Showing posts with label apple brandy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label apple brandy. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New Cocktails: One Eyed Jack

One of my friends recently posted a picture of a mini-menu from the West Side Lounge in Boston. They're starting a weekly Twin Peaks evening and made a set of cocktails specifically for it. The one I decided to make myself is named after the brothel in the TV show - the drink certainly is dangerous.

One Eyed Jack
1.5 oz applejack
0.75 oz Chartreuse
0.75 oz rye whiskey
1 dash Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients, stir with ice for fifteen seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The nose is dominated by the Chartreuse, but remains fairly balanced, with the applejack's fruit and rye whiskey's grain making themselves known. The sip begins with moderate sweetness, with apples coming in early, followed by herbal notes from the Chartreuse and spice from the rye and bitters, then leaving with bittersweet apples.

Since all I had to begin with were the ingredients, I modeled the proportions on the Widow's Kiss, substituting rye whiskey for the Bénédictine. Since it was going to be a lot less sweet that way, I back off on the bitters to keep things in balance. It's surprisingly smooth and easy going for being a cocktail made entirely with high-proof spirits. It works out well since the two spirits compliment different aspects of the Chartreuse, combing together in a beautiful melange.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Classic Cocktails: the Diki-Diki Cocktail

This is another drink from Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails. While there isn't a lot of info in this book, Our Libatious Nature suggests that it originated in 1922 at the Embassy Club in London. I also agree with them that though Mr. Haigh suggests that the name is meant to evoke a tropical feel, there's nothing tropical about this drink.

Diki Diki Cocktail
1.5 oz apple brandy
0.75 oz grapefruit juice
0.5 oz Swedish punch
1 tsp honey syrup

Combine all ingredients, shake with ice for 6 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The nose is redolent of the distinctive notes of Clear Creek's apple brandy, along with the dry fruitiness of grapefruit, and hooks up with the honey to bring out a slight floral aspect. The sip opens with very mild sweetness, as the apple brandy, grapefruit, and honey jostle for space. Then it fades into drier flavors from the grapefruit and Swedish punch, which becomes slightly bitter, astringent, and distinctly dry on the finish.

Overall this is a rather interesting drink. As written in VSFC, it was a little bit too dry for my taste, but the addition of a bit of honey really helped to balance it out and, I think, enhanced the drink significantly. And even with that modification, it's not going to tickle your sweet tooth too much - the other ingredients keep it rather snappy.

Friday, July 20, 2012

New Cocktails: the Hooded Watcher

This is a drink that I tossed together in an effort to finish off my bottle of Clear Creek's apple brandy. It was partially inspired by the Lucien Gaudin Cocktail I wrote a post about a while back, though I aimed for something a little less sweet.

The Hooded Watcher
1.5 oz apple brandy
0.25 oz sweet vermouth
0.25 oz dark falernum
1 dash Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients, stir with ice for 15 seconds, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The nose is dominated by sweet apple notes from the brandy and spices from the falernum and Angostura bitters. A very peculiar fruitiness also emerges from the interaction between the apple brandy and vermouth. The sip is initially fairly mild. The apple brandy provides a smooth canvas for the other flavors, continuing through the experience but not asserting itself too strongly. There is once again a slightly odd interaction between the brandy and wine that dances around for a bit. The falernum and spice elements of the bitters come in strong mid-palate, riding a wave of cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Going into the finish there is a building sweetness underneath the bitterness from the Angostura and vermouth. The finish continues the heavy spices, bringing out an almost chocolate-y flavor.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Classic Cocktails: The Widow's Kiss

This cocktail comes from Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails. It was invented by George Kappeler and first published in his Modern American Drinks in 1895. A drink from another era, it showcases the formidable power of the herbal liqueurs that fell out of favor during Prohibition and the advent of shelf-stable fruit liqueurs.

The Widow's Kiss
1.5 oz apple brandy
0.75 oz Chartreuse
0.75 oz Bénédictine
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients, stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

The nose contains elements from the apple brandy, Chartreuse and Bénédictine twining about each other without crowding for attention. Sweet and fruity but also gently herbal. The sip comes in reverse order from what I expected, with the bitter notes from the herbal liqueurs coming in first, fading into the clove and allspice of the Angostura, which finally leads to the liqueur's strong sweetness. The finish is still sweet, with lingering herbal and spice notes. Through everything, the apple brandy rides in the background, supporting the more potent herbal liqueurs.

As a note, the recipe calls for the more heady 110-proof Green Chartreuse, but you can sub in the more restrained 80-proof Yellow Chartreuse. Under the circumstances, that's not a bad plan. With Yellow Chartreuse, the final drink will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-proof.

This cocktail is aptly named. Strong, sweet and mysterious. You don't want to trifle with this one, as it's all spirits with nothing but ice to moderate its strength. Approach carefully, but don't try too hard to resist its charms.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Classic Cocktails: The Avenue

I got this drink out of Dr. Cocktail's always-useful Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails. The cocktail originally comes from the Café Royal Cocktail Book published in 1937. For more about the Café Royal and it's eponymous cocktail book, check out Our Libatinous Nature and their review of this cocktail.

The Avenue
1 oz bourbon
1 oz apple brandy
1 oz passionfruit syrup (B.G. Reynolds')
1 tsp lemon juice
2 drops orange flower water

Combine all ingredients, shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The nose is an interesting melange of the oak and corn bourbon notes with restrained fruit from the apple brandy and passionfruit. Using passionfruit syrup gives this drink a fantastically creamy mouthfeel. The sip opens with fruit from the syrup and apple brandy, which transitions to bourbon, then back to the passionfruit. It finishes with the orange flower water. A very elegant cocktail.

A few notes about the way I put this together. The drink originally called for passionfruit juice rather than syrup and a dash of grenadine. As per VSFC, I subbed in passionfruit syrup and balanced it with a bit of lemon juice. I think this worked out well as the drink was sweet without becoming overwhelming. Lastly, Paul Clarke and I appear to think the same way as we both reached for Weller 12 Year bourbon, as its soft wheat mashbill makes it a good pairing with the apple brandy and passionfruit. A rye-recipe bourbon might give the drink a bit more pep, but I like the way everything comes together in a very smooth fashion with a wheated bourbon.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The PDT Cocktail Book

I picked up a copy of the PDT Cocktail Book a few months back as a sort of late Christmas present. While I was initially pulled in by the excellent design, I've found it to be generally well written and to contain quite a lot of good drink recipes.

PDT (Please Don't Tell) is a faux-speakeasy bar in New York City. It is accessed by entering a phone booth at the back of Crif Dogs and dialing the appropriate number, which causes the door to open. I'm sufficiently plebeian to find the idea of a bar that semi-intentionally hides itself to be a little off-putting, but I will admit that they've put out a rather nice book for use at the less exclusive place I like to call home.

The book is written by Jim Meehan, one of the bartenders at PDT, and illustrated by Chris Gall. The book opens with a set of suggestions for setting up a bar, ranging from design to equipment and supplies. There's a fairly strong slant towards professionals rather than the home bar, but much of the information is still applicable. The recipes are laid out in a standard alphabetical fashion, interspersed with recipes for any specialized ingredients (infusions, syrups, etc.). There's also an index in the back that lists all of the drinks by base spirit. Near the end there are sections with suggestions for varieties of spirits, liqueurs and other ingredients, a section talking about how to build seasonal cocktail menus, and finally a list of other books that will be useful to an aspiring bartender.

Overall I think this book is a reasonably good value for money. It's not the first book I would suggest to someone looking to set up a home bar (The Joy of Mixology wins hands down), but for those with a handle on the basics, the selection of recipes is broad and doesn't too often require fussy home made ingredients. One of my main quibbles with publications like Imbibe is that a too-large percentage of their recipes require making infusions or syrups that may not have a significant amount of utility except in that one drink, which is fine for a bar, but less useful at home. The PDT Cocktail Book does ask for some of them, but the percentage of recipes requiring that is fairly low.

And just to give you a taste of the kinds of drinks contained in this book:

Harvest Sling (by John Deragon)
1.5 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
0.5 oz sweet vermouth
0.5 oz Bénédictine
0.5 oz Cherry Heering
0.5 oz lemon juice
0.5 oz ginger beer

Combine all ingredients, shake with ice and pour unstrained into a chilled rocks glass.

This is a deliciously complex drink, evolving in stages across the mouth. The initial sip is only slightly sweet, with the liqueurs gaining force towards mid-palate, along with a hint of fresh apple flavor. The herbal notes of the Bénédictine come in strongly, leading smoothly into the finish. The finish is a wonderful melange of the sweet vermouth's bitter wine notes coupled with dark, dry cherry from the Heering and the oaky apple of the applejack. With time and dilution the bitter notes of the vermouth become somewhat more subdued, giving way to the applejack. A certain nuttiness also appears, which, when combined with the wine flavors of the sweet vermouth, remind me a lot of a good oloroso sherry. Overall this is a taste roller coaster.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Further Adventures with Arrack

Batavia arrack is a rather peculiar spirit that I first talked about last spring. While it can be a bit hard to use to good effect in cocktails due to its strong flavors, with the right combinations of ingredients it can be harnessed to produce delicious drinks.


1 oz Batavia Arrack
1 oz Laird's Bonded applejack
0.25 oz St. Elizabeth's allspice dram
0.75 oz lemon juice
0.5 oz grapefruit juice
0.5 oz demerara syrup
1 pinch nutmeg

Combine all ingredients, shake with ice and pour unstrained into a chilled glass.

For a drink that looks both very stiff (the arrack and applejack are both 100 proof) and with lots of strong, potentially clashing flavors, this drink turns out to be quite pleasant and almost subdued. Don't shake too hard, because you don't want this kind of deliciousness to get tepid. The nose and initial tastes are mostly the arrack's funk, though it's not beating you about the head. The applejack provides a pleasant, whiskey-like base and subdued fruitiness. The lemon and grapefruit juices give the drink a bit of snap and bitterness to counteract the rich sweetness of the demerara syrup. Finally, the allspice dram gives the drink a delightful spiciness that wraps around the other flavors in the drink. As is, this is a great drink to sit and sip over the course of a warm evening. Minus the fruit juices, it could even become a pretty good hot winter drink.

Javanese Crusta
1.5 oz Batavia arrack
0.35 oz lime juice
0.25 oz cinnamon syrup
0.25 oz orgeat
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients, shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass with a large strip of lime peel.

This drink is a variant of the classic Brandy Crusta from Frederic over at Cocktail Virgin Slut. The nose of this drink blends a hefty dose of lime oil from the peel with a touch of hogo from the arrack, the subtle nuttiness of the orgeat and the spice notes of the bitters and cinnamon syrup. The taste reprises these elements, but with a definite order. Less sweet up front than I would have expected, the arrack and lime attack mid-palate, fading into the nut/spice interplay of the syrups and bitters. The gentleness of this drink is rather surprising given the robust hate it/love it nature of Batavia arrack, but the other ingredients do a good job of tying it down into something quite enjoyable.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Brandy for the Polynesian Queen

This is a nice little brandy based tiki drink that was modeled on the Sunakora from Beachbum Berry's Sippin' Safari. The Sunakora was named after Don the Beachcomber's ex-wife, Sunny Sund, who was nicknamed "Sunakora, Queen of the Beachcombers". So in a twist, I named this drink after a woman who bucked her Puritan tutors to become one of the most powerful and long-ruling queens of Tahiti in the 19th century.

Pomare Vahine
1.25 oz VS cognac
0.5 oz Laird's BIB Applejack
0.5 oz lemon juice
0.5 oz grapefruit juice
0.5 oz orange juice
0.5 oz honey syrup
1 tsp falernum
1 dash Angostura bitters

The falernum is the first thing you taste in this drink, followed swiftly by the oak-tempered flavors of applejack and cognac and the panoply of fruits. The Angostura bitters play their part throughout, reinforcing the falernum and spirits and keeping the honey in check, leading to a finish strikingly reminiscent of Coca Cola. If you like your drinks a bit more sour, you can back off on the honey syrup a bit without radically disturbing the balance of the drink.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Drinks

I trekked up to Seattle to visit my parents for Thanksgiving this year. Instead of having the feast at home, we were all invited over to eat with friends of the family. As part of that, I was asked to make drinks for everyone.

Obviously something harvest-themed seemed appropriate and apples are a major Northwest crop. So an easy pick was Clear Creek Distillery's first-rate apple brandy. It's absolutely bursting with apple flavor and provides and excellent base for a cocktail. While I wanted to go with something akin to a Sidecar, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram from Haus Alpenz seemed like a slightly better accompaniment since it has so much spice flavor that is associated with pumpkin pie and the like. To cut down on prep time, I made it punch style, adding water up front to give the proper dilution and then chilling in the fridge beforehand.

Harvest Punch
(makes ~8 servings)

12 oz apple brandy
4 oz lemon juice
2 oz simple syrup
2 oz allspice dram
5 oz water

Combine all ingredients and chill for at least an hour before serving.

I was pretty pleased with how this one turned out. The apple flavors are primarily a base for the other elements. The lemon juice and allspice dram are more assertive and the balance is towards tartness rather than sweetness. Overall, quite delightful.

Here's hoping that everyone had a good day, both those of you in the U.S. celebrating the holiday and any readers from further abroad.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Great American Distillers Festival; or Why It's Tough Being New

While I wasn't able to attend any of the other events during Portland Cocktail week, I did make it to the second day of the Great American Distillers Festival on Sunday. Held in a small-ish event hall, there was still quite a lot of booze spread before me when I entered.

A slice of the available booths

Unfortunately my stomach was a little too empty to make it to every booth, but I did get to try a number of interesting products. My thoughts were a little sparse and became more so as I was plied with whisk(e)y, but here's what struck me at the time.

12 Bridges Gin keeps getting better. Their latest release has dialed back the cucumber notes that used to dominate the gin and become very pleasantly floral. It was also good to hear that their distribution issues are local, rather than being a supply issue.

Cyrus Noble whiskey is totally decent. This private label bottling of Kentucky bourbon has some corn sweetness and vanilla without any noticeable harshness. Probably worth another try when I can have more than a fraction of an ounce, but it's pretty obvious that this bourbon doesn't have more than five years under its belt. Value will be highly dependent on the price-point.

Dry Fly Washington Wheat Whiskey is also totally decent. I found it to be quite gentle for only two years in the barrel. The flavor was grainy, without bourbon's corn sweetness or vanilla due to the pure wheat mash bill. The fact that it's an agricultural product was still clear given that the barrel hasn't had time to dominate. Again, probably worth another try, but it didn't jump out at me with complexity. However, I also felt the same way about Berheim's wheated whiskey, so it may just be that the category isn't for me.

Chatoe Rogue is a new-ish single malt whiskey from Oregon. If I understood correctly, it's aged briefly for 3 months in used chardonnay barrels. This whiskey tastes very fresh, which is unsurprising given how close it is to being a white dog. While there isn't a whole lot of complexity yet, it's still pretty decent for its age and might work well in a New Orleans sour with some orange liqueur and lime juice to round out the flavors. But at the price point, it's kind of a tough sell.

•I tried a number of Golden Distillery's products. Their single malt whiskey had a surprising dose of vanilla in it, which comes from being aged in white oak 10 gallon, rather than standard 53 gallon, barrels. It was another good, relatively fresh product that should improve nicely with more age. I also tried their Reserve whiskey, which is also aged in red oak barrels. It was hard for me to suss out any extra flavors, but my palette was getting a bit burned out at that point. Their apple brandy unfortunately seemed kind of thin and fient-y without the kind of rich apple flavor that I expect. On that front, I think I'll stick with Clear Creek.

•Just to prove that it wasn't just the little guys, I also tried the 12- and 18-year old bottlings from Jameson. In all honesty, they really did nothing for me. Again, my taste buds may have just been too abused to catch the subtleties, but I didn't even finish the sample of the 18-year that I was offered. C'est la vie, I guess.

•Oregon Spirits' wheated whiskey was also a bit simple for my taste, but it might get more interesting with age.

Angel's Envy whiskey was another private bottling, rather than a local product like so much of what was at the Festival. This is a five to six year old bourbon that is then additionally aged for 3 to six months in port casks. This was the last whiskey I tried while I was there, so it was nearly impossible for me to pick up on much. While I'd need to try it again to be sure, I felt like this was another case where I felt like it needed a lot more age. With some 10+ year old stocks and another 6-12 months in the port casks, this could be really good. But it's hard to justify shelling out $50 for something so young that isn't even coming from a craft distillery, even if it has been reviewed very, very favorably.

•Some of the big boys were there to play as well. Four Roses put out quite a nice spread of spirits. While I had previously tried their Small Batch bottling and found it less than appealing, their Single Barrel (Warehouse 5, Barrel 3-6U) was quite a bit better. It had a fairly light nose with hints of brown sugar, vanilla, yeast and caramel. The taste recapitulated the smells and had only a slight burn. I also got to try some of one of their Limited Edition bottlings (sorry, I forgot to write down the details of what all went into it), which was at least as good if not better than the Single Barrel. They're both on my 'to try again' list and it sounds like the price of the Small Batch and Single Barrel should both be coming down in the near future.

So overall, the unfortunate impression that I came away with is that most craft whiskies are just too young right now. I'm not the first to come to that conclusion. Right now they're in a really tough place. I think a lot of people have gotten into distilling because they want to make whiskey, but unfortunately that's as much or more dependent on time in the barrel than it is on what comes off the still. And that's expensive. Aging ties up both space and capital, neither of which are likely to be plentiful for a company that's just starting out and wants to become profitable sooner rather than later. This can lead to a number of different traps, all of which are tricky to get out of.

To begin with, just about every distillery out there makes vodka and gin. This isn't surprising, because they're comparatively easy to make and require no aging. This can start a decent revenue stream. But if the dream is ultimately to make aged products, it's hard to build enough capacity to both keep up with the demand for your unaged products and to distill the stuff that you want to put down for a while. Sure, you can always buy another still, but that costs money, which usually isn't exactly plentiful for new distilleries.

Another route that many distilleries are taking is to bottle whiskey bought from one of the big distilleries. It's not uncommon that they have barrels sitting around that don't quite fit into their established products but are on their own still worth drinking. This is a totally reasonable idea, but has its own complications. It's early days, so we'll see how and whether people are able to transition over to their own aged whiskies, but it's going to be a tough switch.

Lastly, and most popularly, distilleries release whiskies that haven't had a lot of time in barrels. As I mentioned above, some people try to speed this along by using smaller barrels, but it's debatable how much that helps. Some of the reactions that produce the flavorful compounds in whiskey take time to develop and there's no way to speed up the process. Especially with single malt whiskies, time in the barrel seems to be particularly important as they're starting with a single grain rather than the mixtures used for bourbon. I think there's a good reason why scotch usually starts to get really good around 10-12 years. Again, as I mentioned above, there are a lot of whiskies coming to the market with a few months to a few years under their belts. Sometimes that works. I've tried a few 4-5 year old whiskies from microdistilleries that were quite tasty. Even less can still sometimes produce a great product. But you have to accept them for what they are, rather than expecting the rich, vanilla and sweetness-laden whiskey that most bourbon drinkers know and love. And when you consider the price differential between most craft-distilled whiskies and those made by bigger producers, it can get tough to justify shelling out that much cash. I feel like in a lot of cases people (myself included) are willing to pay a premium for what they see as potential, rather than because what's being current put out is the best thing ever. Craft distilleries have to work with what they have, whereas big distilleries have decades of stock to blend into consistent products. So there are hits and misses. Unfortunately it's going to be tough to bring in a wider audience that is accustomed to consistency.

While I feel like I've been a bit doom and gloom, I don't think that all is lost. It's early days and craft distilleries that have been around for a while are putting out really excellent products. However, there does seem to be no small amount of hype and I'd hate for some good projects to be nipped in the bud because they can't deliver right now. In another 5-10 years, I expect to be drinking a lot more really excellent craft whiskey. But right now I'm hoping that there's a lot of what I drank this last weekend sitting in barrels, waiting to see the light of day some time in the slightly distant future.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mixology Monday LVIII: Niche Spirits

It's time for Mixology Monday again and this time the goal is to highlight a drink made with uncommon spirits. So for once I have to stray from the path of rum, whiskey and gin. While pondering what I should make, I remembered a drink that I had a few weeks ago at The Victory Bar. The Happy Jack was pretty good as they made it, but I immediately thought of ways that I could tweak the original recipe. The drink contains applejack, lemon juice, grenadine and allspice dram. Already a solid base, but  a couple of tweaks on the base spirit could make things more interesting. A little while ago I mentioned how interesting Batavia Arrack is and how it has a fairly strong affinity for fruit. Splitting the base spirit between Laird's Applejack, Clear Creek apple brandy and Batavia Arrack made for a complex, layered cocktail that really hits the spot.

Happy 'Rack
1 oz Clear Creek Apple Brandy
0.5 oz Laird's Bonded Applejack
0.5 oz Batavia Arrack
0.75 oz lemon juice
0.25 oz grenadine
0.25 oz Allspice Dram
0.25 oz simple syrup (optional)

Combine all ingredients, shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. For an optional garnish, grate a little nutmeg onto the top of the drink.

There is a lot going on in this drink. Arrack dominates the nose, while balancing itself with the whiskey-ish flavor of Laird's on the initial sip. The apple brandy provides a solid, fruity base along with the grenadine while the lemon juice gives the drink a bit of zip and the St. Liz spices everything up. A fine drink to sit and sip on a warm but overcast day like today.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Local Flavor, Pt. I: Clear Creek Distillery

As some of you may know, Portland has been at the forefront of the craft distilling movement. They tend to take cues from the craft brewing movement of the last few decades, emphasizing quality and sourcing local ingredients.

One of the oldest craft distilleries in Oregon, perhaps in the country, is Clear Creek Distillery. A few years back I was fortunate enough to take a tour of their facilities in NW Portland. Back in their cavernous warehouse space are a row of gleaming copper stills, surrounded by their fermenting tanks, bottling lines and other sundry items. Further back is a room devoted to their aging spirits, which literally has a heady atmosphere from the "angel's share" of evaporating alcohol.

I recently purchased a bottle of Clear Creek's 2 year-old apple brandy. The work and dedication to quality that Clear Creek is known for are abundantly clear. The brandy smells exactly like where is came from, dry hard apple cider made from high-quality local ingredients. The alcohol smell is surprisingly subdued for something that was only aged two years, but it's young age also means that the apple flavor hasn't been lost amid oak.

The obvious choice for a cocktail was the Sidecar:

1.5 oz apple brandy
0.25 oz orange-tangerine-kumquat liqueur
0.75 oz lemon juice
0.4 oz simple syrup

Combine all ingredients, shake with ice and strain into a chilled glass.

The apple brandy played exceptionally well with the sweetness of the liqueur and was nicely balanced by the tartness of the lemon juice. The liqueur also has just enough spice flavor to fit with the impending change in season. This is definitely a drink I'd like to have again when the weather cools down.

This should be the first in a series of posts I'm planning to write about local distilleries in Portland and the greater NW. It's a growing industry around here and a great time to be interested in spirits.