Thursday, July 31, 2008

Taste the (Beer) Rainbow!

Like beer? Of course you do! Ever had an American Wild Ale? Me neither! Fortunately for all of us, Overlord Beernerd Rob is hosting a tasting of many of these fine brews because he loves you. The full lowdown can be found here.

The best part, of course, is that I'll be there lending a hand with the food. Delicious, delicious food. If you're lucky I'll tell you all about the John/Tom Collins. Oh, who am I kidding, I'm going to tell you why whether you like it or not.

Comments always welcome or feel free to e-mail us at drinkaweek [at] gmail [dot] com.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Plymouth Sloe Gin

As regular readers may remember, when I heard that Plymouth Sloe Gin was making its way to our shores I was, well, a bit excited. Its arrival turned out to be a bit of a clusterfuck, as arrival dates for the precious liquid came and went with no Plymouth and no idea from the (very patient) folks at the store I continued to bombard with my presence. When it finally arrived I was almost vibrating with excitement. Sitting on my desk at work, it mocked me with its not being open. Never before was I so tempted to drink on the job.

Once home with my precious cargo, a dark thought came over me. My expectations had blown themselves a bit out of proportion, and I was fearing a huge letdown. In my fevered brain this product, only spoken about in whispers, was some sort of curative nostrum of the soul. To sip this drink would be to see the face of creation. I poured myself a wee bit of the stuff, and (trying to lower my expectation) took a sip. I didn't have any holy hallucinations, but I'll be damned if it wasn't fucking delicious.

Knowing that sloe berries are so tart as to be virtually inedible, I was expecting either a much more astringent product, or something that was perhaps overly sweetened to mask the puckering punch. Rather than either of those, there was a wonderful balance between the sweet and the sour. The first thing that hit me, was an intense, jammy flavor that's somewhat difficult to describe. It was kind of like a mash up of fruits, none of which could easily be pinned down (though the most distinct flavor I got was blackberry). In the finish I got a slight, and somewhat surprising, hint of strawberry.

With that out of the way, it was time for a cocktail! I began to consult my various books, and websites -- I knew I could give the classic Sloe Gin Fizz a whirl, but I was interested in giving something else a shot if it caught my eye. What eventually caught it, was the Daisy recipe from David Wondrich's fantastic new book Imbibe. Here's the specifics of what I used.

Sloe Gin Daisy

2 oz. Plymouth Sloe Gin
.5 oz. lemon juice
1.5 tsp. Creole Shrub
1 tsp. simple syrup

Shaken, and strained into a cocktail glass, and topped with soda.

With the inherent tartness of the Plymouth, and the half ounce of lemon juice with nothing but a couple of teaspoons of sweetener to balance it out, I was sure it was going to be one tart beverage. Oh how wrong I was -- This little baby is a thing of beauty. It's just sweet enough to keep it from being too tart for human consumption, and makes for a cocktail that falls perfectly in my dryness range. In his book, Wondrich briefly debates the type of glass to use, and advises the cocktail as it prevents adding in too much soda. It's a suggestion that's right on the money, as there was just enough effervescence to open up the drink, but it was pretty easy to tell that it wouldn't have taken much more to drown out the complexity of the other ingredients.

Comments always welcome or feel free to e-mail us at drinkaweek [at] gmail [dot] com.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Like to Watch

A little bit of video love for this fine Tuesday.

Recently, our very own H. Joseph Ehrmann (proprietor of Elixir and gad about town) made an appearance on View From the Bay. He helped the hosts whip up some of his cocktails -- sans booze, because I guess they thought drinking in the morning shouldn't be encouraged (Bah!). Thanks to the magic of the internet you can watch the segment here. I don't have to tell you to un-mock these right?

For those of you, like me, that weren't able to make it Tales of the Cocktail, The Liquid Muse brought some solace in the form of several videos. You can catch them all here, at Robert "Drink Boy" Hess' site. While you're there I'd recommend taking a look at his other pieces if you haven't already.

Comments always welcome or feel free to e-mail us at drinkaweek [at] gmail [dot] com.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Field Trip -- Clock Bar

Last week, the single greatest Cocktail celebration in the whole of creation went down in New Orleans -- Tales of the Cocktail. It is an event horizon of cocktail geeks, bartenders, and boozy luminaries. Five days of liquor fueled mayhem, and savage delights that are not to be missed. Unless you're me. Who was here in San Francisco. Ed, however, dispatched himself to pick up my slack, and assuaged my sorrow by sending me texts like, "Just talked to Gary [Regan], it's going to be a good day.", and "At the Plymouth Sloe Gin tasting. Mmmmmmm, so good."

If that hadn't been enough, a cabal of the bloggers which form some of my daily reading were working to drive me mad by chronicling the festivites in all their rage inducing glory. Even though they have no idea who I am. That's how devious the conspiracy was. Fortunately I had the just opened Clock Bar (beware .pdf), with the masterful Marco Dionysus behind the bar, as my oasis. Even more fortunately I had a good friend in town who was staying at the St. Francis for business, and her time was constrained enough that we pretty much just hung out at the bar when she had a few spare hours.

I first poked my head in on their opening day, which happened to be my birthday -- I only had time for one drink before I had to run off and meet up with friends for what turned out to be a huge amount of whiskey, but I knew what I wanted -- The Wibble. I've been interested in seeing what the local mixologists would end up doing with the Plymouth Sloe Gin since it finally arrived at out shores, and I wasn't disapointed with this. Made with Plymouth Gin (London and Sloe), Grapefruit juice, lemon juice, and Crème de Mure, this was one hell of a drink that boasted a perfect balance between sweet, tart, and bitter. I was sad that I couldn't just stay there to drink myself silly, but knew I would have plenty more chances. Since, over the course of the following few days, I drank my way through half the menu I'll just say that not one of the drinks was anything short of superb, but there were a couple that really made me a happy monkey.

The Chartreuse Swizzle -- I'm a sucker for Green Chartreuse, and this one commanded me to order it. The name sounded familiar as well, but I assumed I was just keying into the swizzle part thanks to the Dolores Park Swizzle at Beretta having such a glorious hold on me. The drink was as good as it looked, and in talking to Marco about it, it turned out that I had actually heard of the drink before. The Velvet Falernum in the drink is a great foil for the Chartreuse -- It's even swizzled with a swizzle stick that Marco wouldn't let me steal.

The Pegu Cocktail -- This made me so fucking happy for two reasons. First, this was the cocktail I had a little over a year ago at The Pegu Club in New York that made me the cocktail geek I am today. Second, the only other Pegu I have had between then and now was truly awful. This one, however, took me right back to the first sip of that delicious beast on the East Coast. Goddamn.

Perhaps even better than the drinks is having Marco behind the bar. I had never gotten around to sampling his work at Tres Agave, but his reputation looms large, and it turns out to be well deserved. He's got the kind of infectious enthusiasm that makes for a complete experience. Even as people swarmed in (many of them not at all interested in having a cocktail, but rather wanted to talk to him about how they had read about the bar in the paper, and wasn't it such a nice place), and women vied for his attention (seriously, the ladies were totally on the D-Train. I can't believe I just wrote that.) he remained unflappable.

This is probably the best addition to the cocktail circuit here since Beretta, and being closer to my office makes it just that much better. They open daily at 4, and if last week is any indication I'd recommend ditching work a little early and getting there when they open so you can make sure to get a prime seat at the bar.

Comments always welcome or feel free to e-mail us at drinkaweek [at] gmail [dot] com.

Friday, July 11, 2008

37) The Laurel

1.5 oz. Right Gin
.5 oz. lime juice
1/4 oz. Rhum Clément Creole Shrubb
1 bar spoon Plymouth Sloe Gin
1 Pluot -- Pitted, and quartered
Green Chartreuse VEP

In a mixing glass, muddle the pluat with the Sloe Gin. Add the reset of the ingredients except the Chartreuse, shake with ice, then strain into a champagne coup rinsed with the Chartreuse. Garnish with a pluot wedge.

Well hell, we done gone and did it. It was one year ago today that Ed and I dipped our respective toes into the blog-o-dodecahedron. It's amazing to me how much we've learned, and how much this blog has changed. What once was just going to be a repository of a drink a week became a catch-all for my drink related babblings (babblings from Ed should be forthcoming. As soon as he figures out how to make a wireless router go). Once I realized actually making a drink every week was insane, the blogging OCD kicked in and I just had to get content up.

A huge thanks from us to all you sexy readers, and to those of you extra sexy folks who have dropped in the comments (you see that lurkers? The folks who comment are extra sexy). Without knowing you're out there, somewhere, the tedium that is often times blogging would have killed this thing ages ago.

For our anniversary cocktail, Ed and I decided to really dig in, and see if we couldn't get something extra special. Our experimenting stretched over several days, and we went through a fair number of variations. From different Gins, to various ingredients in then out (the first iteration, for example, had Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters). From the get go we were centered around the Gin (cause we loves it), and the pluots (a hybrid between a plum and an apricot which we didn't know were pluots until a random customer told us our thinking they were plums was delusional).

Pluots, I'm here to tell you, are flat out fantastic to work with. They yielded a good amount of nicely sweet juice, and the skin has a pleasant tang to it. In tasting them I began to get ever stronger flavor connections to the jammy side of Plymouth Sloe Gin. As we quit for the day, and talked about things we might try the next, I told Ed I'd bring some in so he could try it. He was as happy with it as I have been so in it went. We only used the small amount as the idea was to ever so slightly boost the pluot flavor without overwhelming things. I didn't expect it to work as well as it did, but was happy to be surprised. If you don't have Plymouth Sloe Gin (I know how hard it is to come by) resist the temptation to substitute the faux-sloe garbage that's floating around out there. That shit has no business being anywhere near a cocktail.

The VEP was partly a nod to the fact that we were making a bit of a celebratory drink, but also because I've found that the herbal bite of Chartreuse can add a nice backbone to a drink when used judiciously. It also had the benefit of adding a touch of sweetness to balance out the citrus. What was really interesting was that while we felt the Chartreuse was working is magic very undercover, it wasn't until we tried an iteration sans the VEP that there was a subtle, but non-trivial change in the drink. Long ago, bitters taught me the "you don't always notice it, but you'd know if it wasn't there" axiom of how ingredients can behave in a drink, but tasting it in action is always cool. If you're not rolling in dough, using the non-VEP Chartreuse should be just fine.

In the end we ended up with a drink we were extremely happy with. The flavors of the fruit mingle beautifully with the botanicals of the Gin with neither taking up too much room. The Chartreuse was, as I said, pretty much hidden, but you could feel something in the drink that was giving it just a bit of a nudge. If I hadn't been drinking permutations of this drink all weekend, I would have had another in a heartbeat.

It's been a great year for us, and we have high hopes that the next will be even better. As long as nobody says anything to me about Tales of the Cocktail.

Comments always welcome or feel free to e-mail us at drinkaweek [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

36) C2 Cooler

1.5 oz. Square One Cucumber Vodka
.5 oz. simple syrup
1 one inch slice of cucumber
3 lime wedges
2 lemon wedges
5 mint leaves

Muddle all of the ingredients save the Vodka in a pint glass, add the Vodka, and ice. Fill with soda water, and still until well chilled. Garnish with a slice of cucumber.

Sometimes, my work at the San Francisco Institute for Improved Drinking is easy. Like when I walk in the door, Ed is muddling away, and he says, "I got a drink!" It was an unusually torrid day for San Francisco, and a customer at the bar had asked Ed for "something refreshing". One of the recent creations of H., which has been fairly popular is the Cucumber Cooler -- Which calls for regular old Vodka. Ed figured it would fit the bill of a refreshing cocktail just fine. However, being no stranger to excess, decided that if he was gonna use cucumber, he was gonna use cucumber.

He decided to tweak the recipe just a bit, and reached for the Square One Cucumber Vodka. I was of a mind that perhaps it would be a bit of cucumber overload, but who am I to question Ed? A few muddles later, and he had a very happy patron on his hands. Seconds later the patron's friend was asking for one, and if that's not a sign of success I don't know what is. Of course I had to have one myself, you know, for research purposes.

To a bit of my surprise it was not the cucumber overload that I feared it may be. Rather the cucumber from the Vodka helped the flavor stand up to the citrus, and the dilution of the soda. It was indeed quite the refresher, and while I tend to be a little less, let's say -- tolerant, of Vodka than Ed, it was also quite tasty, and that's something I don't have much of a problem with.

Comments always welcome or feel free to e-mail us at drinkaweek [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Lemon Coke Bitters

After my somewhat heretical experiment with red bull bitters I decided that I had enough of a proof of concept to try something a bit more tasty. When thinking about flavors one evening, I had a bit of a Proustian moment, and recalled a sort of faux-diner my folks used to take me to when I was growing up in Eugene. The food was fine, but the real treat were their lemon cokes. When the unrelentingly unrelenting heat of summer was forcing our skin to attempt to migrate north, they were the perfect refresher.

Lemon coke bitters? Yeah, I can do that. Or, as it turned out, not. It was pretty much one blunder after another. Two big mistakes were made which sunk the project.

1) I was still on the mixing of tinctures trail, and so procured a fair amount of lemons to make a tincture with. Wanting a very strongly lemon flavored result, I diced the lemon, and tossed the whole affair into the vodka. I knew that the juice from the pulp would dilute the affair, but figured an extra long steeping time would compensate, and I would still get plenty of bitter from the rind. Two months later taught me a valuable lesson -- Extra long may work, but extra long is extra long. What I had on my hands was pretty much a lemon heavy infused vodka. It did have some bitterness to it, and I hoped it would be enough. It wasn't.

2) To add some depth of flavor I decided to add a little of the cinnamon tincture I had left over from the first bitters experiment. Not following one of my favorite pieces of cooking advice (you can always add more, but you can't take any out) I overestimated the strength of the cinnamon, and obliterated what there was of the lemon.

On the up side of things, there was a nice hit of the coke flavor, and I felt that there was enough potential in the final product to think that I can learn from the mistakes. I'll definitely be trying this again as I'm pretty sure some slight tweaks can get me closer to what I'm looking for. I also picked up some wormwood with which to make another tincture should I require back-up bitterness assistance in the future.

Comments always welcome or feel free to e-mail us at drinkaweek [at] gmail [dot] com.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Drinking on the Radio

This morning, on San Francisco's local chapter of NPR radio, they did an hour of cocktail talk! On the show was our very own H. Ehrmann of Elixir fame, King Cocktail Dale DeGroff, and Doctor Cocktail Ted Haigh. Thanks to the magic of the internet it's avalible now as a pod cast. Good stuff, and it's great to see cocktails get this kind of attention.

Comments always welcome or feel free to e-mail us at drinkaweek [at] gmail [dot] com.