Archive for the ‘American Whiskey’ Category

When Brian Shebairo Chris Antista opened up hot dog joint Crif Dogs in Low East Side back in 2001, followed by a certain PDT, little did they know how far ahead they were of a trend when they started applying the concept of gourmet-style dedication to the heart of fast food cuisine.

The resataurnt-style dedication given to their hot dogs is only scratching the surface. Look a little deeper, however, and you’ll notice something else; American popular culture is reinventing itself, especially within the food and drink area. It’s rebirth and makeover from the hotdog to the cocktail are evident to say the least. And London can’t get enough of it.

As the infatuation of PDT’s ideology of a junk food and cocktail joint slowly make it’s way across the Atlantic, entrepreneurs in London are looking at ways to cash in on how cocktails and the fun-filled elements of American culture can be fused together.

Examples throughout the capital are plain to see. Want to live out your Big Lebowski fantasy by drinking a Caucasian and hitting a strike? All Star Lanes have got it sussed. Want a heart-stopping burger and a well-made cocktail? MEATliqour is your choice of venue.

Whether Shebairo and Antista helped kick off a trend, rather than something they inadvertently stumbled upon is up for debate. But for those who are dining out in London, either as a resident or a tourist, the amount of restaurants that are offering well-crafted junk food have now become outright destinations to visit instead of a place you just went to eat.

Cue Dach & Sons, the third venue from the gentlemen at Fluid Movement aka, the guys behind the famed Purl and Worship Street Whistling Shop, an American-themed diner with industrial-esque décor and some professionally and proficiently cooked diner food.

Located in Hampstead, the venue is the first of its kind in the area, and is the definition of American sub-culture through and through; the interior of the downstairs are lined with tiles and neon lighting, reminiscent of something that lies between a clean subway toilet and an American 1960’s milkshake diner.

As well as hiring a full-time butcher who make their own frankfurters, sausages and burgers onsite, the venue also employs  progressive cooking techniques such as sous-vide and flash frying, and is set against a backdrop of American craft beer and a good selection of whiskey; boilermakers are matched with burgers and hotdogs, with an emphasis on well-cooked and locally sourced meat.

The menu itself is impressive; bone marrow popcorn was the one that caught my eye, with an option of sliders also available for those of us who suffer from the old ‘option paralysis’. But, just like the guys over at MEATliqour and Crif Dogs, the food served is fantastic reminder of how the category of fast food, a category that has tired over the last 20 years, mainly due to aggressive expansionism by the likes of McDonalds and KFC, can be given the ‘craft of the chef’ treatment and become a well executed and excellently marketed food type set in contemporary surroundings.

On top of that, there’s a mysterious ‘Flat P’ on the next level, a speakeasy-style bar where you don’t really have to talk quietly to reveal what it is that’s going on in there, with the ‘Flat P’ a clever (or lazy) ‘wink wink’ to the smaller ‘Purl; MK II’. Expect Sazeracs given the usual absinthe air treatment, and an outdoor space to enjoy the sunnier climates and rooftop views of the London skyline.

Those who want that PDT-style experience of up market junk food and solid, stiff drinks without flying across the Atlantic need to look no further. While the UK have yet to accomplish a drinking and eating concept which PDT seem to effortlessly execute, no doubt that there’ll be another trend emanating from the US within the next few years, where the following equation of cocktails + x = hundreds of fun. Until then, however, Dach & Sons will be fulfilling that gap in the market (and in the stomach) with their  appetising mix of burgers and beer, and is definitely here to stay.

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George liked this stuff too.

Ah, at last. The final instalment of the George Washington week, almost two months after I started the damn thing.

After getting a little giddy and excited with regards to the concept of coming up with three different drinks to celebrate the event in American history that was George Washington – one on rum (that was a little cheated), one on rye and one on applejack – an awesome bout of wisdom tooth pain on opposite sides of my mouth that were separated by only a day dominated most of the month of March, coupled with moving house. Meaning that for the first time since this log started, there was a month without an entry.

Still, never mind.

The idea behind this drink is linked to Applejack, yet another spirit that George had close to his heart. Applejack itself goes back to the late 1600s, when those hardent drinkers of the early days of American colonialism would ferment cider and then leave it outside in freezing whether conditions to concentrate the booze from the water. Enter William Laird, a Scotsman who brought with him the art of distilling after settling in Monmouth County. In 1698 he started producing an apple brandy instead of that horrid hard cider freeze separation stuff they called ‘jersey lightening’, and aged his stuff in oak casks.

Applejack’s role in the liquid history of the USA is well documented too; William’s great-grandson Robert Laird served in the revolutionary army under George Washington, while the Laird distillery itself became the first in American history to be granted a commercial license in 1780. Add to the fact that George Washington himself was given a recipe for ‘cyder spirits’ before 1760, and the rest is pretty much history (no pun intended).

While the modern day applejack is a little further away from the stuff kicking about 300 years ago – today’s version is a blend of  three to four year-old apple brandies (35%) and neutral grain spirit (65%) – Laird’s also produce a bottled-in-bond apple brandy, a seven-and-a-half-year apple randy, and an even rarer and expensive 12 year old brandy, the latter of which is considered to belong within the same realms of fine cognac or a single malt whisky. For mixing purposes, the bottled-in-bond stuff is definitely what you’re after.

However, that’s enough about applejack. Here’s a drink.

American Trilogy

  • 30ml Rye whisky (Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond preferably)
  • 30ml Apple brandy (Laird’s Bottled-in-Bond if preferably)
  • 1 Sugar Cube
  • 2 – 3 dashes of orange bitters
  • Dash of soda/water (optional)

Add sugar, bitters and water to a rocks glass. Muddle sugar cube until dissolved. Add other ingredients, and add ice. Stir until all the flavours have married. Garnish with an orange twist and serve.

Photography by Dan Bartley

The drink is a twist on the Old Fashioned, and its maker Micky McIlroy of New York’s Milk & Honey states that each of the three ingredients were common ingredients used in American cocktail making in the mid-1800s through to early the 1900s. And, even though I’ve never had the pleasure of being served the drink by McIlroy, fellow Bramble colleague and Elvis-lookalike Paul Graham has, and made me one the other night when I was pretty spangled.

When both Rittenhouse Bonded and Laird’s Bonded are used, the drink is a hefty, spicey powerhouse of a drink. Definitely one to put hairs on your chest, the drink becomes a softer and more approachable when used with normal Applejack and Rittenhouse 80 proof. As for the bitters, Regan’s No. 6 are made for this drink. And I know which version I prefer.

Before I sign this post off, find out here and here where my attention as been diverted to over the last two months and why there has been no post on here for a while. Something pretty exciting will be coming to the Bramble cocktail menu very soon.

Finally, just a thanks to Paul Graham specifically for bring this drink to my attention. Cheers.

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Some of you may have realised, especially with the last post, that certain ‘subjects’ or ‘themes’ can come about at such an unexpected or odd moment, particularly when it comes to entries on this blog and drinks made in general. This will probably be a running theme as long as this site remains, simply because that when my mind is still racing at 3am after finishing work, I’m more likely to post an entry than during the day, or even on a day off.

Still, I’ll admit that the ‘El Presidente’ in my last post was cheating a little. Here’s my chance to do something cocktail orientated with rye (George Washington had a rye distillery at his Mount Vernon home, which was very successful indeed thank you very much), and I publish a drink not really associated to him in anyway shape or form. Coupled with no photos – bare with me here – and you’ll see why the next few posts may be a little more Washington-orientated.

So check out this one.

Suburban

  • 45ml Rye whisky
  • 15ml Dark Jamaican Rum
  • 15ml Port
  • 1 Dash of Angostura bitters
  • 1 Dash of orange bitters

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and express the oils of a lemon peel over the surface of the drink and drop into the drink.

George Washington's Inauguration. One day, there will be pictures of cocktails on here, instead of images stolen from google.

At his inauguration, Washington requested a barrel of the finest Barbados rum. OK, so Barabados rum isn’t used here, but you get my point. It’s a little closer to the theme of the whole thing.

The Suburban came to me via the pages of David Wonderich’s ‘Esquire’ book/magazine column. The name potentially originates in the late 1880s, where Wonderich speculates that James R. Keene kept horses, some of which ran at the Suburban Handicap, an event at the Sheapshead Bay track in Brooklyn

The drink itself, however, first appears to come to print in The Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book, and is definitely a drink for grown-ups. So, if you get tired of your rum Manhattan, but still want a stirred, straight-up drink that marries at least two spirits – one of which is rye – and you want to go for a drink that’s doused with underestimation yet still drenched in a cool suaveness, ask your barkeep if he can knock you up a Suburban. Heavy, dense, complex and layered, Wonderich nails it when he states how it’s best suited for the autumn (and even winter) months. But don’t let that stop you ordering one in summer or after a meal, or on George Washington’s birthday. Or a combination of two or all of these things. Heavy, mature and deep – almost like a good woman – with a rum-heavy nose. The only thing that would improve this drink is a citrus garnish (the original called for sans garnish). Lemon is best here, especailly with rye, in terms of brightening the whole thing up.

Cheers.

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After taking a four-week hiatus of writing and blogging, it was nice to post something for February the other day. However, after being relatively self-indulgent with having sporadic access to a rotovap and looking at what could be drunk and written about over the next few months, it turns out that George Washington’s birthday slipped by without even a blink (apart from the national holiday they have in the US, that is).

Born exactly 279 years ago on this date, Washington turned out to be one of the most important figures in terms of the shaping of the Unites States of America.

However, even though his qualities of leadership, tenacity and resilience helped from a government cabinet which is still used in it’s current form today, along with loads of other important stuff which I don’t know much about, the singular most important thing in the history of the entire world is that he had a whisky distillery at his home in Mount Vernon where he distilled rye whisky.

George Washington. Liked distilling rye. A lot.

However, even though this is ultra cool and gives me an excuse to come up with at least one cocktail that has rye it, it’s currently 2:41 in the am, and I have no apparatus with which to construct a drink right now.

To make up for such a lack of awareness of US heritage and culture, I’ll be dedicating this next week to a couple of drinks focusing on rye whisky. This next week, however, may or may not be longer than seven days, and may stretch into May, depending on how ‘tight my shit is’ over the next few months.

For now, I’m going to take the easy way out, give a recipe for an El Presidente – the tenuous link here being the word ‘president’ – and get back to you guys within the next couple of days with a more modern drink.

The drink itself dates back to the dark days of prohibition, although it seems to have stemmed from American bartender Eddie Woelke, who moved overseas during the midst of the ‘Great Experiment’ after tending bar in Philadelphia, New York and Paris, amongst other cities. He set up Havana in the late 1920s, and made this drink for then-president Gerardo Micado.

El Presidente

  • 50ml Aged rum
  • 20ml Sweet Vermouth
  • 10ml Orange Curacao
  • 1 Barspoon of Grenadine
  • 1 Dash of orange bitters (optional)

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and express the oils of an orange peel over the surface of the drink and drop into the drink.

With the rum, a good latin rum such as Havana Blanco, their three year-old or Bacardi Superior would be a fine choice, although any none-crap rum will do. As for the curacao, Grand Marnier isn’t bad, although a decent triple sec will render the drink a little dryer, which is by no means a bad thing.

The great thing about the drink, apart from the fact that what looks a simple drink is actually a cocktail of decent complexity, is that it has a mature and ‘grown-up’ taste. Stiff and strong, dry, yet still sweet with a long fruity and orange finish. Further more, in a way that a Negroni or a Manhattan can be adjusted to become heavier and richer or lighter and easier depending on the base spirit and vermouth used (extend this to bitters on the subject of the Manhattan), the El President falls into this creative objectivity too, especially when we talk about the Rum (why not use white rum?), the vermouth (sweet, dry, or a bit of both), the triple sec/curacao debate, and even the bitters if you so wish to include them.

Happy birthday and happy drinking, Washy.

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Definitely didn't sit around after loads of turkey and christmas 'snowballs'.

As the end of the festive season approaches, with the back-to-work days looming large and the yearly, month-long equivalent of the ‘Blue Monday feeling (that’s January to you and I)’ hanging over our heads, let me ask you a straight-shooting question… how much are you actually going to use any of that gear you got for Christmas?

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to come across as the Grinch of Christmas presents. Sure, those socks from granny are awesome… until spring comes and your feet start to sweat. And yes, I have a sweet tooth and love chocolate too. But if it hasn’t lasted from this morning and before lunch when you unwrapped from under the Christmas tree, then … well, you can see where I’m going with this one.

I’m all about surprises and giving people things they want without them knowing. But secretly, however, Christmas is about giving people what they want in the form of presents, you receiving what you want from other people in the form of presents, along with a decent feast-a-thon washed down with cracking booze – brandy or port if you’re festive, whisky if it was a gift for Christmas, gin if you’re poor (sort of), or any other booze if your unfussy/an alcoholic.

Below is a list of what you didn’t get for Christmas, and probably should have killed for.

 

Whisky rocks

This is one thing that probably 99% of the bartender audience agrees with here. Whisky does rock. But the thing is, the title is a vernacular, as in, whisky is awesome, but what I’m getting at is Whisky Stones.

These little beauties can be put into the freezer, and then into a drink, which cools the drink down but without dilution. Think of those shitty plastic-coated gel cubes you got when you were a kid – the funny colour ones in funny shapes – and turn them into grown up drinking toys. Now you get me.

And the best thing is? You can even put them in the oven for those fancy cocktails that require heat without the blazing. You know, the ones you haven’t even thought up yet…

Rocking whisky glasses

OK. So maybe these titles are a poor attempt at some pseudo-juxtaposition metaphor. But these guys – if you don’t want to use the above to enhance the spirit you’re drinking – are awesome.

Put your whisky in the glass, put it down on a solid surface, and watch as it sort of rolls around/side to side, without you having to whirl the glass. Done.

Anvil Ice Pick

So maybe you don’t want whisky stones. But maybe you have a massive lump of ice in your freezer whichyou want to chip into a lovely spherical shape or a rugged block of rustic ice. Pick up one of these bad boys and watch loads of Japanese bartending videos on youtube and you’re pretty much there. Sort of/almost…

‘Cocktail Techniques’ by Kazuo Uyeda

I suppose that without being patronising and without trying to bridge the gap, so to speak, Kazuo Uyeda is to Japanese bartending what Dale de Groff was to the revitalizing of modern Westernized bartending. Enough said.

A really nice bottle of whisky.

This is definitely a personal preference, and a get-out-of-jail free card (sort of) for the fifth and final installment of this blog. Personally, as I broke the scotch barrier earlier this year by drinking loads of Isaly malt, I’m beginning to rediscover my sweet tooth via different cask finishes, usually in the port or sherry variety. Other than that, I love a decent rye whisky. But if I’m going to be choosy, then a good Japanese single malt – a category of whisky which I can see taking off in 2011 and beyond – is something I would be more than happy to receive as a belated Christmas present.

Merry Christmas (from that heavily tattooed drinks mixer)!

 

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Dare I say it that this particular entry – short as it will be – almost didn’t happen. I’m putting this down to the fact that I’ve only just settled in and unpacked all glassware and whatnot, a feat slightly more impressive and interesting by the fact that I have to carry my newly-bought, second hand bookcase from the charity shop to my house, a scenario that was as utterly energy sapping as this piece of trivial information is boring.

Still, back to the subject of booze, and today is the 77th anniversary of the reversal of the 18th Amendment, which brought to an end to ‘The Great Experiment’. The scenario was almost a reversal of a great event; it came in with a wimper as salons and bars passed away in the night (in theory anyway), with bartenders going undercover or going abroad. When 5th December 1933 rolled around, more people were drinking more than ever anyway, and were more than happy to shout about and make a fuss when they were able to drink in public.

However, before I start to runaway with the actual subject of the end of prohibition (I’m not going to lie, there are other drink guru’s out there who are doing it better than me; click here, here and here for links), let’s stop, think, and make a drink.

The Boulevardier

  • 45ml Bourbon
  • 25ml Campari
  • 25ml Sweet Vermouth

Add all ingredients to mixing glass. Stir with love and think about those dark days in 1920s USA. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry. Express the oils of an orange peel over the surface of the drink, rim the glass and discard. Serve.

The drink is taken from Ted ‘Dr. Cocktail’ Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, who in turn sites it from a 1927 bar guide written by Harry MacElhone, one of two books he wrote in his bartending career.

The drink, as Dr. Cocktail notes and which everyone will have guessed before reading this, is a Negroni on Bourbon, albeit with a slight increase in favour of the base spirit.

The drink takes its name from The Paris Boulevardier, a monthly publication that was edited in Paris by writer Erskine Gwynne.

The great thing here is that Campari was one of numerous bottles of booze to make it into the US during Prohibition, under the guise of that ‘medicinal purposes’ malarky, mainly because authorities thought that there could be no way that it could be consumed as an alcoholic beverage; Laphoriag Islay whisky fell into this category too, and for the same reason.

The original version called for a 3:2:2 ration, which makes the bourbon a little hard to rear its head (that said, it does depend on the bourbon). Holding back on the other ingredients a little makes a difference, though it’s probably best to use a bourbon with a decent rye content, such as Buffalo Trace or Wild Turkey. If you do this, or you use a rye whisky, try a twist of lemon over the surface.

Just don’t drink it all at once. It packs one helluva punch.

Happy Repeal day, folks.

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