Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

MxMo LXXVIII: Intercontinental—Time of the Saison

Howdy folks! It‘s another fine Mixology Monday. Today our host is my San Francisco Bay Area neighbor Stewart Putney of Putney Farm. I can always count on Stewart for inspiration and an adventure in the experience of taste, and his theme for this MxMo, Intercontinental, is certainly no exception.
Everywhere we travel these days we see cocktails on the menu. And not just here in the USA, but all around the world. And that’s not only the drinks, but the ingredients as well…. So let’s celebrate the global reach of cocktails with an “Intercontinental” Mixology Monday challenge. Create a cocktail with “ingredients” from at least 3, but preferably 4, 5 or 6 continents. And if you can include Antarctica, then you get a Gold Star.
OK, I missed Antarctica. And Oceania. (There was a well-intentioned Vegemite experiment. Not so good.) But as usual, I was thinking of my own current preoccupations and wondering how they related to the theme at hand. Lately, I’m most interested in fermented beverages, brandy cocktails and food pairing, and this MxMo offering could represent all of these things. It’s based on a saison (Belgian-style farmhouse ale) made here in the U.S. with the addition of grains of paradise, an African spice reminiscent of black pepper, ginger and citrus oils. I pumped up the alcohol with calvados, a Normandy apple brandy—not too much. There’s a ginger liqueur to represent Asia, and allspice liqueur and Peruvian bitters to represent the Americas.


Time of the Saison
  • 1 oz calvados
  • 1/2 oz Domaine de Canton
  • 1/2 oz lemon
  • 4 dashes Amaro Chuncho
  • 1/4 tsp St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
  • Ommegang Hennepin (about 4 oz)
Lightly shake with ice all except the Ommegang. (Just box it back and forth 2 – 3 times.) Strain into a stem glass. Top with beer.

Delicate fruit, spice and little bubbles, this is bright and light enough to accompany a meal of seasonal related flavors. Here in North America, it happens to be autumn but don’t let that stop you from mixing one up if you’re somewhere entirely different.

Many thanks to Stewart for hosting and for his great theme.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Apple Brandy Cocktails for Autumn

Calvados, the great aged cider brandy from Lower Normandy, is sometimes served in the middle of a meal to re-awaken the appetite, and I can see why. Complex and refined yet still bright with apple, the aroma alone makes me hungry. It calls to mind all the tasty thing apples go well with, like salty cheese, honey, legumes, cabbage, herbs, root vegetables, caramel. I definitely see some pairings in my future, but for now, here’s a couple of drinks before dinner.

Cocktail, stemmed glass, late afternoon garden, stone patio, moss

The Butterfly and the Bee
  • 1 1/2 oz calvados
  • 1/2 oz ginger liqueur (Domaine de Canton)
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 2 dashes lavender bitters
Shake with ice cubes and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Lemon twist.

The apple-lavender combination is intense and complex, amplified by brightness of the lemon and ginger. Orchard and field. Last breath of summer.

Cocktail, stemmed glass, sunlit garden, stone walk

On a Lark
  • 1 oz calvados
  • 1 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/2 oz Averna
  • 1 scant pinch fine sea salt
Stir salt in vermouth until dissolved, then add remaining ingredients and cracked ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

More autumnal than the previous one. White wine and herbs from the vermouth bring out crispness in the apple and add savory notes. Subtle caramel from the Averna. The salt heightens everything and helps bring it together.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dinner with Your Cocktail? Pairings at Maven

The more thoughtful and imaginative a cocktail menu, the more excited I get. So I was like a little kid opening presents at Maven, a Lower Haight restaurant with an entire list of food and drink pairings. And not only is each of the ten dishes—including desserts—paired with a cocktail, it’s paired with a wine or beer as well, so you can both mix and match. The flip side of the menu has a selection of unpaired offerings: beer, wine, a few cocktails and classic bar eats. I wanted to taste everything.

Somehow, I’ve contented myself with two visits so far. On each occasion I got a food item with its cocktail pairing, and one of the unpaired cocktails from the other side of the menu after my plate was cleared. Each time, the paired items were both special but even better together. The earthy, autumnal butter bean salad with chicory and onion gastrique was complimented by related flavors in What Ale’s You, a combination of rum, Asian pear, ginger, lemon and saison beer. The rainbow trout pairing had been just as successful the previous visit, and when I looked for it again, the dish had changed with the seasonality of the produce, and was paired with a totally new cocktail. How awesome is that?

cocktail, collins class, ice cubes, cross-sectional Asian pear slice garnish

Also amazing and a great way to spend my time at the bar was watching the dexterity and verve of bar manager Kate Bolton, a ninja cutting through an advancing army of orders. Special thanks to Kate, and to everyone at Maven for a wonderful cocktail and dining experience.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

All the Colors Are Changing: Nocino Sour

It’s starting to feel like fall in San Francisco. The afternoon air seems clearer, sharper—the sky a more tender blue. In the spirit of autumn, I reached for the nocino, an elegant walnut liqueur, and then had to admit I couldn’t think of anything to put it in. Nut liqueurs are very tasty but seem like late-night knockout drops. Luckily, I remembered Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Amaretto Sour, the perfect squirrel potation for any time of day, and substituted the main ingredient.


Nocino Sour
  • 1 1/2 oz Nocino della Cristina (Monteverdi)
3/4 oz cask-strength bourbon (Noah’s Mill)

  • 1 oz lemon juice

  • 1 tsp simple syrup, 2:1
  • 1/2 oz egg white, beaten
Dry shake ingredients to combine, then shake well with cracked ice. Strain over fresh ice into an old fashioned. Cherry.

This is what I was looking for. The walnut and bourbon together suggest maple syrup and falling leaves. The lemon balances the sweetness, also kept understated by the bourbon. Interestingly, the Nocino Sour recipes you see around the web call for gin, and I’m game, but the bourbon is so delicious here.
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