I love this cocktail. Bright, fruity and really easy to drink while still being a geeky cocktail. It contains America’s oldest spirit, fresh juice, and a homemade ingredient that Industrialization unnecessarily industrialized.
Anyone whose read or seen Michael Pollan’s the Botany of Desire knows the story of the apple and it’s impact on colonial America. The apple orchards that Johnny Appleseed planted weren’t for eating. They were for making booze. A main source of alcohol in the colonies, apple spirits were consumed in large quantities. Apple wine, cider and applejack were consumed in place of water as they were considered nutritional and medicinal.Apple orchards were planted as early as the Pilgrims and George Washington was heavily involved in it’s trade. It wasn’t until prohibition that eating apples became a part of the American diet as the apple growers needed a new use for their crop.
Applejack is made by fermenting apple juice until you get cider, then freezing it and scraping off the ice. The alcohol doesn’t freeze, so what you get is a concentrated cider. They used to do make it by setting out casks of cider in the winter and letting it freeze.
Though the Applejack I used in making the Jack Rose pictured isn’t the company’s finest, The distillery is America’s oldest. New Jersey’s Laird and Co. make several different apple spirits and those that I’ve had are each delicious in their own right.
Now, let’s talk about Grenadine. This is not Grenadine. This is High Fructose Corn Syrup, Red Food Coloring and fake fruit flavor. A classic cocktail ingredient, “real” Grenadine is equal parts Pomegranite juice and sugar. Grenadine is impossibly easy to make. Take one bottle of POM and add an equal amount of sugar. Heat them in a sauce pan until the sugar dissolves or simply put it in a sealable jar and shake the shit out of it. Both are fun to make and you beat Kraft Foods at their own game. Good for you.
I’ve made this drink using both Lemon and Lime juice. I suppose you could do half one and half the other as well. Other variations using different Apple brandies like Calvados are highly encouraged as well.
There are many stories about who invented the Jack Rose. I don’t believe any of them. My favorite drinks historian David Wondrich has a great story about Jack Rose himself, which is worth the read.
The Jack Rose cocktail is a great way to explore other spirits, make your own ingredients and enjoy an easy drinking, fruity cocktail.
A further followup to Tequila 101 is my ever changing list of my personal favorite tequilas:
Fortaleza Reposado - $54
Called Los Abuelos is Mexico, Fortaleza is the rebirth of the Sauza family’s tequila. What we currently know as Sauza is a multinational brand that makes terrible tequila, much of it “gold.” The full story behind Sauza however is of a family that has been making tequila for generations and who sold the rights to the name many years ago. Guillermo E. Sauza, Great-Great-Grandson of the original tequila producer has reopened his family’s distillery in Jalisco, is making Tequila in the old style and is my current newest favorite. A rich balance of spicy and sweet, this vanilla heavy Reposado is an easy and yet complex drink.
Tequila Ocho Anejo 2010 -$55
The latest effort of the Camarena family, who also make El Tesoro tequila, Ocho is the first Tequila to focus on the terroir of Jalisco through vintages. They are bottling individual estates of agave and labeling each bottle with the name of the estate and the year of production highlighting the differences in terroir. They are on their third year of bottlings and the 2010 Anejo is my current favorite. Fairly spicy and complex, it makes for a great tasting experience.
Clase Azul Reposado -$90
In it’s beautiful hand painted ceramic vase shaped bottle, Clase Azul is the tequila I reach for when customers tell me they can’t drink tequila. Honey sweet with a heavy vanilla nose it is the opposite of the fiery gold tequilas. This Reposado is a blend of Whiskey, Cognac and Sherry casks, though I think the Sherry is the most pronounced.
Casa Noble Anejo - $60
Casa Noble is an organically made tequila aged in French Oak. It has become a favorite of the bartenders at Colibri and offers a sweet profile with a pronounced Vanilla nose. The Reposado is also quite nice, but the Anejo is rich and silky and my favorite.
Partida Reposado - $50
Partida Reposado is the wife’s favorite and I agree. Aged in American Whiskey barrels, this Reposado seems to have one of the best balances of flavors, working to integrate fresh agave, bourbon spice, caramel and vanilla. A beautiful drink.
4 Copas Anejo - $80
Organic 4 Copas is fairly new to me, but has been around for a while. I’m still trying to figure out what I’m tasting in this tequila, but it keeps me coming back for more. I get a surprising amount of stone fruit combined with earthy minerality I don’t see very often. It’s an intriguing tequila. I also love their blanco which is also rare for me.
Espolon Blanco and Reposado - $20
Espolon is an older brand that has seen a resurgence since being bought by Campari Group’s Skyy Sprits portfolio. I normally don’t get excited about Corporate buyouts as they usually lead to inferior products, but Skyy took a great, but expensive tequila, changed the bottle for the better and sells it at half the price. They swear the “juice” is the same and for now I believe them. At 20 bucks for both the blanco and repo, it’s a steal.
7 Leguas Reposado - $40
I outlined 7 Leguas in my tequila rant the other day. It’s a spicy and complex tequila that was the foundation of Patron’s rise in global dominance. It is a great tequila.
Tres Agave Reposado - $35
Another bargain priced, awesome tequila. Tres Agaves was started by the owners of The Tres Agaves tequila bars and has since spun out into it’s own company. They make tequila designed for margaritas, but I love them neat as well. The Reposado is particularly nice. The company also makes a line of cocktail ready agave nectar and their Margarita mix is the only one on the market I would recommend as it uses actual lime juice and agave nectar in place of fake juice and high fructose corn syrup.
Chinaco Anejo - $60
One of the few Tequilas from outside Jalisco, Chinaco is a great blend of spice, honey, and vanilla. The Anejo is my far and away favorite and works very well in cocktails as well.
Don Julio 1942 anejo - $120
The only product from Don Julio that I love, 1942 is something special. A rather expensive tequila, it is surprisingly heavy on the vanilla and soft on the spice, but complex and round. If you’re going to spend a bit more on a bottle this is a great buy.
Herradura Selection Supreme Extra Anejo - $350
The most expensive on this list, it is the only ultra premium tequila I think that is worth the money if you have it to spend. Selection Supreme is delicious and complex. Very woody with little left over agave flavor, it is full of flavor, spice and caramel.
Remember those pickled grapes I was working on a couple weeks ago? Well they are done pickling and I made a delicious cocktail with them.
This is an all grape cocktail inspired by several classic cocktail recipes that involve a base spirit (Pisco), Vermouth (Cocchi Americano) and sugar (Shrub).
A lot of these ingredients are unfamiliar to most people, but each have a rich history in drinking culture.
Pisco is a grape brandy made either in Peru or Chile, though don’t tell that to the Peruvians. They’ve been fighting with the Chileans over who gets to use the term and the battle is pretty serious stuff down there. The Chileans are much more relaxed about it, but most people knowledgable on the subject agree that Peruvian Pisco is the way to go. Either way, Pisco dates back to the Spanish colonization in the 16th century and comes in several varieties both aromatic and non aromatic. The non aromatic makes a perfect replacement for Vodka in many recipes.
We are seeing an invasion of high quality Pisco recently and I approve. I chose a relatively newer one on the market call Vinas de Oro Pisco who’s highly aromatic Torontel has an aroma of grapes that is seductive and perfect for an all grape cocktail.
Cocchi Americano is an aperitif wine which is very similar to a blanco vermouth. It’s a fortified wine with some chinchona bark (what gives Tonic its quinine.) It is equal parts sweet and bitter. I tried using several different vermouths in this cocktail also trying Dolin Dry and Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, but found the Cocchi to be the most interesting as the quinine brought out a subtle biter component that balanced the sweetness of the other ingredients. The Dolin Dry was my second favorite and can be used as a substitute.
The Grape Shrub you might remember is equal parts fruit, sugar and vinegar that is left to brine for 2 weeks. It serves the same purpose as citrus and sugar do when combined in a cocktail and found it worked quite well as a minor player that brought together both the Pisco and Cocchi while fortifying the grape flavor. I’m really happy with how it turned out.
The Pickled Grape is a surprise to those who eat their garnish. Sweet yet acidic with a firm bite, it’s a revelation at the end of the drink. I’ve made a few of these so far and It’s been a great success.
*Pickled Grapes and Shrub recipe
Rinse and dry the grapes, and pull them carefully from their stems. Using a small sharp knife, trim away the “belly button” at the stem end of the grape exposing a bit of the flesh inside. Divide the grapes among 2 pint-sized clean, dry canning jars.
In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat and pour the brine mixture over the grapes
Once cool, chill the grape and brine mixture in their jars in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. Reserve the brine to use as a shrub.
First published in Hugo Ensslin’s 1916 cocktail book Recipes for Mixed Drinks, The Avaition is a drink that is more than the sum of it’s parts and makes for a great way to enjoy what you drink.
What I like the most about this cocktail is that it is being reproduced at countless bars across the world right now and is introducing people to both classic cocktails, but also to real Maraschino, one of my favorite liqueurs.
Like most gin based cocktails, trying different ones make rediscovering this drink most fun. I’ve tried it with many different brands and can honestly say that I have yet to try one I didn’t like. Each brought its own flavor to the party in my Aviation hole.
Okay, now most people read Maraschino and think of the red cherries in syrup that is a standard garnish in most bars and they would be right, except that they are WRONG. Maraschino (marr-ə-skee-noh) liquor is made from the Marasca cherry and their pits. Originally from Croatia, it is now an Italian product. It is a complex liqueur that has a sour cherry and almond flavor and sweetened to offset the sour of the cherry. It’s fascinating on its own, but sings in cocktails. Luxardo, the leading brand of this liqueur also makes cherries in syrup, but it has little to do with the fake cherry you find in a bar.
The fake stuff, Maraschino cherries (marr-ə-shee-noh) are preserved cherries in a brine of sulfur dioxide and calcium chloride suspended in a syrup of food coloring and sugar. Candy sweet, they have no place in a well made cocktail. They are nice in a Stepford wife kinda way: too perfect to be any good. I pop a few every now and again for nostalgia sake, but the real deal is so much nicer.
The other ingredient besides the lemon in an Aviation is Violette liqueur. Hugo Ensslin’s recipe calls for it, but later versions of the drink and the one in the Savoy Cocktail book which is a well used classic cocktail book omits it. Until recently, it was a very hard ingredient to find, but I know of at least three on the market at present and we at Sidebar make our own. The name Aviation doesn’t make sense until you use the liquor in the drink as it turns it sky blue, however using it can make the drink smell like perfume that many either love or hate. I appreciate both.
The drink is served up with a dropped cherry. Now, what kind of cherry are you gonna use? Not a Maraschino, but a Maraschino!
Here’s a great viewpoint from someone who likes to both get drunk and enjoy what he drinks.
I’m not about to rail on the way Americans drink. Yes, America is the Birthplace of the Great Cocktail. Yes, we’ve strayed. And yes, we could probably all stand to focus a bit less on the Drunk, and a bit more on the Drink.
But let’s not kid ourselves. We didn’t become a nation of recreational drinkers overnight; we’ve always been one. Our forefathers didn’t step off the boat and start cranking out Ramos Gin Fizzes for the Algonquins.
America was built by men and women with a hunger for freedom—one matched only by their unquenchable thirst for warm, thick, gritty, gummy, bitter, rotten booze, fresh outta the cargo bay from a 3-month sea voyage. Our drinking roots begin at the bottom of the barrel.
We’ll drink anything, because we’re in it for the buzz. Always have been. If you don’t believe me, check out the signatures on the Declaration of Independence, which predates the first cocktail by about 83 years. Now tell me those guys weren’t sauced out of their minds.
So I’m not one of those “You’re drinking it wrong” guys. I drink for the same reason you do. Gotta fridge shelf full of PBR next to my homemade limoncello. I’m just doing my egotistical part to correct the #1 cocktail misconception:
“I can’t make that. It’s too haaaaaard.”
Fact: You can make better drinks starting now. And by better I don’t mean more authentic or retro or high-falutin’ or douchebaggified. Well, okay I do. But I also mean better. The kind of better that raises your friends’ eyebrows and lights up their faces. And you don’t have to spend more money. You just have to spend it in a different grocery aisle.
My last post may have been too advanced from some readers. I got some confused comments and thought it might be better to further explain what Tequila is in this post.
Describing tequila is made easy because in order to carry the name “Tequila” a bottle of spirit must meet a very specific set of legal guidelines set out by the Mexican Government and recognized by many international treaties including one with the US. If you aren’t approved by the authorities in Mexico, you can’t call your product Tequila and anyone who does will be sued into submission.
Though there are thousands of different types of agave, Tequila must be made from only one, the Blue Weber Agave. It must be grown, harvested, processed and bottled in the state of Jalisco (with a few other distilleries outside Jalisco grandfathered into the law.)
The Blue Agave takes 7-10 years to grow to maturity in mineral rich volcanic soil. Altitude, weather conditions, and soil makeup contribute to widely different flavor profiles across different agave fields from sugary to mineraly. Earthiness, smokiness, briney, citrusy, vanilla, caramel and many other flavors are present to varying degrees in different tequilas and tasting the differences all are a great example of enjoying what you drink.
When it comes times to harvest the agave, men called Jimadors use a large flat bladed pole called a Coa to Ninja like remove the spines of the 100lb plant to expose the Pina, or heart of the plant. The pina is cut into manageable sized pieces and transported to the distillery where it is cooked and then crushed to express the sugary juice.
The liquid is then fermented, sometimes with naturally occurring wild yeasts.
After fermentation it is at least twice distilled at which point you have tequila. If you bottle it within 2 weeks of fermentation what you have is Blanco Tequila, also called Plata or Silver Tequila. If you take the tequila and age it for up to a year, it is called Reposado. Reposado means rested. If you keep the tequila in an oak barrel for up to 3 years it is called Anejo which means Aged and if it is left in the barrel longer than 3 years it is called Extra Anejo.
In general, Silver is the most agave forward tasting of the various styles. This can sometimes be very peppery or spicy. A cheaply made Silver tequila needs a chaser to enjoy. A well made one doesn’t. Once you rest the tequila in oak it starts to take on the flavors of the barrel and changes the flavor of the tequila. There are many types of barrels out there and depending on where the oak comes from (usually American or French) and if it was used to age a different spirit beforehand (usually Bourbon, Brandy or Sherry) can radically change the taste. Reposados are lightly aged. The flavor is usually a balance between the agave and oak flavors and my usual favorite. Anejos begin to taste more like whiskeys as the wood flavors dominate and Extra Anejos are the least agave tasting and most whiskey tasting of the bunch. If you like old Scotches, this is the one for you.
Then there is something called Gold Tequila. All of the above tequila are 100% agave in the bottle. Nothing else is added. Not so with Gold tequila. Gold is called Mixto tequila and Mixto means that you only need to have 51% of the bottle be agave spirit. The rest is up to the individual producer. In most cases the other 49% is made up of cheap Vodka, a lot of sugar to mask it’s bad taste and caramel color to make it look like an aged tequila. In my opinion, Gold is a lie. It is designed to trick you into thinking what you are drinking is better than it is and the results are a hangover. Gold Tequila is what most people have been drinking and is directly responsible for Tequila having a reputation for being a party drink and creating the lick suck shoot method of drinking. It is everything I am against. Finding out what was in a bottle of Gold tequila started me on my quest to help peel back the insidious layer of marketing and help people actually enjoy what they drink instead of just drinking to get drunk.
The reason most alcoholic drinks don’t taste good is because they are the equivalent of junk food. Most of those brands you drink are an idea marketed back to you of how you should feel consuming that product. The contents of those bottles are often terribly made even if they are expensive. They are the product of years of global industrialization where shareholder value is more important than quality. Many of the brands you see started out as good tasting products, but the quality has been bred out of it as cheaper methods of production has been employed.
This is my favorite case study:
Patron is a product of the John Paul Mitchell Hair Care Company. John Paul DeJoria, half of the Paul Mitchell Company goes to Mexico and contracts with 7 Leguas Tequila to bottle their product under the name Patron and export it to the US. 7 Leguas is a great Tequila. Full flavored with some nice spice, aromas of vanilla and caramel, and smooth going down. (Their reposado is my favorite.) It is made in small batches from locally grown agaves. It is everything you want in a good Tequila.
Patron starts an amazing ad campaign in the US targeting macho and wealthy public figures like sports players, rappers, and hip-hop moguls. They market their product as a top shelf product and rightfully so. Up until Patron, most of the Tequila sold and consumed was tequila’s bastard step child, “Gold” tequila. What the makers of Cuervo and Sauza don’t what you to know is that Gold is a very bad thing. It’s a hangover in a bottle. Under international and Mexican law, Gold Tequila is 51% agave, 49% “other sugars” (cheap vodka,) Sugar (to mask its bad taste,) and Caramel color (to make it look like an aged Tequila.) Patron is 100% agave tequila. No fillers, no added sugar, no caramel coloring. Pure spirit.
You still with me?
The culture of drinking Tequila is the US is to lick some salt, shoot it, follow it up with a wedge of lime and then do some mating ritual dance of boo yahoos or whatever. It’s a great way to drink something that taste bad and if you’re drinking a gold tequila, then please go ahead and shoot it. When Patron came out, people were so attracted to the ritual of drinking it that they didn’t change how they were drinking it. They weren’t tasting it. At the same time, Patron’s sales figures were epic which caused a problem for their producer, 7 Leguas. 7 Leguas is an artisan product. It’s made in small batches. They couldn’t keep up with the demand for a globally recognized brand.
And here is the tragedy of Patron. No one is tasting their product and their supplier can’t keep up with production demands so they build their own distillery and start making it themselves, but using high production techniques which reduce the quality.
Agaves change in taste depending on altitude, soil conditions, and weather. They also take 7-10 years to develop. There is no way that you can have a consistent taste for your product if you have to make that much, so you blend. All the various tasting agaves go into the same bottles and their flavors are reduced to the lowest common denominator. What you get is a poor quality product. Better than Gold, but not worth the price tag they continue to charge.
This example can be seen all over the world and inspires other companies to make bad products, but to market them as good ones. The spirits market is highly susceptible to this because as we detailed above most people don’t drink to enjoy it, they do so to get drunk. If they are told that one product is drunk by rich bad ass moguls, then they are more likely to buy it regardless of what’s in the bottle.
The good news is that Patron’s success has also opened the door to the rest of the 100% agave Tequilas and you no longer have to shoot it. You can sip it without lime and salt. Please do. One of the bars that I work in has over 300 100%agave tequilas, many of them made in small batches and crafted by people who take pride in their quality and individual characteristics. The best news is that you can drink 7 Leguas for the same price as Patron and actually enjoy what you drink.
Both bars are also restaurants. Colibri is a Mexican Bistro which is basically like a fine dining restaurant, but without the white table cloths. Upscale Mexican. Not quite fancy, but way better than a taqueria which is what most people incorrectly assume all Mexican food to be. Sidebar is a gastropub which basically means that the bar program plays more focus. The food is casual gourmet with a California focus to its Mediterranean food. We sell a lot of awesome burgers and pork chops, but also lots of Mussels. There are some things I love about working in a restaurant. The first is that customers are looking for a culinary experience. They aren’t there to get drunk. The second is that the restaurant’s hours are much nicer than a traditional bar’s would be. I’m home by midnight the latest as opposed to 3 AM.
At Colibri I make the same drink dozens of times each night. Margaritas. Learning how to make one drink lots of times was excellent for a bartender learning the craft. I’m 3 months shy of 3 years there and I’m still learning better ways of making that one drink. Colibri is a tequila bar and has about 300 different tequilas. Over the course of my life I’ve had and managed multiple collections. It used to be Comic Books and Action Figures as a kid, then Phish tapes as a college student. Having a 300 bottle collection behind me is a fantastic work environment. I’ve spent thousands of hours reading about, talking about and tasting different agave spirits. 100% agave spirits are a great way to enjoy what you drink.
Sidebar is a classic cocktail bar. It’s a cocktail geek’s playground. Every bottle there is special for one reason or another. It’s a who’s who of cool spirits. Various Luxardo liquors, several Amaros, a library of bitters, 7 different Vermouths, and an equal number of Rye Whiskys. We also make many of our own ingredients. The kinds of drinks I’m making there define deliciousness. Classics that time forgot, but the cocktail geeks unearthed. I’m going to spend several posts breaking down the drinks on that list. Well made Classic Cocktails are a great way to enjoy what you drink.
One of my favorite drinks to enjoy is the Corpse Reviver #2 a 1930s drink from Harry Craddock’s famous Savoy Cocktail book.
.75oz Lemon juice
dash of Absinthe
Shaken over ice, double strained into a cocktail glass of your choice and garnished with a lemon twist and dropped cherry.
A corpse reviver was actually a category of drink from the late 1800s. Corpse Revivers were your morning drink. The idea being that you needed something a bit more gentle in the morning after a night of heavy drinking. In the 1930s a number of drinks bearing the same name were totted about. This one, the number two is by far the most delicious of the various ones I’ve tried. It was quite popular for a spell in the 30s, but died out during prohibition and never reclaimed its seat until rediscovered by Dr. Cocktail, Ted Haigh about 10 years ago. Now that we can get absinthe legally, the drink has returned with a passion. Let’s break it down:
This is an equal parts drink with a dash of absinthe served up.
Gin- many people claim to not like gin. This drink has converted quite a few people into being gin drinkers. Gin is basically an herbal vodka. When drunk straight it can be a bit medicine-y. There are many types of gins on the market. We’ll go into gin more in depth in a later post, but for now know that the major “London Dry” brands are all very similar with a very heavy juniper flavor and have more of an ethanol burn than I like. Many of the new ones on the market try to differentiate themselves by adding more of one herbal component or another and I enjoy trying them all out. This is a great drink to experiment with different gins in. The very orangey Bluecoat Gin is particularly nice, but I would steer clear of the cucumber heavy Hendricks.
Cointreau- One of the best of the Triple Secs. Triple Sec is a liqueur made from the peels of sweet and bitter oranges. Most products called Triple Sec contain fake flavor and excess sugar to mask the chemical taste. Cointreau doesn’t. Whenever a recipe calls for Triple Sec, reach for Cointreau (I also like Combier and some non-blue Curacaos.)
Lillet- Lillet is an aperitif white wine similar to Vermouth, but sweeter and less herbal. It tastes like a dessert wine with notes of honey and citrus. I love it. However, Lillet’s history is a bit complicated. What the company now calls Lillet is a different recipe than the one used in Harry Craddock’s time. The Lillet he used was much closer to Vermouth. One of the flavoring agents is chinchona bark which is what gives Tonic its Quinine. I rather enjoy quinine, but it’s an acquired taste. There is a newish product called Cocchi Americano which is in the same style as the old Lillet, but beginner drinkers will like the new Lillet in this drink. I like it both ways as I do most things.
Lemon Juice- When a drink calls for juice, always go with fresh squeezed. There is a huge difference in enjoyability when you use the juice from the fruit as opposed to a prepackaged juice. Even the best “fresh squeezed” juices are still pasteurized which dulls the flavor. Anything called “real lemon” (or “real lime”) that is designed to be shelf stable is an abomination. Fine if I’m stuck in a bunker somewhere, but citrus literally grows on trees, is available wherever fake juice is sold and comes in convenient single servings. You know: a lemon
Absinthe- We could talk about anise heavy Wormwood infused alcohol for a long time, but that’s another post. Since its re-legailty in the US, people have taken to using it in a way that seems counter to its intent, that is to drink whole glasses of the stuff. Absinthe was never intended to be drunk that way. Small doses are all you need. Small as in a dash. A tiny bit of Absinthe wakes up any normal boring cocktail. It’s so strong in flavor and so high in proof that to use anymore would crowd out anything else you served it with.
Shake hard with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain through a fine mesh strainer to catch any lemon pulp and ice chips. Garnish with a lemon twist (I like to use a vegetable peeler to get a nice wide strip which I squeeze over the drink and then rub around the rim of the drinking glass before dropping in) and a dropped cherry. Do not use a Marashino cherry. Ever. We’ll go into it in a later post, but those bright red cherries are gross. Maraska or brandied cherries are so much nicer and won’t insult the delicious drink you just made.
What I love about this cocktail is how each component supports the others yet is distinct in the drink. It is bright, fresh, fruity and herbal all at the same time. It’s lower in proof than many other cocktails so you can drink a fair number of them and by keeping the proof down, makes it much more drinkable.
Enjoy what you drink by drinking a Corpse Reviver #2
This is Jeffrey Morgenthaler making one:
photo by Ali Tribe
A friend posted a recipe for Pickled Grapes the other day which got me thinking about making a cocktail with them.
Being a generally crafty person, I’ve recently been interested in some of the longer bar focused kitchen prep projects, but don’t have much experience doing them. About a year ago I read a cocktail recipe that involved a Shrub, something I had never heard of. I did the googles and the wikis and learned that a Shub is a syrup made by soaking fruit in vinegar and sugar. Every source I found said it was easy to do, but the recipes were quite divergent. I was unconvinced. I like learning about new ways of doing things, but am also cautious in new endeavors. I do lots of research before jumping in to new projects. I have this thing where I want to get it right before I know how to do it. Sometimes that means that I don’t complete projects because I never start them, and sometimes it means that I’m really prepared for the projects I do take on.
A sweet fruity vinegar may sound like a strange ingredient for a cocktail, but allow me to illustrate why it sounds like a good idea and why I think we’re gonna enjoy it.
Some of the best tasting cocktails follow the same formula: Spirit + Citrus + Sugar usually in the disguise of a liqueur. Change each of those variables and you get any number of famous cocktail. For example:
Margarita: Tequila (Spirit,) Lime (Citrus,) Triple Sec (Sugar)
Side Car: Brandy, Lemon, Triple Sec
Lemon Drop: Vodka, Lemon, Simple Syrup
Tom Collins: Gin, Lemon, Sugar (oh and soda water too)
These cocktails all work the same way. Balance citrus (acid) with sugar (sweet) and add booze. Now consider the shrub. Soaking fruit in vinegar and sugar is basically the same thing. Vinegar is an acid and sugar is well, sweet. All we’re really doing is swapping out the citrus fruit for a different fruit. The reason Balsamic is a favorite vinegar of many is because it’s a sweet vinegar.
Today, one of my favorite cocktail blogs, Alcademics wrote about Shrubs which got me excited again to try out making one. Someone in the comments mentioned he makes them following the “1:1:1 cold method” combining equal parts fruit, vinegar and sugar in a jar and letting it do its thing for 2 weeks, agitating everyday.
Two days ago I began my first pickling project with the before mentioned grapes. The recipe called for amongst other things vinegar, sugar and fruit. Guess what it turns out I’m making without even realizing it: A Shrub! I’m so excited. I can’t wait. 2 days in and it’s already delicious. The recipe says the brining only takes a day, but I’m gonna leave them in there for the whole 2 weeks Alcademics says to do so. Once they are done, I’m gonna whip up a cocktail hopefully using only grape based ingredients. Sidebar has so many to choose from, I’m already overwhelmed by my infinite choices. Yummm!
Pickled Grapes, recipe courtesy smittenkitchen.com
Makes about 3 cups
1 pound seedless grapes
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 (2 1/2-inch) cinnamon stick, cut in half (if using two jars, otherwise leave whole)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Rinse and dry the grapes, and pull them carefully from their stems. Using a small sharp knife, trim away the “belly button” at the stem end of the grape (and try not to eat all of the belly buttons at once, m’kay?), exposing a bit of the flesh inside. Divide the grapes among 2 pint-sized clean, dry canning jars.
In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat and then you have two choices. The original recipe has you pour the bring mixture over the grapes and let them cool together. I personally prefer a cold brine on certain foods, not wanting to wilt the fresh fruit, so I cool the brine completely before pouring it over. The former will yield a more tender pickle, and it will pick up the brine’s flavor faster. The latter will take a bit longer to souse, but the grapes will stay more firm. Both will be delicious.
Once cool, chill the grape and brine mixture in their jars in the refrigerator for at least eight hours or overnight. Serve cold, perhaps at a cheese course, and I say you should let people figure out for themselves what they’re eating.
Top photo courtesy Ali Tribe
We here at EWYD think it’s a shame that more more don’t enjoy what they drink, they just drink to get drunk. We think we know why it is.
For most people, drinking is an exercise in getting them where they want to go. They drink to get drunk. It seems logical. Alcohol in an inebriant. They want to not be sober. Not being sober is fun. For them, it’s the destination that’s more important. The problem many people have is that most alcohol doesn’t taste good. It’s harsh. It burns. It tastes like medicine. For some people, alcohol is an acquired taste built up over years of inebriation. For many others, to avoid the bad taste of alcohol, they drink one of the following:
Many people shoot alcohol because it gets it done with quickly. It still tastes bad, but you’re done with it in 2 seconds. Boom! Yuck! Boom! Yuck but Tipsy! Boom! Who cares what it tastes like, I’m Drunk!
When it comes to beer drinkers, there are basically two types: Bland Beer drinkers and flavor questing beer drinkers. Let’s talk about bland beer. Bud, anything called light beer, PBR, Coors, Corona, ad nauseum. Beer is lower in alcohol, so it has less burn, but bland beer doesn’t taste like anything, so you can drink a bunch of it and slowly work your way to getting drunk. It’s more social than shooting as it takes a while to drink it and you can enjoy more of the ride, but ultimately the beer itself is boring. It’s the equivalent of drinking watered down milk. Non bland beer is generally bitter and/or sour. When not balanced with something sweet, it isn’t a pleasurable taste. Many people’s first experience with micro or small batch beer is negative. They never go back.
This seems to surprise many people, but according to spirit experts, the best vodkas are the ones that are colorless, odorless and most importantly flavorless. When you make Vodka, you are essentially removing all of the flavor out of the starch you started with. The more times you distill and filter something, the more pure alcohol you get and the less flavor you get. It’s great for getting you drunk. Vodka sodas are just about the most bland thing you can drink. Dry Vodka Martinis are next in line. To me, this is the opposite of enjoying what you drink. Remove all of the flavor from alcohol and all you are left with is a harsh, flavorless drink.
The spirits of Scotland are delicious. That is they are if you’ve been drinking them for years. Scotch is an acquired taste. When you finally get there, it’s wondrous, but many people never get there because they spend years not enjoying something until they finally do. For most people this is done in secret. They worry about their image and status so much that they can’t admit even to themselves that they don’t like it. I was victim to this myself.
This is where drinking to get drunk comes close to enjoying what you drink, but doesn’t quite get there. Take bad booze, add mix and you get something that tastes like candy, gets you drunk, but in pain the next day. Gold Margaritas, Long Island Ice Teas, anything and Coke are exactly that. Cheap booze with overly sweet mixers. It makes bad booze taste good. Sort of. Not really. Oh god, how did I just gain 20 lbs?
There is good news however. In addition to getting you drunk, It is possible for that drink to taste delicious and not taste like candy. Moreover, there are those drinks that taste fantastic. You see, you can apply the same science to good cooking that you can to good drinking. Figure out what combinations of flavors and textures work well and you have an endless supply of recipes to try out.
Luckily for us, about a decade ago there was a revival of classic cocktails in New York and San Francisco. These are the kind of drinks that are bar raisers. Pre-prohibition cocktillians knew how to make great tasting drinks. When you use good booze, add fresh juice, quality liqueurs and balance them in a culinary way, you actually get great tasting drinks. This rediscovery of quality recipes for improving the taste of alcohol is slowly spreading around the rest of the world and when combined with a plethora of companies producing quality artisan spirits and liqueurs to meet this growing desire for great tasting drinks what you get is a new wave of bartenders mixing up concoctions that rival and compliment the meal you just had.
The spirits world is changing for the better. It’s time to start enjoying what you drink.
Welcome to Enjoy What You Drink. My name is Jared and I’ll be your host. I’m a Bay Area bartender and hedonist with a rare trait: I can’t get drunk. I have a condition known as Asian Flush which limits my ability to consume enough alcohol to get drunk. After one drink I start to have what feels like an allergic reaction. After 2 drinks I’m nauseous and hungover. It isn’t fun. This somewhat rare condition for a bartender has led me to develop a unique philosophy of drinking. I don’t drink to get drunk, I drink to enjoy the taste of the drink.