Sunday, May 23, 2010

Saturday Night Cocktail Challenge

Last night I hosted a "Bring Your Own Ingredient" cocktail party. The idea was that everyone would bring something unique that I would then try to integrate into a cocktail without drowning it out. A lot of what got lobbed at me had a pretty strong flavor, ranging from the peaty smokiness of single malt whiskey to peppermint schnapps. With one exception, I managed to roll with the punches. When asked to make a savory cocktail, I stumbled. Savory tequila, aquavit, rye vodka, olive brine and old-fashioned bitters somehow canceled each other out, resulting in a mostly-tasteless but generally off-putting drink. But it was a learning experience. Here are the ingredients I had more luck with and the resulting cocktails:

Scottish Squirrel (from Gary Regan's The Joy of Mixology)
1.5 oz McCarthy's Single Malt Whiskey
0.75 oz amaretto
0.75 oz lemon juice

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled glass.

While this drink had potential, the smokey flavors were still too dominant and the drink was rather dry. Adding honey syrup helped a bit, so I think the drink could be turned into something rather tasty with a bit more work.

Rhub Rum
1.5 oz El Dorado 3 year rum
0.5 oz lime juice
0.5 oz grapefruit juice
0.3 oz simple syrup
0.25 oz rhubarb liqueur

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled glass.

I was much more pleased with this one. The ED3 has something of a savory character, which played well with the rhubarb liqueur. The grapefruit juice also kept the sourness of the lime from dominating. Another one that I can see making again.

Nth Degree
1.25 oz Aviation gin
0.25 oz Krogstad aquavit
0.3 oz honey syrup
barspoon lemon tincture
barspoon cranberry tincture

Stir with ice for 30 seconds then strain into a chilled glass.

Due this drink being almost pure alcohol (the tinctures are ~190 proof), I chose to stir this one a bit longer than normal. The results were fairly good and it had a wonderful opalescent pink hue. Not exactly my cup of tea, but others enjoyed it and the aquavit managed to play a role without taking over the drink. The tinctures also added both color and smell without being too assertive.

Christmas in St. Croix
1 oz Cruzan ESB
0.5 oz amaretto
0.25 oz peppermint schnapps
0.5 oz grapefruit juice
0.25 oz lime juice
0.5 oz honey syrup

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

This one is in a similar mold to the first cocktail, though I was aiming for a way to utilize the spiciness of the Cruzan and schnapps with the nutty flavor of the amaretto rather than savory bitterness. Almost everyone agreed that it reminded them of Christmas. Perhaps a good one for celebrating the holidays in warmer climes.

I also whipped up a margarita and a Fernandito Cocktail with mango puree that ended going down well. For some reason the mango seemed to be introducing grassy notes to those drinks, but that fit well with both.

Last but not least, I finally got to try out my mai-tai variation:

1 oz Jamaican rum
1 oz chocolate spiced rum
0.5 oz amaretto
1 oz lime juice
0.5 oz orgeat
0.5 oz honey syrup

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

This worked out just as well as I hoped it would. The chocolate and spice flavors from the rum work perfectly with the nut flavor of the amaretto while the honey syrup and orgeat smooth everything out. Another drink that I'll be making again.

Overall, it was a good night for me. I was a bit exhausted by the end, but it felt really good to be able to come up with new drinks on the fly. There's always more to learn, but it means that I have a decent grasp on how different flavors will work with each other and can combine them in a pleasing fashion. Just to really cap everything off, I had incredibly gracious guests who left me with a lot of the new liquor I had been using over the course of the night. I'm now ahead a bottle Single Malt Whiskey, a bottle of Krogstad aquavit, a bit of rhubarb liqueur, some Don Eduardo tequila and some homemade tonic syrup. I'm looking forward to making new drinks with all of these ingredients and hopefully sharing some of them with friends as well.

Especially with summer coming, I foresee many more cocktail parties in my future.

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