The Mint Cocktail

June 5th, 2006

MxM: MintFor a mint-themed mix-off, I couldn’t avoid taking this plainly-named recipe for a test drive. The Mint Cocktail comes to us from Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book (though he would have it shaken), and is obviously not a cocktail. No matter, for while I abjure the proliferation of ‘tinis, I’m resigned that a cocktail is pretty much anything containing liquor, and if Harry wants to keep me company, so much the better.

The Mint Cocktail6 oz. white wine
4 oz. gin
1 oz. crème de menthe
Sprigs of mint

In a pitcher, soak a few sprigs of mint in 3 oz. white wine for 2 hours. Add the rest, stir vigorously with ice and strain into glasses, garnishing with additional sprigs.

It’s good, in its own special way, though confusing. There’s an initial hit of crème de menthe so patently unnatural in its intensity that “Andes” is the first word to mind. It lessens over time, either due to stratification or numbing of the palate, but with gradual warming and subsequent sips, the wine (I chose a sauvignon blanc) makes itself known. I can’t really say the same for the gin — Seagrams again, here — which may as well have been vodka for all that it withstood the crème de menthe. What isn’t clear, and has yet to be investigated, is whether the two hours of marinating mint leaves actually makes a difference or is merely an act of ritual. I failed to detect any subtly natural minty undertones beneath the crème de menthe’s one-note onslaught, and note that the CocktailDB’s Mint Cocktail recipe cuts to the chase without any prolonged soaking.

I give it neither a yea or nay yet — if I never had another, I wouldn’t mourn — but might be inclined to try marinating a much larger quantity of mint leaves and relying on their contribution alone, perhaps muddled with a bit of sugar for maximum effect.

The Southside Fizz

June 5th, 2006

MxM: MintThis one from Lucius Beebe’s Stork Club Bar Book of 1946. He includes it in the “Morning at the Stork Club” chapter, but there’s no reason to restrict its service to the hours before noon. The Southside Fizz is really just a pleasant, minty lemonade — unless you’re employing a particularly potent gin, it goes almost unnoticed — suitable whenever a refreshing long drink is indicated.

1 1/2 oz. Gin
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 sprigs mint
1 tsp. sugar

Shake well, strain into a highball glass and fill with seltzer.
Decorate with a sprig of mint, and a cherry if you’re feeling saucy.

The quantity of mint should be adjusted depending on the potency of your particular strain of leaf. Two may well be too little. Flakes of leaf will be broken off by the ice when shaking … for the clearest drink, and one which won’t leave unsightly vegetable matter clinging to your guests’ teeth, you may wish to strain through a mesh sieve.

Making Mauby

May 20th, 2006

The mercury was headed straight up last week — peaking at an unseasonably hot 94° F — making it an ideal time to try concocting a homemade batch of mauby. It seems as if every island has its own recipes… I borrowed from several and averaged, to make a sort of pan-Caribbean version. Definitely the wrong way to start out a proper experiment, but some of the ingredients sound too tasty not to use. First, I simmered the following for about 10 minutes:

mauby, cinnamon, bay, rosemary, marjoram, anise, cloves, nutmeg4-5 pieces mauby bark
2 sticks cinnamon (short)
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary
2 tsp. dried marjoram
2 pods star anise
3 cloves
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
3 cups water

at the end of which, it had reduced quite a bit. I strained it — saving back the mauby bark — into a 3 gallon carboy, dropping the bark in as well. The mauby bark, incidentally, was $2.50/oz. from a local Caribbean grocery. It’s Bedessee brand. Next, I heated

2 cups brown cane sugar
2 cups white cane sugar
10 cups water

until the sugar dissolved, and allowed it to cool. This was added to the carboy, and shaken well. Finally, I pitched half an expired packet of Lalvin D47 yeast I found in the back of a drawer, figuring it couldn’t hurt, and just might help. Didn’t bother to proof it. To keep the nasties out, and just in case the yeast did decide to kick off an active fermentation, I affixed a waterlock, set it in a warm spot and waited.

a pitcher of maubyIt never really developed much of a head… oh, there was a layer of foam on top, and the waterlock was definitely working some, so there was CO2 being produced, but it was nothing like a rolling, active fermentation. I doubt that the D47 had much to do with it. A slight cap persisted for 5 days, at the end of which I decanted it into a pitcher for refrigeration, to halt any further yeast activity.

The verdict: DELICIOUS. Scrumptuously bitter, with lovely herbal and yuletide spice notes. Sweet enough to complement the bitterness — it didn’t even begin to ferment to dryness — without the syrupy heaviness of mauby made from concentrate. It also seems to lack the long, medicinal finish that I noted in the concentrate, but I have a bit of a cold now, so my palate isn’t really on its game. I can see why concentrated mauby is so popular — it’s a fair bit of work for a gallon of beverage — but I much prefer this stuff to R & L brand. Fill a glass with crushed ice, pour in the mauby, dash some Angostura bitters on top and swizzle until well-chilled… then kick back with some Kitch.

I’ve posted about mauby before, and wound up compiling a fair number of informative links in the process. If you’re interested in different recipes, purported health benefits, etc. then see “Mmmm… Mauby!”.

What’s your mauby recipe?

Cafe Galliano

May 9th, 2006

Mixology Monday 2: CoffeeI’m a dedicated fan of C. arabica* … one of those people who doesn’t really wake up until the Pavlovian bite of the morning Joe hits the tongue, and for whom a day without coffee is a day that never really begins. Perhaps it’s precisely because I hold it in such esteem that I dislike the standard complement of coffee drinks — Irish Coffees, Spanish Coffees, etc — for while hot coffee is allowably paired with cream and sugar, I find that alcohol lends it a foreign nose, a thinner mouthfeel, and the uncertain outcome of an ill-balanced speedball. The only justification for Spanish coffee, in my estimation, is that it keeps an elite subset of the nation’s waitstaff in the practice of hurling ignited 151° from one glass to another. Thus, when the final trump is blown and Jerry Thomas descends to walk once more among mankind, there will be a sufficiency of practiced acolytes to cast crowd-parting Blue Blazers before his retinue.

Which is a roundabout way of saying fie on mugs of hot coffee adulterated with slugs of booze, whipped cream, and cinnamon sticks. Fortunately, there are short, cold coffee cocktails in greater number than one would think, given the rarity of their appearance in the wild. Brandy isn’t an uncommon mate to coffee: with Cointreau, it yields the Merger and the Coffee Cocktail Variation (the one that actually calls for coffee); with kirschwasser it produces a Blackjack or Coffee Kirsch; add an egg white to the latter for a Parachute Cooler. For Mixology Monday II, however, it’s a combination of coffee, brandy, Galliano and cream that creates the Cafe Galliano.

1 oz. cold coffee
1 oz. brandy
3/4 oz. Galliano
shake with ice and strain. float cream on top

Galliano and CoffeeMy bottle of Galliano sees very little use, so I’m pleased to find an excuse to trot the unwieldy thing out. Pairing Galliano with coffee is pleasingly appropriate, too. I had heretofore assumed the name stemmed from it being somehow Gallic, but instead it’s in honor of Major Giuseppe Galliano, an Italian army officer who seems to have lead a series of brave but terribly unsuccessful routs, defeats and retreats in Italy’s African colonial campaigns of the late 19th century. He is inextricably associated with Ethiopia (née Abyssinia), where he met his death, and whence the Arabica bean originates!

I’m even more pleased to find that I rather like the Cafe Galliano. Cold, the coffee has more presence than one might expect from a drink in which it comprises a mere third. I tried to float half-and-half in lieu of cream, but repeated attempts invariably resulted in it sinking like a stone to form a vaguely curdled-looking cloud at the bottom of the glass. One should definitely practice before serving a Cafe Galliano to others… the texture doesn’t suffer — it’s no cement mixer — but neither is it the prettiest thing going. No great matter… with a quick stir it takes on something that looks very much like Baileys, and tastes very much like the prelude to a second round.

* Coffee is a member of the Rubiaceae family, by the way, which also includes Cinchona, trees that produce Peruvian Bark, whence quinine, whence Tonic Water, whence the salvation of summer.

I’m merely speculating on this last point. Speaking of speedballs, though, Wikipedia informs us that the kids’ trendy new speedballs are made with heroin, cocaine and Everclear — a true drug cocktail — and called Mad Max Beyond Thunderdomes.

Let’s Get Drunk with Sailor Martin

May 5th, 2006

The Hairy Eyeball of Sailor MartinI’ve been checking up on the doings of Max Sparber, playwright, journalist, filmmaker, refugee internally-displaced person, and onetime editor/ contributor/ publisher/ whateverer of The Daily Lush. Sadly, the DL isn’t getting much love from Max and Courtney these days; on the other hand, Max’s pierced and tattooed ventriloquist’s dummy, Sailor Martin, is full of cocktail mixing advice. Weirdly, Martin has always reminded me of a youngish Frank Sinatra … it’s in the eyes or the cheekbones, not sure which.

Be he bastard of the Chairman or no, check out Sailor Martin’s mixological short film. If not exactly instructive (I doubt that the Captain’s Mooseknuckle or the Severs?? Dee-Lightt will ever pass my lips) it’s definitely cautionary.