Cocktail 2-fer

May 31, 2011

Another night of cleaning out my liquor cabinet, and the result is a tea influenced night.

Dolin Framboise

2 oz Raspberry infused Rittenhouse 100 [house]
1 oz Dolin Blanco vermouth
1/4 oz lime leaf infused gin [house]
splash of lemon juice
Cherry hibiscus bitters (Evan Martin special)
cherry garnish

One of my friends challenged me to use my raspberry rye, as it seemed fitting for the springlike weather tonight. My first thought was that it was not strong enough in the raspberry department, so I went rummaging for syrups; luckily I thought better and grabbed the Dolin Blanco, which is a lovely sweet white vermouth with berry and citrus notes to it. It added a lot of depth and actually pulled out the raspberry notes in my disappointing infusion, though it begged for a touch of lime. And of course, when a touch of lime is called for, I go for my lime leaf infusions, since they are much less strident than the fruit itself. To tie it all together: a dash of lemon juice (who doesn’t think of raspberry lemonade on a hot day?) and some lovely tart, fruity cherry hibiscus bitters courtesy of Evan Martin at Naga. My friend’s remark: it’s like drinking tea, but alcoholic.


4 O’Clock Bracer

2 oz Laird’s Applejack
1 oz buttermilk liqueur
1/2 oz Earl Grey bitters
1/4 oz lemon juice

Since my friend was rocking the tea concept, I decided to up the ante – she challenged me to work with the buttermilk liqueur, which she had in some degree influenced me to make, but I was tired of pairing it with rum. My eyes fell on the Laird’s, and the game was over, though I wasn’t yet working with tea. As I’ve noted before, the buttermilk pairs well with lemon, so that got tossed in, and then, for the hell of it, the earl grey bitters went in, 1/4 oz at first, as the concoction was far too sweet. That didn’t do it, so that solid, manly 1/2 oz of bitters happened, and the drink is pretty much perfect. (Though one could certainly argue to drop the lemon, depending on the night.) Citrusy and floral on the nose, it hits with a taste of apple and tea, finishing with a lovely, but not overwhelming, bitter note. Invigorating and refreshing, yet pretty alcoholic to finish out the day.  So please forgive any errors in phrasing or grammar…


Earl Grey bitters

9 parts Earl Grey infusion (1 tsp Earl Grey aged in 2 oz Plymouth and 2 oz 151 Everclear for 7 days)
1 part black walnut leaf infusion (4 tbsp black walnut leaf aged in 4 oz 151 Everclear for 3 weeks)
1 part milk thistle infusion (1 tbsp milk thistle aged in 1 oz 151 Everclear for 1 month)
1 part fringe tree bark infusion (1 tbsp fringe tree bark aged in 1 oz 151 Everclear for 4 days)

These Earl Grey bitters were based primarily on the tea, as it was a surruptitiously stolen teaspoon of a very nice Earl Grey from the UK.  My tendencies are to shy away from Earl Grey, as I don’t much care for bergamot, but these are lovely and mild and taste mostly of black tea and spice, with just a hint of orange.   Still proper bitters, but not too overwhelming, and in no way a problem in large quantities (though if I ever make them again, I will probably try to concentrate the flavors a bit).

I have decided to embark on a new task – I recently cataloged the homemade portion of my liquor cabinet and I will be trying to make at least one cocktail with every item in there  in an effort to find what is good, what is worth working on, and what will never happen again.  This libation is the first of that series.  Charged with making drinks for the evening, my fellow wanted an old fashioned — an order I’m always happy to comply with — and then he picked a Rainier cherry infusion for me to play with.

I was in an old fashioned mood myself, so I went for a simple riff on it:

1.5 oz Jameson
0.75 oz Rainier cherry infused brandy †
1 tsp 1:1 simple
1 d lavender bitters ††
Garnish with lemon twist

The biggest issue working with the cherry infusion is that Rainier cherries are naturally a very mild and subtle flavor — and more so in a maceration.  I wanted the cherry to come through as an accent, but because the infusion mostly picked up the sweetness, I couldn’t use it as a base.  That dusty green bottle of Jameson tucked away in a corner came through for me here, adding a mild oakiness and some grain to balance out the overwhelming fruit, without beating it into submission.  However, standard Jameson is a whisky that can end up on the boring side if you neglect it, so I had to be sure to pick a lively bitters.  That’s when I remembered my early batch of lavender bitters — floral and astringent with just a hint of wood and citrus.  Just one tiny dash, as it can be pretty overwhelming, and a twist of lemon to tie things together, and voila! a taste of all the hope of spring and growing things, with all the comfort and warmth of a wintery whisky-based drink.

The end result:  a nose of lemon and lavender, which turns to brandy, whisky, and cherry as you sip and then goes back to the lavender and lemon with just a touch of oak on the swallow.  Light and crisp, but still spiritous and simple at heart.

Rainier Cherry Infused Brandy
4.75 oz (weight) of Rainier cherries, unpitted
7 oz brandy (I used Paul Masson VSOP — good depth and spice for an affordable price)
Macerate at room temperature about 2 and a half weeks, then strain with a coffee filter.  The yield is pretty small — 4-5 ounces — but the recipe can obviously be increased as desired.  The cherries may have further use too, if you like booze-drenched fruit.

Lavender Bitters
I didn’t come up with this one.  Go check out the recipe at Blotto, which I found to be pretty painless and well worth the effort.  I do recommend reducing the recipe though – I think I got mine down to 1/4 or  1/8 to save on cabinet space.  The resulting 1-1.5 oz is plenty for my limited use of it.  Lyle’s Golden Syrup may be difficult to find as well, though it’s worth owning as a cocktail sweetener if you do run across it.  If not, substituting agave nectar or a mellow honey would work just fine.