The Price of Rum – Bitter Mai Tai

aperolHands down one of the best drinks I had last year was the Bitter Mai Tai at Williamsburg’s wood-paneled cocktail den Dram. With sweet, citrus, hogo, richness and bitter, this drink satisfied many of my cocktail craving all in one brilliantly concocted package. Upon returning home, I set out to find a recipe so that I could recreate this transcendent creation. For the sake of a story I’d like to say I searched far and wide, but in reality a quick internet search turned up several recipes, including this one from Kindred Cocktails: 1 1/2 oz. Campari, 3/4 oz. Smith & Cross rum, 1 oz. lime juice, 3/4 oz. orgeat, 1/2 oz. curacao. Lacking Smith & Cross and orgeat (I know, shame on me for even thinking about making a Mai Tai without first ensuring that I had orgeat), I knew I had to look elsewhere. That’s when I stumbled across this alternate take on the Bitter Mai Tai, featuring Aperol in place of the Campari, anchored by a sturdy backbone of Jamaican and rich Black Strap rum:

Price of Rum (from Kindred Cocktails)IMG_3600

1 1/2 oz Aperol

1 1/4 oz Appleton Estate V/X

1/2 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao

1/4 oz Cruzan Black Strap Rum

1 oz lime juice

1/2 oz rich simple syrup (2:1)

Shake and strain into a large rocks glass filled with crushed ice.

This is a stellar take on Dram’s creation. The use of the Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao here is key. The bitter orange peel notes amp up the overall bitterness and tame what might otherwise be an overwhelmingly sweet drink. Plus there is something robust and authentic about the orange flavor created by the amicable pairing of the Aperol with the Dry Curaçao. Playfully sweet, balanced with splash of citrus, and cleverly dried out by a long and satisfying bitter finish, this drink is bitter tiki at its finest!

Top photo by Flickr user the cardinal de la ville

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Julius Orange

IMG_3505We live in an exceptional era for cocktails. As our appetite for high quality ingredients grows, manufacturers are responding with interesting, unique, and even historic offerings. Case in point: Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao Ancienne Méthod ($24), a “19th century” dry curacao introduced by cognac maker Pierre Ferrand in 2012. Ferrand Dry Curaçao was painstakingly crafted in cooperation with noted cocktail historian David Wondrich, and is designed to evoke the type of orange liqueur that would have been used in some of the earliest classic cocktails.  Immensely drinkable on its own, the spirit has a creamy vanilla flavor and hints of sweetness, balanced by a bitter orange peel finish. At 80 proof, Ferrand Dry Curaçao also has the backbone to stand out and shine against rum, rye, brandy and other like-minded spirits.

This is indeed a serious cocktail ingredient, and will make spectacular classic cocktails such as the Sidecar or Corpse Reviver, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with it. Consider this creation from Death + Company’s Brad Farran, the Julius Orange. This cocktail showcases a generous pour of Dry Curaçao for a playful take on every mall-rats favorite sipper, the Orange Julius.

Julius Orange (from WSJ.com)

2 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao Ancienne Méthod

½ ounce Cruzan Single Barrel Rum

½ ounce lemon juice

½ teaspoon vanilla syrup*

½ teaspoon sugar cane syrup

1 dash orange bitters

½ ounce heavy cream

Freshly grated nutmeg

Combine liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker, adding cream last. Shake hard with ice. Strain into a rocks or Collins glass over crushed ice. Garnish with nutmeg.

While this recipe may be touted as a summer sipper, I think the heavy cream, winter citrus, dark spirit and nutmeg make this highly appropriate for an after dinner winter sip by the fire.  The Dry Curaçao is really the star here, as the drink bursts with clean, not too sweet and almost bitter orange flavor.  The vanilla syrup plays off of the rich vanilla and caramel notes of the rum to add depth and roundness. This is a playful yet surprisingly complex cocktail and a great way to showcase the versatility of the Dry Curaçao.

*Make vanilla simple syrup at home by adding 2 cups sugar to 1 cup boiling water, stirring until dissolved.  Split one quarter of a fresh vanilla bean and place in six ounces of the rich simple syrup for 20 minutes, then strain and let cool.

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How to Drink: A (Holiday) Instruction Manual – Hot Coffee Grog

Here we are at last, the final installment of this holiday cocktail ensemble. Please refrain from pointing out that it is February, and that the relevance of holiday cocktails has diminished significantly. I would argue that many of these drinks are equally enjoyable on a cold winter night as they are on Christmas Day. So without further ado, let me remind you one last time about my little project.

This holiday season, while most people relaxed and enjoyed themselves, I was hard at work perfecting what will years from now be looked back on as the perfect Christmas drink repertoire. The way I see it, every self-respecting drinker needs five go-to libations to get them through the five drinking stages of Christmas: (1) pre-Christmas; (2) Christmas Eve Dinner; (3) Christmas Eve After-Dinner; (4) Christmas Morning; (5) Christmas After-Dinner. Serve a little wine with Christmas dinner and this collection of seasonal drinks will guide you smoothly through next year’s “most wonderful time of the year.” I’ve already discussed the perfect pre-Christmas drink, Rye Egg Nog, the Christmas Eve Pomegranate Bourbon Cocktail, the Christmas Eve After-Dinner Tom & Jerry,  and the Christmas Morning Bourbon Pecan Milk Punch. Lets finish things off with a kick of caffeine, a generous amount of rum, and the perfect blend of winter spices . . .

Stage 5: Christmas After-Dinner – Hot Coffee Grog

Grog has a fascinating history that deserves more words than I’ll allow here. In brief, the story has much to do with the history of the British Navy, which in 1655 began issuing its sailors a daily ration of rum in the amount of a half pint or “2 gills” per sailor (note this practice continued until 1970!). Instead of drinking their daily share, some sailors would hoard rations in order to drink a great deal all at once. In 1740, Admiral Edward Vernon began the practice of adding water to the rum ration to dilute its potency (and inhibit hoarding since water was subject to spoilage) and the resulting mixture became known as grog.

What does that history have to do with the warm coffee cocktail I’m presenting today? Little to nothing admittedly. But the recipe does call for Jamaican rum, and coffee certainly has water in it, and after a glass I dare you not to act like a drunken sailor.

Hot Coffee Grog (adapted from Serious Eats)

2 oz Demerara rum (El Dorado 5 yr)

1/4 tsp ground cloves

4-6 oz hot coffee to taste

1/4 oz ground allspice

2 tsp brown sugar

1 cinnamon stick (optional)

1/2 oz Jamaican rum (Appleton)

1 strip orange peel for garnish

In an Irish Coffee glass or mug, dissolve the brown sugar a little hot coffee, then add the remaining ingredients. Stir with the cinnamon stick; garnish.

As is true with many rum based drinks, part of the magic comes from the mixture of rums from different regions, each with their own characteristic flavors. These two play together very nicely. In fact every ingredient in this drink brings a certain warmth: the literal warmth of the coffee, the warming glow of the rum, and the spiciness of the cloves and allspice. These spices are so apt for the season, and mixed with the rum the coffee is transformed into some thing new, something different than before. Perhaps my favorite part though is the subtle citrus note from the orange peel, just enough to play off the spice and rum, without overwhelming the richness of the coffee. This is a drink full of bold seasonal flavors that would please the Admiral himself. Enjoy!

Previous posts: pre-Christmas – Rye Egg Nog; Christmas Eve – Pomegranate Bourbon Cocktail; Christmas Eve After Dinner – Tom & Jerry; Christmas Morning – Bourbon Pecan Milk Punch

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How to Drink: A (Holiday) Instruction Manual – Bourbon Pecan Milk Punch

This holiday season, while most people relaxed and enjoyed themselves, I was hard at work perfecting what will years from now be looked back on as the perfect Christmas drink repertoire. The way I see it, every self-respecting drinker needs five go-to libations to get them through the five drinking stages of Christmas: (1) pre-Christmas; (2) Christmas Eve Dinner; (3) Christmas Eve After-Dinner; (4) Christmas Morning; (5) Christmas After-Dinner. Serve a little wine with Christmas dinner and this collection of seasonal drinks will guide you smoothly through next year’s “most wonderful time of the year.” I’ve already discussed the perfect pre-Christmas drink, Rye Egg Nog, the Christmas Eve Pomegranate Bourbon Cocktail, and the Christmas Eve After-Dinner Tom & Jerry, so let’s turn to a nutty and sweet milk punch that is a nice complement to any leisurely morning . . .

Stage 4: Christmas Morning – Bourbon Pecan Milk Punch

Some people might tell you it’s not appropriate to have a drink with breakfast. Those people have never tried this nutty and creamy low alcohol sipper. For our first Christmas together since moving to Washington D.C., this Southern tinged punch seemed quite appropriate.

Bourbon Pecan Milk Punch (via myrecipes.com) (makes 3 cups)

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup cane syrup

1 tbsp cream of coconut

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

pinch kosher salt

1 cup water

1 cup milk

1/2 cup bourbon

1. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring once. Cool 10 minutes.

2. Process pecans, syrup, cream of coconut, cinnamon, vanilla, and kosher salt in a food processor 30 to 60 seconds or until smooth. With processor running, pour water through food chute.

3. Press mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a pitcher, using back of spoon. Discard solids. Cover and chill 3 to 24 hours.

4. Stir in bourbon and milk just before serving. Serve over ice. Makes 3 cups of punch.

Delicious. The toasted pecans and cream of coconut give this drink a subtle nutty sweetness, which plays off of the caramel notes of the bourbon. The texture is creamy but not terribly thick, especially if you take the time to properly strain the excess processed materials through a fine mesh strainer (side note: eating spoonfuls of the excess mixture is recommended, if not mandatory). Enjoy!

Watch for the final installment of this series – Hot Coffee Grog – coming soon!

Previous posts: pre-Christmas – Rye Egg Nog; Christmas Eve – Pomegranate Bourbon Cocktail; Christmas Eve After Dinner – Tom & Jerry.

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Shit Mixologists Say Just Got Real

From the clever and talented Derek Brown (@betterdrinking) and Passenger DC:

If you missed it, check out the original video here.

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A Little Bit of Law . . .

From Bitter Lawyer’s Top Law-Related Floppy Disks in the Past Year:

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How to Drink: A (Holiday) Instruction Manual – Tom & Jerry

This holiday season, while most people relaxed and enjoyed themselves, I was hard at work perfecting what will years from now be looked back on as the perfect Christmas drink repertoire. The way I see it, every self-respecting drinker needs five go-to libations to get them through the five drinking stages of Christmas: (1) pre-Christmas; (2) Christmas Eve Dinner; (3) Christmas Eve After-Dinner; (4) Christmas Morning; (5) Christmas After-Dinner. Serve a little wine with Christmas dinner and this collection of seasonal drinks will guide you smoothly through next year’s “most wonderful time of the year.” I’ve already discussed the perfect pre-Christmas drink, Rye Egg Nog, and the Christmas Eve Pomegranate Bourbon Cocktail, so let’s turn to a warm classic cocktail that is perfect for any winter evening, holiday or otherwise . . .

Stage 3: Christmas Eve After-Dinner – Tom & Jerry

I first learned about the Tom & Jerry while following Caskstrength’s Cocktail Advent Calendar. There he describes the drink as an egg nog spin-off, whose preparation is more akin to baking than bartending. The recipe dates back to the 1820’s, so this one certainly qualifies as a classic cocktail.

Tom & Jerry (via Chow)

3 eggs, seperated

3 Tbsp powdered sugar

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

4 oz brandy, lukewarm

4 oz dark rum, lukewarm

Hot milk

Ground nutmeg for garnish                                

(1) In a large, clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. (2) In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks until light in color; gradually beat in the sugar, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves. Fold the yolk mixture into the whites. (3) Pour 2 tablespoons into four mugs each. Add 1 ounce brandy and 1 ounce dark rum to each mug. (4) Fill with hot milk. Stir well, and dust with nutmeg.

I should note that although the recipe makes four drinks, the batter will make about double that amount. The key to perfecting this drink is the mixing – the fluffier the eggs the better. I used my wife’s KitchenAid mixer and a good deal of patience to get the egg whites to form nice stiff peaks. I almost can’t imagine making this drink without some sort of mechanical mixer, unless you have a bionic arm (kudos to you).

As far as taste, this one is as advertised – a warm boozy egg nog, with just the right amount of spice. For me, allspice and nutmeg are inextricably linked to the holidays, and they taste just right here. More importantly, there is a real sense of tradition when you are sipping on something people have shared over the holidays for almost 200 years. Whip up your own batter and give this classic winter tipple a try.

Coming soon – Christmas Morning – Bourbon Pecan Milk Punch

Previous posts: pre-Christmas – Rye Egg Nog, Christmas Eve Dinner – Pomegranate Bourbon Cocktail

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