preparation with the only issue being to think of a suitably derivative name…


Basquethorn.

1oz / 30ml Patxaran.

1oz / 30ml Dry gin**.

1oz / 30ml Punt e Mes Italian vermouth.

2 dashes of aromatic bitters (I used Bogarts’s but Angostura is fine).

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled stemmed glass and garnish with a swathe of lemon peel.

Toast the Basque people and their wonderful food and drink.

Note: Zoco Pacharan seems to be fairly available in Europe and perhaps in Spanish specialty shops further afield.


*This is the Basque spelling you may also see spelled the Spanish way as Pacharan.

**I used some local gin. Larios is an inexpensive Spanish gin that comes a few varieties. In this case I used their Provenzal whose herbal notes fit right in. Larios 12 in the bright blue bottle is my favourite though.

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