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Honey Boo Boo MartiniWisconsin Dells, WI – November 20, 2012

….and I don’t feel fine!

I had remained blissfully unaware of the existence of that overweight and underbrained miscreant knows as Honey Boo Boo until she was brought to my attention last fall, by my boss, of all people!  Since then I’ve lamented her as a sure sign of the apocolypse and have worked hard to avoid her and her “family”.

Frankly, I had been doing a pretty good job of that avoidance…until I walked into the bar at the House of Embers in Wisconsin Dells…and was greeted by the sign at left.  Arrrrgh!  I wanted to poke my eyes out!  And no, I did not have one!  You all know my disdain for flavored vodkas – and this has two of them!  In fact, I had to order a double Bombay martini to wash the taste out of the mouth.  In fact, just writing this has brought back horrible memories that will require another Bombay martini to wash away!

Cheers!

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The Twilight Lounge – February 11, 2012

“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” – Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca.

Ah yes, one of my favorite cocktail movies and a great way to introduce one of my favorite gins and the subject of the next installment in my occasional series of gin reviews.  The Original Bombay London Dry gin!

Original Bombay is now a product of Bacardi, Ltd., and is, within the Bacardi product portfolio, second banana to Bombay Sapphire.  Which, to me, is really too bad because Original Bombay is a fine gin in its own right.  Using their “vapourization” distillation process, the vapor coming off as the gin is distilled is passed through a total of eight botanicals:  coriander, lemon peel, angelica root, cassia bark, iris root, liquorice, juniper berries and almonds.  With a recipe that dates back to 1761, this is about as original as modern gins get!

Taken straight, the juniper definitely is what jumps out on the nose, followed by a warm, sharp boozy note.  Not unpleasant, but not for the faint of heart either, this is a man’s shot.  That said, it does go down smooth, with the juniper coming to the fore with afternotes of lemon and nuts.  It stays smooth throughout and doesn’t leave me reaching for a chaser.

Now, for the martini.  I started with my “standard” recipe…and again, didn’t like it because the vermouth was too overpowering.  So, again, I’ve changed my standard martini recipe to 3 oz gin, 1/8 oz (1 bar spoon) Noilly Prat dry vermouth, 1 dash Angostura bitters.  Now this is what I wanted!  The vermouth makes a nice compliment to the strong juniper of the gin, with the bitters helping to mellow things out a bit.  What can I say?  This has been my go to drink for nearly two decades, so, of course I liked it!  This is the baseline martini for me, against which all others are judged.

On the gin and tonic.  Again, in the name of full disclosure, this is my preferred gin and tonic.  The Bombay is strong enough to stand up to the tonic and is complimented by it, rather than being lost in it.  Add the lime wedge, and, well, I think you have a bit of gin and tonic heaven.  Those Brits sure knew what they were doing when the added quinine water to their gin (ok, so it was to fight disease, but who cares why they did it?).

Overall, I really like the Original Bombay.  It has been a staple of my liquor cabinet for decades now, and is the classic example of a London Dry gin.  Simply put, you cannot go wrong with it!  I rate the Original Bombay a 5 out of 5!

Cheers!

A Few of My Favorite Friends

The Twilight Lounge – December 16, 2011

Gin, sweet, juniper laced, glorious gin.  Bombay gin.  Beefeater gin.  Tanqueray gin. Gin Wigmore (just checking to see if you are paying attention).  Hendricks gin.  New Amsterdam gin.  Seagrams gin.  Plymouth gin.  London Dry gin, local gin, craft gin…gin, gin, gin.  Invented by the Dutch, co-opted by the British, where would we be without it?  No martinis – the only civilized way to end an uncivilized day.  No gin and tonics.  No Aviations.  No Singapore Slings or Sleigh Wrecks!

The invention of modern gin is credited to Franciscus Sylvius in the 17th century, although its roots go back to 11th century Italian monks who used juniper berries to flavor crudely distilled spirits.  The term gin is derived from the Dutch word genever, their word for juniper.  Originally used for what was supposed to be medicinal purposes, the British came upon it during the 30 Years War and called it “Dutch courage” for the effect it had on their bravery when taken before battle. 

Gin’s popularity in Britian soared during the reign of  William of Orange, who assumed the British throne in 1689.  With the taxes placed on brandy from France and on beer being quite heavy, locally distilled gin became the spirit of choice throughout England.

From 17th century England, gin has seen its ups and downs.  It its high point in the quintessential martini as enjoyed by FDR and Churchill to it’s low point as bathtub gin during Prohibition, gin has been a staple of cocktail culture for centuries.  Over the next few weeks I’ll explore the different styles of gins and include a number of gin reviews as well.  In the meantime, have a gin question?  Then fire away and I’ll do my best to answer!

Cheers!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

During some random night last week I was again in the mood for a cocktail featuring egg white.  After thumbing through several cocktail books I found something called the Clover Club.  This is a classic cocktail (read as pre-Prohibition) that was enjoyed by the members of the Clover Club in Philadelphia.  The Clover Club was a group of civic minded business leaders who met regularly at the Bellevue-Stratford hotel.  Alas, while the Clover Club itself expanded to multiple cities in the early 1900’s, the cocktail didn’t make it past Prohibition.  It’s a pity too, because this delicious number beats the pants off a Cosmopolitan any day!

  Clover Club

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz grenadine
  • 1 egg white

Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake for 60 seconds or more.  Strain into a rocks glass and garnish with a half slice of lemon.

You really need to shake, shake, shake this cocktail, just like any other egg white cocktail.  The reason is to emulsify the egg and create an nice creamy head and fully incorporate the egg into the drink.

As for the cocktail itself – delicious is the only way to describe it.  Creamy, slightly sweet from the grenadine with just hints of juniper from the gin.  I used Bombay for this one – I wanted the full flavor of a London dry to stand up to the relatively large amount of grenadine and lemon in this one. 

Cheers!

Day 335, Cocktail 340

Every good movie (and, unfortunately, some not so good movies) deserves a sequel.  In the case of the Godfather, there were two sequels.  And hey, maybe if were lucky, there will be a fourth! 

So, Saturday’s cocktail is a sequel of a previous drink.  Our friend Patti was home alone this weekend with Greg out of town on family business.  So Gwen made plans for the three of us to go out to dinner and then karaoke.  Our dinner stop was Amici’s in Richfield.  We all had wonderful Italian meals, and of course, cocktails.  While Gwen and Patti had martinis (Bombay and Grey Goose respectively) I chose the Godfather Martini.  I know, it should not be called a martini, but I bit my tongue and ordered it anyway.  Essentially, this is the close cousin to the previously posted Godfather cocktail.  The Amici’s version is made with Dewar’s scotch while my Godfather uses Maker’s Mark bourbon.  Both, of course, have amaretto in them. 

So how was it?  Pretty good.  The proportions of scotch and amaretto (which I did not get) were just right, providing a nice balance between the smokey flavor of the Dewar’s and the nutty, almond flavor of the amaretto.  This is a slightly sweet cocktail, so be prepared for that if you are a boozy cocktail fan.  It won’t knock you over with sugar like some fruity ice cream drink, but it’s not like having a scotch on the rocks or Manhattan either.

As for the karaoke, well that went just fabulous as well.  Of course, after a cocktail or two, my singing always gets better!

Cheers!

Day 290, Cocktail 287

Wednesday night and my stream of consciousness cocktailing took me from the Ty Ku Cherry with it’s gin and maraschino (along with the Ty Ku, of course) to a combination of gin, maraschino and Lillet Blanc.  Why?  Well, regular readers know by now that I love the Luxardo Maraschino liqueur.  Gin, well, that’s a no brainer – just check out the cocktail index and see how many gin drinks there are.  And the Lillet Blanc?  Why not?  It’s been sitting in the fridge, feeling a little left out lately, so I pulled it out.  Here’s what I came up with.

  Cherry Lillet

  • 2 oz Beefeater Gin
  • 1 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 1/8 oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass and stir vigorously with ice.  Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a lemon twist.

Hmmm, delicious.  The floral and orange flavors of the Lillet work wonderfully with Luxardo’s cherry to create a multi layered flavor profile that blends very well with the gin.  I suggest using a London Dry type gin such as Beefeater or Bombay for this drink.  A lighter gin would get lost behind the Lillet and Luxardo.  If you like the Aviation or French 75 cocktails, I think you’ll like this one as well.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Cheers!

Day 279, Cocktail 279

Saturday night was a stay at home movie night…although come to think of it, we ended up watching a bunch of episodes of World War II in Color that were on the DVR.  Not quite a movie, but it was video entertainment.  Gwen and the girls whipped up a cheese fondue for dinner (I guess I should call it a TV dinner since we did eat in front of the TV) – it was delicious!

In keeping with our habit, we both wanted a gin based, martini style cocktail.  I thumbed my way through Sally Ann Berk’s “The Martini Book” and found a cocktail called the Hoffman House Martini.  In its heyday, the Hoffman House was one of New York’s premiere hotels and bars.  Located on Madison Square (before there was a Madison Square Garden), it hosted an A-list clientele.  It was also at the forefront of the movement that took martinis dry — removing the sweeteners out of the cocktail and using dry vermouth.  Alas, this venerable piece of cocktail history is no more.  The Hoffman House was torn down in 1915 to make way for an office building.  Fortunately,  their cocktail lives on.

  Hoffman House Martini

  • 4 oz gin (use a London Dry)
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth
  • 4 dashes Angostura orange bitters

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.  Stir to chill and combine.  Strain into a chilled cocktail shaker and garnish with cocktail olives (in my case, three of them, sans stuffing of any kind). 

I used Beefeater gin for this (although Bombay or even Plymouth would also be good choices).  And it was delicious.  It was like a dirty martini on steroids.  The orange bitters really popped in this drink and brought out the botanicals in the Beefeater.  I normally use Angostura bitters in my martinis, but I believe that I’ve been converted to using the orange bitters going forward.  And trust me, changing my regular martini is a once an epoch event, so you know how much I enjoyed this drink! 

I’d love to hear your take on it – give it a try and let me know how you like it!

Cheers!

Day 257, Cocktail 256

Friday night was a date night for Gwen and me.  No kids, no friends, no worries, just the two of us (isn’t that a song?)  I decided to try someplace new and did a web search for Milwaukee bistro.  A number of interesting choices popped up and I chose one that was relatively close to home – NSB Bar and Grill.  Formerly known as the North Shore Bistro it has undergone a few changes, including the name.

When we arrived it was going to be 10 – 15 minutes for a table.  Fortunately, there were seats at the bar (I know, a shock that we’d wait at the bar), which ran the length of the dining room.  I was pleased to see that it was well stocked with liquor and liqueurs and also pleased to see a number of tempting selections on the speciality cocktail list.  While Gwen went for her usual dirty Bombay martini I opted to try out the Pear Flower.  This consisted of Grey Goose la Poire, St. Germain, grapefruit juice, lemon juice and bar syrup.  The result is pictured here and was delicious!  The pear flavored Grey Goose was a perfect match for the St. Germain and grapefruit juice.  The lemon juice added just the right amount of sour to offset the sweetness of the St. Germain.  Regular readers know that I’m no fan of flavored vodkas, but this cocktail makes a strong case for them. 

As for dinner, Gwen had the Pan Seared Tilapia with Pistachio Lemon Butter while I opted for the Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps.  Both meals were also very good and made for a great evening out for us.

Cheers!

Day 241, Cocktail 239

Wednesday evening started off my holiday preparations in earnest.  I also was the new, proud owner of a nearly full bottle of Lillet Blanc, courtesy of Mark Stoffel.  Thanks Mark!  I’m looking forward to playing with this and seeing what I can make with it besides the Vesper.  So, to the CocktailDB I went to look for cocktails that use the Lillet.  I found a number of interesting options, but the one I liked best was the Jubileesha.  The original recipe called for 3 dashes of orange bitters which, while I enjoyed it, did tend to overpower the drink.  So, in the name of research I had a second and cut down on the bitters to just two dashes.  This made for a much more balanced cocktail that allowed the flavors of the gin and Lillet come out.

  Jubileesha

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Combine the ingredients in a shaker and shake, shake, shake to mix and chill.  Strain into a chilled coupe.

Hmm, hmm, hmm…delicious.  I really love the orange bitters in this drink.  It makes for a very nice compliment to the lightly floral flavor in the Lillet and Bombay.

Cheers!

Day 213, Cocktails 207 & 208

Happy Thanksgiving!  Today is that day for us to gather and reflect on what we have to be thankful for…for me it is my family and friends, my health, and…the hope for a Brown’s win on Sunday!  We’re having several friends over along with Paula and Cookie.  Not sure if I’ll get into any new cocktails today as I plan on serving up Caramel Apples and Pecan Pies.  If I do, you’ll read all about in the next post.

Yesterday was a day for a couple of new drinks.  Much of the day was spent in final preparation for today.  By dinner time we were winding down and playing shut box down in the Twilight Lounge.  I mixed up a drink I found on the CocktailDB.

  Southern Bride

  • 1-3/4 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz grapefruit juice
  • 1/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur

Combine the ingredients in a shaker and shake, shake, shake to combine and chill.  Strain into a coupe.

My first observation is that this is a dainty ‘lil ‘ol thing, only filling my coupe about 2/3 of the way with a nice, pink hue.  It is a tasty cocktail with the maraschino taking front and center, followed by the grapefruit and then gin as a supporting platform.  I used Plymouth gin for this one.  If you want more “bite” from your gin, use Bombay or Beefeater.

Later in the evening we headed over to Brett’s house for his night before Thanksgiving party.  We don’t get to see Brett outside of Ivee’s nearly enough and he always throws a good bash.  Last night held true to form.  After several bourbon and cokes Gwen cajoled Brett into making up his own speciality cocktail.  It’s called Brett’s Passion Fruit Mojito and consists of Cruzan Aged Rum, lime juice, mint, powdered sugar and seltzer water.  Wow, was this ever delicious!  The Cruzan has a nice, silky and slightly smokey flavor.  The passion fruit and mint blend wonderfully together and it was just sweet enough.  Well done Brett!  If you want, give me your exact recipe and I’ll publish it!

Cheers!