Archive for the ‘Bitters’ Category

As news of the passing of Neil Armstrong spread throughout the internet, tributes flooded in for family and friends as those who learned of his death expressed their sadness at losing such an iconic figure of the 20th Century.

His status as a modern American hero who will leave a legacy not just in aviation and aerospace engineering, but in modern world history, especially in modern American folklore.

Armstrong’s exploits led him to become ‘a reluctant American hero’ according to a statement released by his family, a reminder that he did little to hog the limelight after his moonwalking exploits. He continued to work in aeronautics and aviation, as well as lecturing at the University of Cincinnati as a professor of aerospace engineering. American President Barack Obama described him as one of America’s greatest hero’s

So famous were the exploits of Amstrong, his colleague Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin and pilot Michael Collins, that the trend of creating a drink for special occasions, coupled with an appropriate name, was carried on with tradition at The American Bar at The Savoy.

Joe Gilmore, who was headbartender at the time, created the ‘Moonwalk’, a drink that closely resembles the classic champagne cocktail, though with a bigger flavour profile.

It was the first drink that passed the lips of the crew once they returned to earth, with Neil Armstrong sending a personal letter of thanks to Gilmore for the drink.

With this in mind, this blog, and the Moonwalk, is dedicated to Niel Armstrong.

From The Savoy Cocktail Book

Moonwalk (Adapted from Joe Gilmore, 1954, The American Bar, London)

  • 30ml Grand Marnier
  • 3 dashes Grapefruit bitters
  • 2 dashes orange flower water
  • 1 Sugar cube
  • Champagne
Add the first three ingredients to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir, then strain into a champagne flute with a sugar cube and top with champagne. Express the oils of an orange peel into the surface of the drink, drop in an serve.
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Brrrrrrap!

After receiving old friend Megs Miller into the bosom of the Edinburgh bartending scene, and the inevitable catch-ups and late night boozing sessions, it turns out that not only is it Halloween here in the UK, there’s less than two hours left of the day until midnight, and the 1st of November, thus rendering a Halloween and a drink-related post almost obsolete. But then again, posting a drink-related post as the seconds creep towards midnight doesn’t make up for the fact that by the time this piece is read, readers will either be hungover (if you’re in Australia), about to go out partying (UK), about to come home from ‘Trick or Treating (kids in the UK – who shouldn’t be reading this), or about to getting ready for a shift at work, if not at work already (UK/US).

Procrastinating and justifying aside, a post and a drink needs to be articulated, and articulated well. With the 2nd annual Chartreuse heat about to go ahead next month, the deadline for drink submissions is less than an hour away.

The inspiration behind the drink lies mainly with the Purgatory, a rye-based drink created in 2008 that uses both Green Chartreuse and Benedictine to smooth out the rye. Whilst being a tiny bit unusual – mainly because no bitters are used – the best thing about this devilish cocktail comes from the fact that the complexity and length is added to the drink  in the form of two French, herbal, monk-related liquors (Gary Regan talks about the drink here).

Purgatory (Adapted from a recipe by Ted Kilgore, Monarch Restaurant in Maplewood, 2008)

  • 50ml Rye whisky
  • 12.5ml Green Chartreuse
  • 12.5ml Benedictine

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Stir lovingly (or hatefully) with ice, assuring proper dilution(!). Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon twist and serve.

With this in mind, and basing a drink around the rule of using at least 25ml of Green Chartreuse, a drink was devised that followed suit of the original Purgatory, but with an obvious twist; living in Scotland and being a fan of scotch, a smokey single malt came into play as opposed to rye. Out with the Benedictine and in came Bitter Truthe Elixir, a distant relative of the Italian Amaro, with two drops of Orange Blossom water for some light floral notes. The ingredients were toned down to equal measures, more so to support each other on equal terms as opposed to fight for supremacy based on sheer volume.

The name is taken directly from the film of the same name, with a direct reference of the literal and spiritual journey the monks have made throughout the last nine centuries, a story and history that includes governmental persecution and underestimation, misunderstandings and exile, and distillery destruction and forgery.

And so with that, ladies and gentleman, here we go…

Road to Perdition

  • 30ml Cask-rested Green Charetreuse
  • 30ml Islay Single Malt Scotch
  • 30ml Bitter Truth Elixir
  • 2 drops of Orange Blossom/Flower water

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass in a dark and morose manner. Add ice, stir devilishly and strain the dark, smoked, herbaceous liquid into a chillingly cold glass with one drop of orange water in the base of the glass. Add the second of drop onto the surface of the drink, and torture out the oils of a lemon peel be squeezing and twisting without mercy. Serve to the poor soul in front of you.

NB – Go for Lagavulin or Caol Ila. Something with both smoke and body is important here, mainly to stand up to boldness of the other flavours. And don’t be afraid to stir for a while if you have the right ice; the texture of this drink could be a problem due to under dilution. As for the cask-aged Green Chartreuse, this is the by-product of a project that is looking to reproduce the Purgatory into a single liquid, using casks that have been seasons with Green Chartreuse and Benedictine. More information of this will follow in the coming months…

Tom Hanks having a post-Green Chartreuse night-before breakfast.

Happy Halloween folks.

PS – For other reasons on why I haven’t posted on here in a while, go here and here to read some articles I’ve wrote for old friend (though not just in terms of age – sorry) Shay Leighton.

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The video above is an entry to the Auchentoshan Swtich, a competition in which 20 finalists will go through to London to battle it out for a two-week trip to New York. The prize is not just a holiday though; the lucky winner will spend time working in Apotheke, a New York bar renowned for its foray into molecular mixology and 21st century bartending.

On the other side of the Atlantic, however, one lucky winner from the final in Las Vegas will be heading over to London to work with Tony Coniglario at 69 Colebrooke row. Hence that ‘switch’ thing in the name.

To have a chance of getting to the final, participants must create an Old Fashioned and a lemonade from scratch, and take no longer than eight minutes to complete both. Outside of that, it’s pretty much open to interpretation.

For a slightly unique spin on things I decided to take a little inspiration from New York a la Penicillin-style (courtesy of Sam Ross, Milk & Honey). As for the old-fashioned, I stayed in touch with the concept of the sherry finishes – one of the main selling points behind Auchentoshan Three Wood – by using some limited edition Spanish bitters from Adam Elmegirab, and by creating a sugar syrup with Spanish brandy as a the base.

There are some big names that have already put their hat in the ring, mainly in the form of Alex Kratena from the Artisian Bar at the Langham Hotel, Matthew Dakers from Worship Street Whistling Shop and Zdenek Kastanek of Quo Vadis fame. Good luck to everyone involved, and hopefully see you in the final.

Penicillin Lemonade

  • 100ml Still water
  • 50ml Lemon Juice
  • 20ml Ginger Syrup*
  • Dash of honey

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a highball, and top with soda. Garnish with a lemon spiral and serve.

*Ginger Syrup

  • 50 grams de-skinned ginger
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 ¼ cups of sugar

Add water and ginger to a blendable vessel. Blend, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Strain through a Muslin cloth and bottle.


Lowland Siesta

  • 60ml Auchentoshan Three Wood
  • 12.5ml Spanish brandy syrup**
  • Generous dash of Spanish Bitters

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Stir – but not for too long – and strain into a chilled glass with a single, large ice cube. Garnish with an orange peel and serve.

**Spanish Brandy Syrup

  • 1 cup of good quality Spanish Brandy
  • 1 ¼ cup of sugar

Add all ingredients to a glass and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Don’t heat, don’t put in a pan – just stir.

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The video above – a clip taken from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey – is one of the finest movies ever to go the big screen. Like, ever. The only problem is, what Colonel Oats actually asked Bill and Ted to do is not get down and do press ups, but actually get behind the bar and serve him up Bramble’s newest drink, the barrel and bottle-aged Affinity cocktail. Guess they decided to keep the unedited version…

On top of that, because of few technical issues, this post marks the 20th in the history of this blog. And the heavily tattooed one could be be prouder than posting a subject such as this.

The barrels. And the bottled Affinity. And beyond!

Occupying the top three tables next to the bar, with the music off and the lighting low, industry professionals gathered in Bramble a few weeks back to celebrate the launch of the bars eagerly-anticipated barrel-aged Affinity cocktail, in conjunction with Glenmorangie Single Malt whisky.

A 20-strong group of drink writers, imbibers and industry professionals turned up to see Dr. Bill Lumsden, head of distilling and whisky creation for the Glenmorangie and Ardbeg brands, and Bramble bartender Tom Walker give a speech with regards to the process and inspiration behind the barrel-aged process and the unique serve which accompanies the drink.

The Affinity cocktail, a scotch and vermouth based drink that came around within the first decades of the 20th century, is served in a unique 100ml bottle, a concept that harks back to the mid 1800s when the Mid-West capitalized upon the craze of the Chinese-inspired ‘snake oil’ medicine. Chinese immigrants working on the Transcontinental railroad in North America would give a remedy to help the aching joints of other workers, though it wasn’t long until western, and specifically American, medicine salesmen exploited the idea. Before long, travelling ‘doctors’ became part of the mid-west black market culture, selling all sorts of placebos and panaceas that were marketed as remedies that had little or no effect. Ingredients were often secret or unproven, and by the time customers found that the liquid cure to be worthless, the salesman would be long gone into the sunset and a few dollars to the good.

Coupled with the idea of ageing a pre-mixed drink, itself a concept that was being used in the 1860s (the same decade that the rail road was built), the bottle comes with a uniquely designed label – coupled with some good-ol’ tongue and cheek humour – with the process from filling the barrels, filling the bottles and sealing top with wax all done by hand.

The launch saw the tasting of the first batch to come from the American New Oak barrel (medium toast), with three further bottlings to be released from two other New American Oak barrels (each with a light and heavy toast and) a New French Oak (medium toast) in the near future.

Taking into consideration that the barrels will have been used for the first time, coupled with the fact that different measurements have been used for each barrel, each bottling will labelled as a ‘vintage’. And as much as Bramble and Glenmorangie are keen to market and sell a consistent product that everyone loves, both parties – including the subservient and loyal enthusiasts here at Cellar 4, as well as Dr. Bill Lumsden himself – are just as excited with experimenting with the factors available to see what kind of flavour profiles the end result will yield.

With regards to the releases, the bottlings will rotate on average to two different batches available at any one time (the current medium and heavy char are available), though this is dependent on cask use, ingredient ratios, ageing time and the char and wood used.

The drink retails for £9, although those who wish to take the bottle and contents away can do so for the price £7 before 10pm.

Special thanks go to the Bramble team – Pauli, Terri and Naill – owners Mike Aikman and Jason Scott, along with Dr. Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie and Ardbeg, Dan Bartley for the awesome design of the labels (and the bottom two photos), and local Edinburgh LVMH ambassador Sean Olivier (for the top photo and everything else). This blog and these drinks are dedicated to you.

The unique Affinity 'serve'.

Barrel-aged Affinity; American Oak Medium Char (Batch 1)

  • 37.5ml Glenmorangie 10 Year-old
  • 25ml Byhrr
  • 25ml Noilly Prat
  • Orange Bitters

Add all ingredients en-mass to the barrel. Age for four to seven weeks – depending on the ingredients, overall ABV and, most importantly, the condition and fill of the barrel in question – taste-testing regularly. Once ready, bottle and seal with wax by hand. Serve the bottle straight from the fridge on a napkin with a cocktail glass sprayed with orange bitters, garnished with a cherry and a swath of lemon peel.

The Affinity bottle.

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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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