Posts Tagged ‘egg’

The Yard of Flannel

Sunday, October 16th, 2005

It’s a damp and drizzly evening in Portland, and Ms. Thirsty is feeling a cold coming on. Of course, the ever-inventive science of mixology has produced countless potations for just such a circumstance, so it’s an excellent opportunity to investigate a traditional — if little-practiced — cure. Thus we embark upon our own version of the Cocktail Chronicles’ Gettin’ Jerry With It, taking a page (in this case, page 61) from Jerry Thomas’ seminal 1862 work, How to Mix Drinks, or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion. We have halved the Professor’s recipe, since a quart of this unknown commodity seemed a bit much, but otherwise faithfully reproduce his Egg Flip, aka (and more poetically) the Yard of Flannel.

1 pint ale
2 egg yolks
1 egg white
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
pinch nutmeg

Whisk eggs, sugar and nutmeg in a bowl, then bring ale to a boil. Once ale is boiling, pour slowly into egg mixture, whisking to prevent curdling. Transfer to a pitcher, then pour back and forth into another pitcher, from a great height, until exceedingly frothy.

It may be that in the New York of 1862, ale was ale was ale, and when Jerry Thomas said to use ale, you knew exactly what he meant. Not being much of a beer historian, I’m willing to entertain the notion. In the Pacific Northwest of 2005, however, ales range from sweet to sour, sharp to bitter, dark to light, herbal to malty, strong to mild, and countless other diametrically-opposed poles of the palate. There’s no such thing as generic ale, and unfortunately, ale is far-and-away the most significant component of this recipe. Your choice of ale will very much determine the character of your Yard of Flannel. Given the other ingredients in the drink, Pyramid Brewing’s seasonal Snow Cap Ale, described as “complex and spicy, yet deliciously smooth” seemed likely to fit the bill. Lagunitas’ Censored might have been a good candidate, too.

If a single rule governs the boiling of a pint of beer, it is this: watch it closely! Do not turn away to whisk-up your eggy ingredients. Get the egg, sugar and nutmeg business dealt with first, then, and only then, attend to the matter of the beer. A boiling pot of ale will likely develop a mighty head, and, unattended, will cascade forth from its saucepan, douse the flame and make a nasty puddle on your stovetop. This advice is informed by recent experience.

When pouring the hot ale into the bowl of whisked eggs and sugar, we are directed to proceed in small measures, stirring constantly lest curdling take place. Pouring and whisking as bidden, there was, indeed, no curdling … not proof that such care is necessary, but it certainly didn’t hurt. This done, decant from the bowl into one of two pitchers/mugs/steins/big-things-with-handles, that the fun may commence.

Thomas was famed for the spectacular production value of the Blue Blazer: flaming whiskey poured back-and-forth, at arms’ length, between two pitchers. The final step in the manufacture of a Yard of Flannel is a fluffier, gentler version of the same extreme showmanship. Instead of ropes of fire, however, you’re pouring cocktailian contrails, so if something goes wrong you’ll just need a mop and a shower, not a fire extinguisher and a skin graft.

Since the object of the exercise is to maximize frothiness, it’s worth considering the size of your vessels before beginning the pouring process. A fair head is going to develop from this flying font of beer, so reach for your largest steins. If you’ve no two vessels that can accommodate the equivalent of, say, 26 fluid ounces, set some of it aside. The exact manner of pouring is left to the reader, but assuming that your aim is true and you manage to keep the drink off the floor, you’ll soon be casting your very own yard of flannel: a three foot skein of tan, foamy liquid, falling from mug to mug. Keep in mind that while it’s coursing through the air, your flannel is cooling off, so pour back and forth only as much as is necessary to ensure the proper body without rendering it lukewarm.

A mug of flannelThe verdict? Well, it’s no Cock Ale, but astute readers will have noticed that this post has earned a simultaneous filing under both the “to avoid” and “to enjoy” sub-categories. When presented with Jerry Thomas’ cure for the common cold, Ms. Thirsty’s candid assessment was that “it certainly tastes like it has medicinal properties.” Granted, Ms. Thirsty doesn’t care much for dark ales, and had just been exploring the restorative powers inherent to 100° Southern Comfort, so perhaps hers was not the most objective palate in the house. Still, despite the brown sugar, this is a bitter brew, and unless one has made a habit of drinking hot beer, it’s not something one can readily wrap one’s head around. I’m not sure that I ever managed to quite accustom myself to it, but there is virtue in perseverance, and I began to find some merit in the Yard of Flannel about halfway through the drinking of it. The texture is silken, a bit like a well-steamed latte, and previously unnoticed flavors assert themselves. With Snow Cap, I found that a strong hazelnut nose arose from the Flannel. I’m not sure that I’d make one with Snow Cap again, but I’m a bit curious as to how other ales would bear up. Of course, I’m also a bit curious as to when exactly one would want to drink one of these concoctions. Personally, whether coming down with something or not, when it’s cold outside and I want to be warm on the inside, I instinctively turn to a hot toddy, like the Falkland Island Warmer — it just resonates with me. Probably an Ayurvedic thing, with Flips ill-suited to my doshas.

Incidentally, many recipes for the Yard of Flannel call for the addition of several ounces of rum, and warn against allowing the ale to come to a boil. Both of these modifications to Thomas’ strike me as damned good advice, and should I find myself pouring a Yard in the future, I’ll likely concern myself less with the letter and more with the spirit of the Professor’s directions.

I do think that everyone should try a Yard of Flannel (or its near-relative, the Ale Flip) at least once, if only to discover for oneself the joy of juggling streams of hot beer and raw eggs. Leave a comment if you do, making a note of the ale you employed. If there’s a perfect ale for flipping, I’d love to hear about it.

Lapsang Souchong Vodka

Sunday, 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 Piña Colada

Sunday, 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.

The Millionaire Cocktail (#2)

Monday, March 28th, 2005

1 oz. Plymouth gin
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
1 tsp. grenadine
1 tsp. pineapple juice
1 egg white

Shake with cracked ice and strain into double cocktail glass.

Not a winner. Rosy red and buoyed a bit by the egg white, it fails overall. It’s bland, sweet and uninspiring. Don’t waste your Plymouth on this one.

Recipe from Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide, © 1947. p. 155

Pisco Sour

Saturday, March 12th, 2005

1 1/2 oz. pisco
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 egg white
1 dash Angostura bitters

Shake well with ice and strain.

This Pisco Sour is a lovely, silver, frothy affair thanks to the egg white. It’s mighty refreshing as well — not at all too sweet. Don’t omit the Angostura unless you absolutely must, as it adds a welcome complexity to the drink. The recipe above is from CocktailDB. Other recipes call for making a blended drink of it, but as with the Ramos Gin Fizz, I prefer to shake-and-strain for a shorter, smoother, less watered-down drink. I also just don’t like blenders much. They harsh my mellow.

I made the above with Alto del Carmen Reservado, a Chilean pisco. Note that Peru lays claim to originating pisco and there’s a bit of kerfuffle between the two countries regarding just whose traditional beverage it is and where Chilé gets off calling their stuff pisco, what with the eponymous city of Pisco being Peruvian and all.