Boulevardier

BoulevardierBoulevardier cocktail

A few months ago Jon was looking through a book of cocktails and found an interesting but slightly complicated drink that was itself a variation of another cocktail called a Boulevardier. Apparently a classic, but one we’d never heard of, we decided to try the original drink immediately, and have made it many, many times since. We still haven’t made the variation.

The Boulevardier is like a combination of a Negroni and a Manhattan: rye, vermouth and campari. And it has many of the best qualities of both drinks. The campari is what I taste first, with its fruity bitterness, then the rye’s warmth comes up from underneath. Every sip seems a little bit different. Our recipe says not to garnish the drink, but I like it quite a lot with a good twist of orange peel.

We’re not the only ones enjoying this drink recently – there was a nice discussion of it in the New York Times last week. See how fashionable we are?

Boulevardier

Boulevardier

  • 1 ½ oz rye or bourbon (some recipes call for 2 oz)
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz campari

Stir all ingredients with ice, then strain into either a cocktail glass or over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish, if you like, with orange or lemon peel.

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homemade tinctures

tinctures

Guest post by our house mixologist, Jon!

I first discovered cardamom as a freshman in college. I was making a recipe from the Tassajara Recipe Book for an apple-cardamom quick bread. A trek to the More-4 (the grocery store in Northfield at that time) proved successful, and I immediately fell in love with the spice.

Fast forward a couple decades to my current fascination with the world of cocktails. Bitters are a key ingredient in many cocktails (some would argue that a true cocktail, by definition, has bitters in it). I started with Angostura, of course, and then tracked down bottles of Peychaud’s and Regan’s Orange Bitters #6. And then I heard about Scrappy’s. Scrappy’s is a local company (in Seattle), and they make…cardamom bitters!

I must have some of these cardamom bitters, I said to myself. And I’ve kept saying it to myself for the past year. You see, the only places I’ve found that carry Scrappy’s? They’re all out of the cardamom bitters. The bars where I’ve been able to taste it? They’re running low. From what I can tell, Scrappy’s cardamom bitters have been a victim of their own success. Supply can’t keep up with demand.

Meanwhile, life has gone on. I’ve looked up recipes on how to make bitters (including Jamie Boudreau’s ridiculous recipe that makes over 5 liters of the stuff), but the time was never right. And then a couple of weeks ago, the snow fell. And fell. And fell. School was cancelled for a week. Our one significant outing took us by a liquor store that had one bottle of Everclear, and I bought it.

And the experimentation began!

I started by following the recipe for a cardamom tincture in Left Coast Libations. That recipe says to steep 1 Tbs of decorticated cardamom seeds in 2 oz of neutral grain spirits (Everclear) for 4 to 6 weeks, shaking everyday. I was prepared to believe it, but the mix was noticeably colored after just a few days, and I just had to taste some after a scant week – already very strongly cardamom scented and flavored. I forced myself to leave it for most of another week, while I got a second tincture going. This one was coriander seed, in the same quantities, and I let it steep for just one week.

The original plan was to have equal quantities of the two, with which I could then experiment with blending until I found just the right proportions. A mishap while filtering cost me about a quarter of the cardamom tincture, though, and I didn’t really want to waste what I had left fussing over ratios. Okay, okay. I got impatient. I mixed my remaining 1½ oz of cardamom tincture with ½ oz of the coriander, and called it good. It may not truly be “bitters,” since it has no gentian, or milk thistle, or any of the other bizarre ingredients used to add bitter flavor, but it is good. Very good.

At this point, the only way I’ve tried the finished cardamom-coriander tincture is by adding a few drops to a glass of seltzer (which frankly, is a really nice way to enjoy them).  I bet they’d be good with rum, and they’ll make an exciting change to an otherwise classic Manhattan. The remaining coriander tincture I envision using in a gin-based drink – perhaps with Hendricks and cucumber. We’ll report our findings.

snow days & drinkies

across the rooftopscozy cat
where a cat should bestill snowing

I had various ideas for posts to put up this week, but then it snowed and everything went to hell. Which is basically what happens when it snows in Western Washington. Whether it’s half an inch or twenty inches, schools close, people stay home from work, grocery shelves get depleted, and Twitter and Facebook turn into unending streams of complaints and snow pictures. We stayed home, turned on the fire, and made cocktails.

It’s been a while since Jon has done much drink experimentation – we’ve been happy with our repertoire of drinks, with an occasional new addition. But the unexpected down time this week inspired him to try several new recipes. Here are the ones we tried (and lest this list seem alarmingly long, keep in mind we’ve had all week to get through these):

The Day Off

The Day Off

  • 1.5 oz bourbon (we use Bulleit)
  • 0.5 oz Aperol
  • 1 oz pomegranate juice

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist. (Note: the drink in the picture was shaken, not stirred, which is why it has foam on top. We recommend stirring for a clearer cocktail.)

Snowed In

Snowed In

  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz Averna
  • 0.5 oz Carpano Antica formula vermouth
  • 0.5 oz pomegranate juice

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

The Snow Day

The Snow Day

  • 1 oz rye
  • 1 oz Lillet blanc
  • 0.5 oz lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz triple sec
  • dash absinthe

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Jon’s note: “I think this one may still want a little tweaking. The concept is good, but the balance isn’t quite right.”

The Pitchfork

  • 0.75 oz aquavit
  • 0.75 oz Carpano Antica formula vermouth
  • 0.75 oz Averna
  • 3 dashes rhubarb bitters

Stir with ice and serve on the rocks.
Jon’s note: “This is my variation on the Trident, which is itself a variation of a Negroni. The Trident takes the Negroni recipe and swaps aquavit for the gin, dry sherry for the vermouth, and Cynar for the Campari, and then adds peach bitters. I’ve brought back the vermouth, used Averna instead of Cynar and rhubarb bitters in place of peach.”

Manhattan variation:  Averna instead of vermouth, and rhubarb bitters instead of Angostura. Served on the rocks, no garnish. This was nice.

Brooklyn variation: St. Germain instead of vermouth and Averna instead of Torani Amer.

And finally, my favorite discovery of the week: the Norwegian Sunset. Imbibe Magazine just posted this as part of their online newsletter and we made it immediately. It’s wonderful – the rich vermouth and amaro balancing the caraway of the aquavit. I loved it. Will make again.

Norwegian Sunset

  • 1 1/2 oz. aquavit (we used Linie, but we’re guessing that Krogstad would be even better)
  • 3/4 oz. Aperol
  • 1/2 oz. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
  • Garnish: 5 drops Regan’s orange bitters

Combine the aquavit, aperol and vermouth in a shaker and stir with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with the bitters.

daiquiri

daiquiri

For a long time I wasn’t really sure what a daiquiri was. I first learned of its existence from old Doonesbury comic strips, back when Duke was governor of Samoa and went through gallons of banana daiquiri. I thought it sounded exotic but disgusting, and never tried one. Recently I became aware that, while there are still horrible sugary-fruity-yuck versions of the daiquiri floating around, the original really didn’t sound that bad: just rum, lime juice, sugar. An actual drink for grownups: a little tart, a little sweet. Huh. We had a bunch of limes left over from our party, so one sunny afternoon I asked Jon to make me a daiquiri. He did. And it was good.

lime slice

Classic Daiquiri

Loads of versions out there, obviously. This one is from Speakeasy, by Kosmas & Zaric. It was tasty. And large.

  • 2 ½ oz Flor de Caña rum (or some other rum, but this is a nice light one)
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • ¾ oz simple syrup
  • 1 lime wheel for garnish

Shake the rum, juice and syrup with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the lime wheel.

elderflower descant

Elderflower Descant

We’ve missed the last few Mixology Mondays, for various reasons, but when we saw that May’s theme was floral cocktails (hosted over at The Barman Cometh), we made a special effort to get something together. There are quite a few floral-based cocktails we like, particularly the Deep Blue Sea (violet) and the Vieux Mot (elderflower). We thought it would be fun to come up with something new with one of those flavors, so Jon did some experimenting these last couple of weeks, then wrote this:

As Jessamyn has already mentioned, I recently got a copy of the very fine book Left Coast Libations.  While many of the recipes therein have immediately grabbed me, demanding to be made, other recipes have remained more aloof.

Case in point, the Pear Sonata.  I’m just not a big fan of dusting a drink with ground cinnamon, and even if I were, there’s no way in hell I’m going to make pear foam.  Pear foam?  Really?

However, after letting the recipe percolate in my mind for a while, I began to recognize that for all of its weird trappings, the Pear Sonata has good, solid bones to it.  Gin, St. Germain, dry vermouth, and lemon juice.  Nothing wrong there.  What if I were to tweak the proportions a bit, leave off the pear foam (really?), and let the St. Germain shine through?  It seemed worth a try.

I began with a base of Bluecoat gin.  Bluecoat, made here in the US, has quickly become one of our very favorite gins, with a distinctly citrusy note to it, which I thought would work well with the St. Germain, which I boosted to a full jigger’s worth.  Lemon juice and dry vermouth, and in a nod to the original Pear Sonata recipe, just a dash of Clear Creek pear brandy.

A twist of orange to garnish.  I find that I have grown very fond of using orange to garnish drinks containing lemon juice – it’s similar enough not to clash, yet different enough to add a little extra dimension to the drink.  And as I was about to present it, Jessamyn added her own touch: a single lilac flower.

Elderflower Descant

  • 1 oz. Bluecoat gin
  • ¾ oz. St Germain
  • ½ oz. lemon juice
  • ½ oz. Dolin dry vermouth
  • dash Clear Creek pear brandy

Shake well with ice and strain.  Garnish with a long twist of orange and a lilac flower.

Elderflower Descant

the research continues

I have no idea what drink this was

We’ve continued on our recent kick of trying new cocktails, mostly from Left Coast Libations but occasionally dipping back into other cocktail references. The trouble is, if we don’t write down what we’re trying, we forget the names almost instantly. When I went through my photos from the last few weeks to see what I had shot in the way of cocktails, I found several – but I had only a vague idea of which drinks they had been.

Historic Core cocktail

This one I’m pretty sure was the Historic Core, created by Joseph Brooke in LA. It had Rittenhouse rye, apple brandy, Chartreuse, Carpano Antica vermouth, Angostura bitters and lemon peel. I remember it as being interesting but not riveting.

Don't remember this one, either

This one was a complete mystery to me. I liked how Jon zested the orange, but I had no memory of the drink itself. When I asked, he said it was a variation on a drink called an Ueno San, with rye instead of bourbon, cocchi americano instead of Lillet, orange bitters instead of peach bitters, and Carpano Antica. So there you go. I suppose we might experiment more with that one.

Maybe I should take better notes.

Fior di Sicily

Fior di Sicily

A heavy amaro, a bitter orange aperitif, a really good vermouth, and elderflower liqueur, all mixed together in a glass. This didn’t sound like a very likely combo when I first heard it, but when Jon put the drink together and gave me a sip, I was amazed. The word that comes to mind is comforting: sweet, spicy and deep. This is a drink that’s going to make a lot of appearances next fall. It’s definitely more than the sum of its parts.

Fior di Sicily

Fior di Sicily

From Left Coast Libations by Ted Munat and Michael Lazar

  • 3/4 oz Averna amaro
  • 3/4 oz Carpano Antica vermouth
  • 3/4 oz Aperol
  • 3/4 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • orange peel for garnish
  • Combine the spirits in a mixing glass, stir with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass. Flame the orange peel over the drink, then add the peel to the glass.

    Toto

    Toto cocktail

    Our cocktail repertoire has been stabilizing lately, after a flurry of trying dubious new recipes and wishing we’d stuck with tried and true drinks. Mostly we’ve been drinking Negronis, Brooklyns or Manhattans, with the occasional Spring Feeling or a straight Martin Miller martini – and we’ve liked it that way. But when we were at Oliver’s Twist the other day, they had a book on the counter that sent us completely out of our comfort zone.

    our latest acquisition

    It’s called Left Coast Libations, and it consists of short profiles of bartenders from California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, along with two original cocktails from each of them. Several of these folks are people we’ve met and who have made us amazing drinks (I was especially pleased to see Casey Robison in here – he and his staff at Barrio have done wonders for our cocktail education – and one of the bartenders at Oliver’s was in there, too). While we sat at the bar, we flipped through the book and immediately began finding recipes we desperately wanted to try. We copied a few down, tried them at home, then bought the book the very next chance we got. It’s just that good.

    Not all of the drinks are going to be winners, of course. We tried one with gin and sherry vinegar that, frankly, went straight down the drain. I’m finding that peach bitters taste really disgusting to me and should probably be avoided. And I’m just not going to drink anything that has blueberries and lavender in it. But there are some really, really good possibilities in here.

    ingredients

    This cocktail, the Toto, was the first one we tried. It’s the creation of Kelley Swenson, currently running the bar at June, but who until recently was working at the now defunct ten01 in Portland. It makes me really sorry that the only drink I ever had there was a pear concoction with so much cinnamon on top I couldn’t taste the cocktail. I certainly should have given them another try, because the Toto is absolutely wonderful. We’re looking forward to working our way through the rest of this book.

    Toto

    • 3/4 oz El Jimador or Cazadores reposado tequila (actually we used 1800 and it was just fine)
    • 3/4 oz green Chartreuse
    • 3/4 oz Cynar
    • lemon twist

    Combine the tequila, Chartreuse and Cynar with ice and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the lemon twist. Serve up.

    chartreuse & cynar

    The 30 Day Beer Challenge

    The Gospel IPAthe tulip tower

    I live in Mount Vernon. It’s a small town in a rural county in northwestern Washington State, built at the site of an old log jam on the Skagit River back in the 1800s. People in Seattle have heard of it, either because they’ve come up here for the annual Tulip Festival or because they’ve driven by on I-5, but most of them never stop in town. Which means that it’s still rather a well-kept secret that our small downtown is one of the best places to drink beer of, well, pretty much anywhere.

    Porterhouse

    We have two breweries, Skagit River and North Sound. Then there are the pubs: the Empire Alehouse, the Trumpeter Public House, and the Porterhouse. All have multiple rotating taps, as many as twenty-one at a time, almost entirely West Coast microbrews. From our house we can walk to four of these pubs and drink some of the best beers available. It’s pretty sweet.

    Last year, wanting to raise awareness of the local beer possibilities, encourage responsible drinking and promote downtown businesses, our friends Lyra and Ryan Morrison attempted something they dubbed the 30 Day Beer Challenge. The idea was to drink a different beer every day in March, staying within the downtown area of Mount Vernon. Given the options, it was extremely easy. So this year they’re doing it again, with a twist – they can’t repeat any of the beers tasted last year. And they’re bringing in some help, including us.

    the Beer Challenge Team

    Every day this month, at a predetermined pub, representatives of the Beer Challenge will show up and drink their chosen beer. A brief review will be submitted to the team leader for online publication and discussions will be held on the beer’s merits (or just beer in general), with public participation encouraged. You can follow along on Facebook, Twitter or by text. Or you can just come out and have a beer with us. Jon and I will be at the Empire tomorrow night, March 3rd, and at Skagit Brewery on the 24th (not to mention our band playing at the Empire on St. Patrick’s Day – and there’s a special local beer release that night, too). What beers will we be tasting? You’ll have to wait and see.

    snow days

    7th Streetblue sky and holly

    What do you do when life dumps 18″ of snow on top of you and everything comes screeching to a halt? You shovel until you can’t move, turn up the house heat, and make cocktails. At least that’s what we did. It worked very well.

    snow day