Sunday, March 4, 2012

Six and Three - I invent a drink

OK, I forgot to plan for this party and there are going to be 60 people there.

Punch, obviously.

I had a lot of partial bottles of rum - half a bottle of blackstrap, 3 or 4 oz of Wray & Nephew 151, a bunch of white rum.

Sixty people, sixty drinks at 6 oz a pour means I needed to make three gallons. 

My library of recipe books is still in storage since my move in April 2011, so after doing some google blog searches I decide to start with orange juice as the main fruit - its inexpensive.   The trouble with google is that you can find a ton of recipes, but are any of them good?  I wound up at Drinkhacker with his Zombie Punch (a Donn the Beachcomber variant), and I did a bunch of math about the ratios of sweet and sour (remember three parts strong, two parts sour, one part sweet?).  That didn't go anywhere.

I went to the store and looked at my juice choices - I thought of unsweetened cranberry - and decided to try tart Cherry.  I also went through my liquor cabinet and my drink fridge - I pulled out a couple of pints of homemade grenadine (cold process) and two bottles Millie's incredible passion fruit syrup.  I'm one of those people who puts a couple of ounces of 100 proof vodka into my syrups to make them shelf stable.

So I started with the base (OJ) and added the passion fruit and cherry. The passion fruit disappeared into the background and the tart cherry just wasn't that tart.  So, a bunch of lemon and lime juice - taste, mix, add, stir.  OK, but not a lot of body so I added the grenadine.  Good enough to have Oceana taste it.

Refrigerate it for a few hours, check the taste, add the booze.
  • 210 oz OJ
  • 32 oz Millie's Passion Fruit syrup
  • 32 oz Tart Cherry Juice (unsweetened)
  • 18 oz cold process grenadine
  • 25 oz lemon juice
  • 9 oz lime juice
  • 55 oz white rum (mostly Flor de Cana)
  • 17 oz dark rum (Sailor Jerry Spiced rum - mostly tastes like vanilla?)
  • 8 oz Cruzan Blackstrap
Result: an "A" list punch at 8% ABV - rich, slightly sweet, easy to drink. 

Under other circumstances I would have added a 1.75 of Flor de Cana to bring it up to 13% ABV, and I would have used a Jamaican dark rum - Coruba - instead of the Sailor Jerry. But I used what I had.

What did I learn?
First, OJ has a very weak taste in cocktails.  I knew that (but forgot)
Second, nothing is as tart as lemon & lime juice - I was on the right track when I initially thought 'cranberry'
Third, with three plus gallons of punch, don't bother with anything less that 8 oz of an ingredient.

The grenadine is a very dominant flavor and pairs right up with the cherry juice. Passion Fruit is a shy flower, hiding in the background.

Yes, I've invented drinks before. They weren't memorable.  And the name?  
Six kinds of fruit, and Three kinds of rum.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Zombie Punch

Summary  - we take a drink recipe - Donn Beach's Aku Aku Zombie - and convert it into a punch bowl of
yes, the cauldron is bubbling...

Rest of Post 

The zombie

Once upon a time there was no such thing as a Polynesian restaurant or a tiki drink. 

That changed in 1934 when one man started a restaurant fad that lasted for over 40 years. That man was Donn Beach, “Donn the Beachcomber”, and The Zombie was his most famous drink.

His bar wasn’t just the first Tiki bar, it was the hottest bar in Hollywood with a 90 minute wait for a spot at the bar - every night.  It was where Orson Welles drank next to Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Joan Crawford. 

Donn’s place was famous for the drinks, so naturally competitors would try to steal his recipes - by hiring his bartenders.  Donn had to keep drink recipes secret, even from the bar staff.  A recipe might call for a ½ ounce of “bottle #4”, or a spoonful of “Donn’s mix”, and only Donn knew what went into those bottles.  Since the Zombie was so famous, as famous as a Cosmopolitan or Pina Colada or Mojito - every Tiki bar had to serve some drink called ‘the Zombie’. There was even a  “Zombie Hut” in Oakland and “Zombie Village” in Sacramento.  And of course you could get a drink called the Zombie at Donn’s most famous competitor, Trader Vic’s!  But no one but Donn knew what the real recipe was, and most of the imitations were awful.

Donn died in Honolulu in 1989, but thanks to the research of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry five of Donn’s Zombie recipes have come to light: the “original” 1934 recipe, the 1950 “Spievak” recipe, a 1956 “Waikiki” recipe, and the 1959 recipe Donn created for the Aku Aku Restaurant at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas. Donn never stopped working on, and improving his recipes.

Why is so hard to get a good Tiki drink?  It’s too much work.  The recipe we are serving tonight, “Aku Aku”, has 8 ingredients,  requires juicing 2 kinds of fruit, and making two syrups.  At the height of the Tiki Bar Craze, a restaurant would have as many as 20 bar staff working in assembly line fashion to turn out hundreds of drinks a night.  Except for us amateurs ( and a handful of revival Tiki Bars like Smuggler’s Cove) these drinks are history.

What is a Zombie?

This recipe is Donn's fourth* Zombie Recipe,  From Beachbum Berry Remixed.

Lime juice
White grapefruit juice
Cinnamon infused syrup
Dark Jamaican rum
Gold Puerto Rican Rum
Demerara Rum (151)
‘Zombie Mix’
[Absinthe, Curacao, Falernum, Grenadine]
Are they strong? YES! They are about 13.5% alcohol – 27 proof (most beers are ~5%, wines ~12%) That’s why we are served them over ice in a 5 oz cup

Don’t forget, if you drink too many, you will leave your body, and it will be claimed by the undead.

*our least favorite of the four, good, but not great

Coming soon! Mixology notes: converting a cocktail into a punch recipe

Monday, September 6, 2010

Rum Tropical (punch)

I've found that at large parties its much easier to make a large bowl of punch than to shake (or blend) endless cocktails, so we've been shopping through our punch recipes.   Martha Washington's Rum Punch was a big hit at our last party, this time I didn't have much time to prepare so I grabbed my copy of Beachbum Berry Remixed* by Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, which has six recipes.  One of the things that I like so much about Jeff's book is that he tried all the recipes - and threw some out!  [One gets tired of trying recipes that are so bad you wonder why (or how) they were included in a book.]

Anyway, page 114 lists "three quick and easy punches", Rum Tropical was the easiest:

  • 32 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 4 oz fresh lime juice
  • 2 oz Falernum
  • 1 fifth gold Puerto Rican Rum  (we used Flor de Cana Gold)

We had sliced pineapple on hand and some very ripe cherries which I pitted, halved and tossed in. The rum soaked fruit was great to eat.

As Jeff said, certainly easy to make - pour, stir, chill.  Normally I make my large ice cube the day before, in this case I filled the tupperware container with ice cubes, topped with water and froze.  It became solid in just a couple of hours, however it seemed like melted much faster too!

This is very nice punch.  But its not a headliner or soloist, its  a "hey, great barbeque. Oh, yeah, the punch was nice, too!"

If I had to do it again, I would get try something other than John D. Taylors Velvet Falernum Liqueur - it doesn't have a lot of character (or perhaps my bottle is too old).  I'd try making Paul Clarke's Falernum #8

* If you don't have this book, buy it. It is the tiki drink recipe book.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mint Julep for Derby Day

Today is the Kentucky Derby, so it's the day for Mint Juleps.

We were invited to a ball for a charity for which we volunteer.  As it happens, the women who taught me to make Mint Juleps were there, so I made a batch and brought them over.

I've had good luck with infusing the mint in the bourbon for several hours in advance - several hours as in "more than two".

In this case, I started with Paul Harrington's recipe:
  • 3 oz Bourbon
  • 2-4 Teaspoons of simple syrup
  • 4 to 6 sprigs mint
In this case, I made 6 drinks, so I started by putting 18 oz of Maker's Mark into a mason jar that was about half full of mint leaves.

If you read about mint, you'll find a lot of conflicting information about muddling, not muddling, etc. I tend to agree with the folks who say that if you crush the leaves you'll get bad flavors along with the good.  So I very lightly bruise the leaves - lay them on my palm and slap them.
O doesn't like her drinks too sweet - at 2T simple syrup per drink, that would be 4 oz of simple syrup - so I only used 2 oz simple syrup.

I also wanted to add some other flavor notes, so I added some peach brandy* - 3 oz - which is also pretty sweet stuff - but not as sweet as syrup.

Anyhow, my ratios turned out to be a lucky guess. Not too dry, not too sweet. O said she couldn't really taste the peach brandy, so next time I'd add one more ounce of peach brandy and see if that note comes out more.

As always, serve over crushed ice, and stir the drinks well before serving to get some of the ice to melt and dilute the bourbon - it really opens up the flavors. Garnish with a mint sprig, and remember they are STRONG** - you are pouring three ounces of Bourbon into each glass.

*I've seen some old recipes calling for peach brandy, but I  think that meant  a dry, high proof brandy made from peaches - I don't know if anyone makes anything like that now.   I used DeKuyper - didn't have time for a liquor store run to see if I could find something from Marie Brizard or Mathilde, etc.

**The last time we served Mint Juleps was in 2006.  People grew sufficiently intoxicated that there was very naughty behavior after we left the party.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bay Area Cocktail Spots: Grand Tavern

Summary: Excellent drinks, great food, moderate prices, friendly people.  Its our new go-to spot for a drink in Oakland - The Grand Tavern

Rest of Post:
What do you get when some serious foodies with locavore tendencies hire mixological heart-throb Jennifer Colliau* to train their bar staff and design their cocktail list? You get the place where you'll be seeing us and our friends - The Grand Tavern on Grand Avenue in Oakland.

You know you are a mixophile when .... you are sitting in a bar and you notice how long (and how hard) the bartenders are shaking.

These folks shake long and hard.  (Why does that sound like part of a dirty joke?)

Then Jasmin, our wait-person, told us they use Small Hand syrups in all the drinks and we threw caution to the wind and ordered a Mai Tai.  I'm sure you've had any number of sickly sweet Mai Tai's. This was not one of them - delightfully dry - excellent nose - there is good rum in this drink - OK, the sprig of fresh mint may not be orthodox -  but it was nice, and it was listed on the menu.

We also had an Old Cuban - rum, mint, lime juice, organic gum syrup, sparkling wine served in a flute with mint.

That is a fine drink.  I could just breathe that one. Sharp, balanced, crisp.

Jasmin stopped by to ask about the drinks, and immediately we got technical. They make their own simple syrup (smart) and their own ginger syrup for their Dark & Stormys, and she told us about Jennifer leading them through gin tastings on the first day of their training.  We also found out its a family affair - Mom is the chef, her brother Temoor is the owner, she (Jasmine) runs the floor, her boyfriend is behind the bar.

We had originally been on our way to Barney's in Piedmont for a burger - but the line was out the door, and the other two places we tried were closed on Sunday.  So I had the Grand Tavern burger - organic beef - provolone - it was excellent and it came with their Social Skin Fries - which are homemade potato chips - slightly thick sliced - dusted with a very mild paprika.


Oceana had the fried Cornish hen - deep fried - the oil must have been quite hot - the breading was cooked dark brown and the flesh was not oily at all.

We were enjoying ourselves so much that Temoor, the owner, sent us over a house speciality - his invention - "The Smokey Wall" . Without spoiling any secrets I will say it was a unique taste, complex, well balanced and tasty!  We had a lot of fun guessing what was in it - we only made one major miss.

We didn't really want dessert, but how do you say "no" to blackberry & blueberry reduction sauce over premium vanilla ice cream on top of pound cake.

We were there on a Sunday evening, it wasn't crowded and the service was prompt.  There is an outdoor patio and two indoor rooms in addition to the bar itself.  There is a happy hour - 4? to 7? (better check on that) when cocktails are $2 off their normal $12 price. Parking is easy - lots on Grand Avenue and they have their own lot.

I think $10-$12 is becoming pretty standard for a first rate cocktail - we certainly didn't mind getting the happy hour discount.

Downsides?  Well, this is a pretty small point.  They've got one of those Kold-Draft machines and they've clearly been drinking the Kold-Draft Kool-Aide, and like every Kold-Draft owner, they've got to talk about it.  Those very very cold square cubes certainly don't hurt anything, and given the good training, high standards (measure every ingredient, every time), good ingredients, good recipes - the drinks at the Grand Tavern are going to turn out very well no matter what ice they use.  And I remain skeptical of the value of an eight thousand dollar ice making system.

*OK, I confess. I've never met Jennifer, and aside from her numerous professional skills and her willingness to work really really really hard I don't know anything about her. But I've had her Orgeat Syrup, and it doesn't get any better than that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bay Area Cocktail Spots: A Return to The Slanted Door

Summary:  After an afternoon of wandering up and down the aisles in the Ferry Building, you can sit at the rail in the wine bar and watch the people go by, or you can grab a terrific cocktail in The Slanted Door.   Or, if it is Christmas, you can do both*.  That's what we did.  We've done very well at the Bar at The Slanted Door

*When given a choice between two good things, "both" is better.

Rest of Post: Since we've enjoyed ourselves so much previously, we thought we'd check and see what new drinks were on the menu.  We tried three and had two appetizers.

The Last WordMiller's Westbourne Gin, Luxardo Maraschino, Green Chartreuse and lime juice; served up - recipe from the Detroit Athletic Club

Vieux Carré: Dudognone Reserve Cognac, Rye whiskey, Benedictine, Sweet Vermouth, Peychaud's and Angostura bitters, served up  

The Last Word is a clear "A List" drink.  Not hard to predict given how much we love Aviations (gin, maraschino, lemon), and Southsides (gin, lime, mint, sugar).  The Last Word has a soft nose, hint of maraschino, and then there layers in the flavors - gin, maraschino and then a burst of lime.  The menu says the recipe is from the Detroit Athletic Club, on a hunch I pulled down my copy of Ted Saucierʼs Bottom's Up (1951) which I'm guessing is the source of the recipe. This is our second "A List" drink from Ted - another blogger pointed us to the Diamondback, and I'm thinking Ted's book - famous for its lascivious illustrations - may require some serious study - the recipes, I mean.

The Vieux Carré is a very famous old New Orleans drink - the name means "the old quarter", it is thought that the drink was invented in the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans in the 1930s. This is a completely decadent drink for people who love the taste of hard liquor, which isn't really me.

Sazerac - no photo - it wasn't on the menu, but O wanted something solid to anchor after  the Last Word, and given the Rye Bee is on the menu, the bartender quickly brought her a very very nice Sazerac (rye whiskey, absinthe, simple or gomme syrup, peychaud's bitters, angostura bitters).

I tried a [no photo] Hot Winter Cider:  Pappy Van Winkle 12-year-old Bourbon, St. Elizabeth Allspice, The Apple Farm juice, star anise, vietnamese cinnamon. It smelled good, a very pleasant, very smooth hot drink that grew on us as we slowly drank it.

While we drank we ate the excellent slanted door spring rolls with shrimp, pork, mint and peanut sauce  (we ate one before taking the picture) and then the intensely good  barbecued Willis Ranch pork spareribs with honey-hoisin sauce  - the sauce is very strong, and you just can't get enough of it, but you know there will come a moment - if you eat too much - when you won't want it again for weeks.

And here is O, with The Last Word.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Quick and easy Eggnog (from Jeff Morganthaler )

Summary: What to do when one needs eggnog in a hurry?  My "grand mal" recipe takes hours, a sturdy mixer, and a light hand.  This one is quite good and takes much less work - you can put it together in a bit over an hour - and most of that is time for it to chill in the fridge.  All it takes is a quick trip to the supermarket and a blender.  Thanks for Jeff Morgenthaler for working out this recipe!

Rest of Post - We do a lot of searching and reading on the internet and in the blogosphere.  One of the sources we trust is Jeff Morgenthaler's Blog, which we read regularly.  So when Jeff said he had spent time experimenting and liked his results, we thought we ought to give his recipe a try.  Since we are always pouring for a crowd, I plugged his recipe into my spreadsheet and made 3x the amounts, however here is the starting point:

2 large eggs
3 oz sugar
½ tsp freshly-grated nutmeg
2 oz brandy
2 oz spiced rum (Sailor Jerry’s)
6 oz whole milk
4 oz heavy cream
Beat eggs in blender for one minute on medium speed.

Slowly add sugar and blend for one additional minute.

With blender still running, add nutmeg, brandy, rum,

milk and cream - blend until well mixed

Chill for at least an hour.  You want it to be (1) cold and (2) to let the flavors combine.  I've always been skeptical about this (2), but since my experience with Jasper's Jamaican Planter's Punch I've become a total believer.

Serve in chilled wine or champagne glasses,  sprinkle additional nutmeg on top before serving.

Compared to what I've been making previously, this eggnog is rather thin - low on body and "mouth feel", but long on taste.  In researching this I've seen a LOT of recipes that call for mixing egg yolks with warm milk or doing a very limited amount of cooking of the egg yolks - I didn't find many specifics on increase in thickness / body, but the photos made it look thicker - and more yellow.

This recipe yields a nog that is warm brown color (not yellow), and smells good,  flavors are rummy and buttery,  People said it was "gorgeous", "good blend of alcohol and flavor," "quite lovely", "almost pepperminty."

We really liked Jeff's recommendation of Sailor Jerry's spiced rum - somehow the whole drink had a nice buttery flavor, and it was more pleasant than Captain Morgan's - which has always seemed fine previously.   One thing we did discover this year is that Applejack blends extremely well with eggnog, in fact its fairly hard to taste in eggnog, so if you are looking to spike your eggnog in a very subtle way*, get a bottle of Lairds, or preferably Laird's Bonded.

We have four related research projects for next winter - November / December 2010 - stay tuned!
*We believe in alerting our guests to the alcohol content of our drinks and punches.   The math isn't hard, especially if (like me) you use a spreadsheet.  Also, alert people when there is something about the drink (like high fat content, or gomme syrup) that will slow down the absorption of alcohol - you want them to make the best decisions about how much they want to drink.