Lapsang Souchong Vodka

June 12th, 2005

Saturday, 4:56 PM: I’ve just dropped a teabag of Lapsang Souchong (from Numi Teas) into in a mason jar with 1 cup of Monopolwa vodka. I’m giving it 24 hours to become delicious. Watch this space.

Saturday, 10:56 PM: 6 hours later, the vodka is darkly colored and smoky smelling. (It’s also rather vodka-smelling, unfortunately … pity the tea doesn’t mask that.) The vodka’s at room temperature, which doesn’t make for easy drinking, but it definitely has a nice, solid Lapsang Souchongy flavor. I’m not sure how much longer I want to leave the tea in … if left much longer the tannins may start coming to the fore.

Saturday, 11:50 PM: Since Lapsang Souchong is often drunk with milk and sugar, this seemed a reasonable test:

1 1/2 oz. Lapsang Souchong infused vodka (~7 hour infusion)
1/2 oz. half and half
1 egg white
1 tsp. powdered sugar

shaken with ice and strained

Rather good, if I do say so myself, though a bit on the creamy side. I didn’t make a fizz of it since I wanted the vodka at full strength, but the briefest shot from a seltzer bottle would probably serve this drink well. Very much like a cup of tea it was, albeit due to ratios it had more the mouthfeel of Bailey’s.

I’ll let the remainder continue to steep overnight, but so far I’m satisfied that a 6 hour infusion is sufficient to make a very nice smoked tea vodka.

Sunday, 1:30 PM: 20 hours, and I’m not sure that there’s been an appreciable change since last night. Mixed the test cocktail above, sans egg white, and it was again just fine. As prepared, with cream and sugar, seemed very like something made with creme de cacao, albeit smokier and more complex. Not that I use creme de cacao very often, but appropriately sweetened (and potentially diluted), the Lapsang Souchong infusion could easily replace it to significant advantage.

The Rob Roy

June 8th, 2005

3 oz. Teacher’s blended Scotch whisky
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
4 dashes Fee’s orange bitters

Ice well, stirring, swirling, or otherwise gently chilling, and strain. A maraschino cherry is the traditional garnish.

The Rob Roy is a fine cocktail that almost any liquor cabinet should be able to produce: it asks for little in the way of the exotic and doesn’t even require fresh fruit! I judge it to be mild, smooth and delicious… a pale, aromatic, eminently quaffable concoction. I made a few this evening after noting that Looka!‘s cocktail of the day today was the Perfect Manhattan, which seemed a good idea. Forgetting that I have a bottle of bourbon, I reached for the scotch instead, the substitution of which yields a Rob Roy. Quite a happy accident.

Finca Antigua Crianza, 2001

May 21st, 2005

Not a cocktail, but I don’t have a wine category. I enjoy wine, but don’t concern myself with it overmuch. Are my tastes proletarian? I don’t care. What I do know is that we had a lovely bottle this evening, and I’m going to look for more of it, because the Finca Antigua Crianza 2001, from Martinez Bujanda, is delicious.

I don’t have a dab-hand with a wine-writer’s vocabulary, so I won’t attempt to describe it beyond that. Which is just as well, because someone at Martinez Bujanda thought it would be a good idea for the tasting notes of their Tempranillo to include :

Long and persistent finish. Touches of yoghurt appear in the retronasal tract.

I am so glad we had the crianza instead.

Coco López Ingredients

May 21st, 2005

Recent musings on the Piña Colada ( 1, 2 ) have led me to purchase a 15 oz. can of Coco López Cream of Coconut, which purports to be the source of the original Piña Colada. I have been avoiding it because of its rather lengthy list of ingredients, but thoroughness requires that I at least try using it. I’ll do some web-based research on the less natural sounding components, and will eventually make a drink from it, but not just yet. It’s not a colada day.

INGREDIENTS: COCONUT MILK, SUGAR, WATER, POLYSORBATE 60, SORBITAN MONOSTEARATE, SALT, PROPYLENE GLYCOL ALGINATE, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES (EMULSIFIERS), CITRIC ACID, GUAR GUM, LOCUST BEAN GUM.

The Piña Colada

May 15th, 2005

1 cup ice
3/4 cup fresh pineapple
4 oz. Chaokoh coconut milk
1 1/2 oz. dark rum
1 1/2 oz. light rum
1 egg white
2 tsp. bar sugar
8 dashes Angostura bitters
2 pinches cinnamon
2 pinches ground clove

Blend to within an inch of its life. Serves two.

Done. This is about as close as I’m going to come to the Piña Colada I’ve been seeking, and frankly, I’m growing tired of them now. This one is good, though — it strikes the right balance, has the right texture and a much-needed complexity compared to yer standard recipe. The egg… well, it might’ve been too much, depending on how one likes things, but it’s fine by me. I want to add some lime, but there’s no way in hell that’s going to pass as a piña colada. I’ll be throwing in guava next, taking this purportedly Puerto Rican drink through the Panama Canal and deep into the Polynesian Pacific. No, this recipe remains true to its name, with a flavor profile solidly-rooted in the Caribbean. Sailing into temetum incognitum is for another day.

Gleanings? I’ve come to the conclusion that my problems with the Colada have had less to do with proportions than with a consistency of ingredients — the Chaokoh coconut milk is far creamier than the Thai Kitchen, and is probably less creamy than the canonical (yet much processed) Coco López. Short of testing the specific gravity of every can of coconut milk, or making one’s own to an exacting recipe, there’s just going to be inconsistency. There’s probably a fair degree of variation in flavor between one fresh pineapple and the next, too, and at about $12 each I’m not going to be stocking them like I do citrus. I can certainly see why food scientists would feel that there was more than passing utility in a Piña Colada premix, even if it is an abominable transgression against food.

It’s been an instructive experience, I’m glad to say, getting outside of my usual mixing grounds. More of the volume and flavor of a Piña Colada rely on mutable, non-alcoholic ingredients than any other drink I’ve ever made. It’s made me mindful that in addition to their many other merits, traditional cocktails have a certain pure reproducibility about them — a few types of liquor, a bit of fruit and a dash or two of bitters affords one a fairly controlled working environment. Add 1/4 oz. here, subtract a few drops there, substitute or supplant with another liquor that seems right… that’s more my field. I’ll make Piña Coladas again someday — maybe even tomorrow, since there’s an awful lot of pineapple still in the fridge — but I don’t imagine they’ll ever become a standard. With the exception of my Ramos Gin Fizz variant (which I ought to document someday), I’m a largely a 3 – 4 oz. cocktailian myself. The longer concoctions are (rightly) the provenance of Trader Vic, Don the Beachcomber, and their Tiki-worshipping spiritual brethren.