Posts Tagged ‘rum’

Between the Sheets

Monday, August 15th, 2005

Having found unexpected pleasure in the Monkey Gland, it seems wise to reserve judgment about other winkingly-named vintage drinks, in the hopes that some rise above mere novelty. And how better to honor the stimulating promise of the Monkey Gland than to move directly to third base with another salacious standard of the 30’s, the Between the Sheets?

1 1/2 oz. Cognac
1 1/2 oz. white or gold rum
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. lemon juice

Shake, strain, and garnish with a twist.

I can’t put a date to the drink, but Charles Baker’s 1939 Gentleman’s Companion — after a circuitous tale involving riots, stonings, tommy guns and girls being crushed to death by falling masonry — attributes the Between the Sheets’ origins to a certain Mr. Weber, keeping bar at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. It is, Baker declares, “totally sound, and already quite famous throughout the Near East.” His recipe, incidentally, calls for equal parts of everything.

The recipe above is from Wondrich’s Esquire Drinks, which in turn derives it from David Embury’s in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. Embury suggests using lime as an alternative to the lemon, and calls for a gold rum. I’ve mixed the Between the Sheets with lemon and lime, Bacardi and Mount Gay Eclipse, but no variation manages to please. All are too tart by half, with nothing to really back up the citrus.

Embury may be a looming legend of mixology, but I confess that his recommended expression of the Between the Sheets was the one I committed to the sink. In this, I am in accord with Patrick Gavin Duffy, whom Wondrich notes flagged the BTS as being one he “personally [did] not recommend.” I deem it a cocktail to avoid.

Note: Other variations may yet prove palatable. Old Mr. Boston’s recipe calls for a scant 1/4 lemon’s juice, which addresses my concern about the tartness. Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts (1949), on the other hand, presents a “Between-Sheets” comprised of 1/3 cognac, 1/3 crème de cacao, 1/3 cream, a dash of bitters, a teaspoon of sugar and a bit of lemon peel — just cognac and the garnish in common.

The Millionaire

Thursday, August 11th, 2005

This evening we note with interest the Millionaire Cocktail from Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails. His is a modernized incarnation of The Savoy Cocktail Book‘s “Millionaire #1” and The How and When‘s “Millionaire #4.” It is deep ruby red, tart and pleasing… for better or worse, it’s amazing how the dark rum all but vanishes under cover of the other ingredients. (This Millionaire is unrelated to the previously documented “Millionaire #2.”)

1 1/2 oz. Myers’s Original Dark Rum
3/4 oz. sloe gin
3/4 oz. apricot brandy
Juice of 1 lime

Shaken and strained.

The “juice of 1 lime” business is a bit squishy. Haigh declares the ballpark to lie between 1 and 1 1/2 ounces, and while Ms. Thirsty found the full juice of one of our limes to be too tart, it was just right for me. The appropriate volume will need to be individually quantified.

Other issues, uniquely Oregonian, derive from a state-wide paucity of decent apricot brandies and sloe gins: I am reduced to using Mr. Boston products. The result is satisfactory enough that it deserves documentation, but Millionaires mixed in less restricted states will benefit from better ingredients. Mr. Boston’s artificially-flavored, caramel-colored apricot brandy is particularly foul, and should be avoided whenever possible.

Slakethirst West Indies Falernum

Monday, July 18th, 2005

Slakethirst FalernumI’ve concocted a batch of falernum, starting from the eGullet recipe mentioned earlier. It may be that I employed profoundly weak ingredients, but whatever the reason, the eGullet recipe proved to be terribly sweet and not much else. After many trial blendings, tastings, modifications, and re-blendings, here’s the final recipe for Slakethirst West Indies Falernum:

1 cup white rum
zest of 3 limes
9 whole cloves
25 dashes Fee’s Aromatic Bitters
5 drops almond extract

Steep for 24 hours, strain, and add to 16 oz. of a 1:1 turbinado simple syrup.

Three limes’ worth of zest nicely fills a cup of rum and looks absolutely loverly, turning it a pale, pale green in the space of a day. Note that I didn’t muddle the lime zest, as perhaps I ought to have… this may account for differences in intensity observed later.

Three cloves, on the other hand, was definitely not enough to approximate the spiciness of John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum. Clovey spiciness is responsible for the cola-notes in Corn ‘n Oil which make it seem so like a Cuba Libre. So, after 24 hours I strained the lime infusion of cloves and zest and added 6 new cloves for another day of infusing. Even this proved to be insufficient to achieve the proper pepperiness — it may well be that my cloves were old and lacking vim — so I turned to Fee’s Aromatic Bitters to supply the necessary punch. It’s less bespoke because of it, but we’re already using a commercial almond extract, so what the hell. Next time I’ll buy the freshest cloves I can find and see if it makes a difference.

A test blending of infused rum:syrup at the suggested 1:4 ratio yields something very sweet and far less limey than is wanted. It’s only at 1:2 that the lime seems to hold its own. Granted, the quality of the lime flavor achieved in this recipe is a bit different from that in Velvet Falernum, which contains lime juice, but a 1:2 blend makes for a similar intensity.

The commercial Velvet Falernum product is a much paler color than mine, likely attributable to the choice of sugar. I opted for turbinado for a bit more flavor, but those seeking a closer visual cognate should use white cane sugar instead.

Speaking of visuals, I don’t particularly care for unlabeled bottles of fluid in the bar, so a bit of experimentation with glass etching seemed in order. The able Ms. Thirsty and I spent some quality time pushing pixels around and mucking with screen printing and acid creams. It didn’t turn out half-bad, if I do say so… with some modifications to the process, I think we’ll be etching-up vessels for gomme and grenadine in the near future, and likely any other domestically produced mixological reagents that become permanent fixtures of the backbar.

Update: See also this post in the tikiroom forums. 24 cloves macerated, plus 3 additional Tbs and it still wasn’t clovey enough… obviously achieving the right spiciness isn’t just my problem.

Planter’s Punch

Monday, July 18th, 2005

It’s been hot on the grounds of the Slakethirst estate — conditions which turn the palate towards that old devil rum. Adam Thornton recently suggested Planter’s Punch, and while I happened to have neither pineapple juice nor a copy of DeGroff (required to make one a la Thornton), there are other ways and means, and it seemed a very good idea, as it’s been a while.

3 oz. dark rum
3/4 oz. grenadine
juice of a small lime
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 dashes Fee’s Aromatic bitters

Stir with crushed ice and strain into a collins glass 2/3 full of same

The recipe above is Vic Bergeron’s, from his 1947 Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide. It has been slightly modified for convenience (more grenadine, no bar sugar) and personal preference (no bitters in Vic’s), but I don’t think it loses much in translation. Mix it right and you’ll know it, because you will have been transported. Portland lost its Trader Vic’s years ago, but Vic’s Planter’s Punch recipe brings it back in all its dimly-lit, scorpion bowl slurping splendor. This isn’t mere literary license, either: I really did experience something on the order of a multisensory flashback. It’s a damn fine drink!

A wide variety of juices and ratios may appear under this name — and perhaps validly so … I’ll pick up some pineapple to see what Thornton’s on about — but there’s something very special about this one. Maybe it’s the menehunes.

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.