MxMo XCI, November 17, 2014: Shims

With October’s theme of Perfect Symmetry still lingering as we eagerly await the wrap-up, there is little time to waste to get the next Mixology Monday rolling before Thanksgiving disrupts the cocktail blogosphere. And disruption is something we can do without, such as when drinking stiff drinks begins to take its toll. But does imbibing have to lead to that? Perhaps introducing our host for MxMo this month, Dinah of the bibulo.us blog, might make this idea better understood.

This month’s theme slated for November 17th is one that will get you considering the lighter side of cocktails for the theme is “Shims.” Please read Dinah’s full announcement post, but here is a brief description:

This month’s topic is near and dear to our hearts as it is our favorite type of lower-proof cocktails: shims! These drinks contain no more than half an ounce of strong spirits (i.e. those containing 40% ABV or above). Heavy-hitters are fun to drink, sure, but it’s way too easy to over-consume and under-enjoy when you’re playing hardball. Let’s stretch out our evenings and get to sample a bigger variety by lowering the proof without lowering our standards. Shims don’t require giving up on flavor, complexity, or—interestingly enough—even your favorite ingredients. Get a new understanding of your favorite high-proof spirit by using just a half or quarter ounce of it along with a milder leading player. Or take a low-proof character actor that usually supplements the main show and see if it can take the lead… By their nature, lower alcohol drinks, especially those using wine-based main ingredients, are great choices for food pairings. If you’ve got the perfect accompaniment for your chosen cocktail, please share that with us too!

This theme and host pairing excites me for two reasons. First, Dinah was the host for the second Mixology Monday that I participated in back September 2008 for MxMo 31. Second, Dinah crossed over last year from blogger to professional author with the release of her book on this MxMo’s theme, namely The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to Keep You Level (Amazon link). Getting that book could be a start to approaching that theme, but looking to your aromatized wine, sherry, and madeira shelf could be a start. Or perhaps inverting a booze-forward classic into a lighter libation? Champagne cocktails? Oh my! With all those options and more, there is something for everyone to join in on the fun. Briefly, here’s how to participate:

  • Find or create a recipe for a cocktail that uses no more than half an ounce of strong spirits (i.e. those containing 40% ABV or above), then post the recipe, and include a photo and your remarks, on your blog, tumblr, or website. If you lack one of those, feel free to post on eGullet’s Spirits and Cocktails forum.
  • Include the MxMo logo in your post, plus links back to the Mixology Monday and bibulo.us sites. Once the roundup post is put up, updating your post to include a link to that one as well would be appreciated.
  • Let the Dinah know about your post before midnight on Monday night, November 17th (with late submissions apparently welcome) by posting a link to your post in the comment section on her post or by tweeting at her via @bibulous.

That gives us all two weeks to start thinking of lighter ABV cocktails to try, and with the lower octane involved, feel free to tinker a bit more than usual to get things right. I am definitely curious to see what refreshing libations you and your curiosity can come up with!

MxMo XC, October 20, 2014: Perfect Symmetry

With September’s theme of “The Unknown” just slipping off into the sunset, what if we consider something a bit more known? Like improving on a drink to your taste by splitting an ingredient with another. It might not be everybody’s concept of perfection, but it is closer to yours. Perhaps introducing our host for MxMo this month, Joel of the Southern Ash blog, might make this idea better understood.

This month’s theme slated for October 20th is one that will get you looking at your liquor shelves for spiritous cousins for the theme is “Perfect Symmetry.” Please read Joel’s full announcement post, but here is a brief description:

Perfect symmetry is your theme this month!  A “perfect” drink splits the liquor or liqueur evenly between two related ingredients.  The most common “perfect” drink is a Perfect Manhattan where the vermouth is split between sweet and dry to create an altogether different experience.  A perfect Old Fashioned splits the bourbon and rye are both used to create a singularly distinct experience. When done well, splitting the liquor lets each of the unique flavors and components of the shine through.  Because they share a background, they don’t war with each other but instead you get both the mellow sweetness of the bourbon with the spicy backbone of the rye in that Old Fashioned… Why make a choice when you can have it all?! Your challenge is to create a new cocktail or explore an existing cocktail that splits the liquor or liqueur evenly in a “perfect” manner…  Can you challenge yourself with gin and vodka in a light summer appropriate beverage?  Perhaps you’ll delve deep into splitting Sambuca and ouzo in an anise-flavored digestive? Getting bored with tequila, maybe a perfect margarita with the backbone of mezcal will reawaken your appreciation? Campari too assertive for you?  Maybe make a Perfect Negroni with Aperol lightening the weight. Let you imagination run wild!

While that description, so many pairings come to mind like Green and Yellow Chartreuses, Lillet Blanc and Rouge, gin and genever, and never mind rum combinations (including rum-like spirits like cachaça). Perhaps split more than one ingredient in the recipe to make something even more complex? With all those options and more, there is something for everyone to join in on the fun. Briefly, here’s how to participate:

  1. Find or create a recipe that has “Perfect” (or split base spirit or liqueur) component, and then post the recipe, including a photo and your remarks, on your blog, tumblr, or website. If you lack one of those, feel free to post on eGullet’s Spirits and Cocktails forum.
  2. Include the MxMo logo in your post, plus links back to the Mixology Monday and Southern Ash sites. Once the roundup post is put up, updating your post to include a link to that one as well would be appreciated.
  3. Submit a link one of three ways by midnight on October 20th — leave a comment on the announcement post, send an email to southernashblog(at)gmail(dot)com, or tweet Joel at @Southerashblog.

That gives us two weeks to concoct “perfect” cocktails. Wait, that sounds a little lofty, but remember that we’re splitting spirits and liqueurs, not splitting atoms here. Is Fernet Branca too much for you? Is there perhaps another amaro to sooth the savage beast? Can’t figure out if lemon or lime juice would complement the spirit and other components more? Why not use both? Does “cherry liqueur” in that old recipe mean Heering or Maraschino, or why bother choosing? I am eagerly looking forward to what this herd of cats can conjure up!

MxMo LXXXIX, September 22, 2014: The Unknown

With recent Mixology Monday themes of familiar ingredients like “coconuts” and “pineapple,” what if there was something you were less familiar with? Could September bring a new ingredient challenge to everyone? How could a Mixology Monday host possibly figure out such an ingredient? Simple — he’ll let you figure out what is novel to you! Perhaps introducing our host for MxMo this month, Chris of the ABarAbove blog, might make this idea better understood.

This month’s theme slated for September 22nd is one that will get you searching for something new and untried for the theme is “The Unknown.” Please read Chris’ full announcement post, but here is a brief description:

Basically the idea is to try something new, an ingredient or technique that you’ve never had experience with before and create a cocktail around it… Use a spirit that you’ve never used before. It could be a base spirit, modifier or that Belgian Ale that rings in at 15% alcohol. Use an ingredient that has always captured your imagination in the supermarket. Maybe that weird looking fruit that you always walk by at Whole Foods, or that unusual looking vegetable that you can’t even pronounce. [or] Use a new technique that you’ve never tried, but have always wanted to. Have you been dying to make your own vermouth, amaro, or martini glass made completely out of flavored sugar.

Want to rummage through the shelves of ethnic supermarkets or the dusty bottles in the liquor store? I am sure plenty of options lurk in both cases. And there is probably plenty that you have seen or heard about but have never had the chance to try. Well, now is that time. Briefly, here’s how to participate:

  • Find or create a recipe for a cocktail that uses an ingredient, technique, or something else that’s completely new to you, then post the recipe, and include a photo and your remarks, on your blog, tumblr, or website. If you lack one of those, feel free to post on eGullet’s Spirits and Cocktails forum.
  • Include the MxMo logo in your post, plus links back to the Mixology Monday and ABarAbove sites. Once the roundup post is put up, updating your post to include a link to that one as well would be appreciated.
  • Let the Chris know about your post before midnight on Monday night, September 22nd by posting a link to your post in the comment section on his announcement post or by tweeting at him via @ABarAbove.

That gives us all two weeks to start looking around for novelty, reading technique books for the untried, and shopping for weird looking fruit and veggies. Indian grocers, roto-vaps and centrifuges, Azorean liqueurs — oh so many things to consider! I am definitely curious to see what refreshing libations you and your curiosity can come up with!

 

MxMo LXXXVIII, August 28, 2014: Coconuts

July’s “The Smash” was a great drink style-themed event that reconnected us with a late 19th century style of drink and allowed us to put a more modern spin on things (as well as revisit the classics themselves). It was a good departure from June’s ingredient-driven pineapple theme, but perhaps it is time to visit another tropical ingredient as a theme for August. Maybe introducing our host for MxMo this month, JFL of the Rated R Cocktails blog, might make this idea better understood.

This month’s theme slated for August 25th is one that will get you looking at our hard monkey-faced tropical fruit friends with a chisel and mallet or perhaps a can opener for the theme is “Coconuts.” Please read JFL’s full announcement post, but here is a brief description:

Ah the Coconut, so round, so firm, so fully packed… with flavor… Coconut is versatile, coconut is magical, not only is it edible but it can be made into scores of products. However, this month you need only concern yourself with the liquid variety as I unveil MxMo Coconut. Yes friends, it is my sincere belief the coconut does not get the love, nay the respect it so richly deserves. Because this easy going tropical seed had its heyday in the Tiki era, it’s happily associated with the same fun loving drinks… Despite all the great Tiki drinks coconut appear in most people are down on the humble seed because of the Piña Colada. Friends, this need not be so; I say we take this delicious ingredient and show it can yield a tasty, well balanced cocktail. It doesn’t have to be tropical necessarily. I’d really love to see some of my friends more classically minded come up with a cocktail more befitting a pre-Prohibition mindset.

While coconut cream is what often comes to mind especially with Tiki and blender drinks, much has been done with the lighter liquids including coconut milk and coconut water. I have also seen infusions and syrups made from toasted and untoasted coconut meat, and there are plenty of coconut-flavored products (including a coconut-flavored vodka I was sent by a PR firm or other). With that range, there is something for everyone to join in on the fun. Briefly, here’s how to participate:

  1. Find or create a recipe that somehow uses coconut whether as a cream, milk, water, syrup, infusion, or other, and then post the recipe, including a photo and your remarks, on your blog, tumblr, or website. If you lack one of those, feel free to post on eGullet’s Spirits and Cocktails forum.
  2. Include the MxMo logo in your post, plus links back to the Mixology Monday and Rated R Cocktail sites. Once the roundup post is put up, updating your post to include a link to that one as well would be appreciated.
  3. Submit a link one of two ways by midnight on August 25th — either post a comment on the Rated R Cocktails’ announcement post or tweet JFL at @RatedRCocktails.

That gives us all 2 full weeks to figure out how to open up a coconut without hurting yourself. I have used everything from hammers and chisels to power drill bits. Although the power drill bit was to fill coconuts with rum and cachaça and age them for drinking later. Perhaps using a can opener for coconut cream and milk is an easier and safer solution. Or even safer is a screw cap on coconut water or coconut rum? I look forward to what tropical and not-very-tropical creations this crew of ours can concoct! Cheers and don’t forget the safety glasses depending on your opening method!

MxMo LXXXVII, July 26, 2014: The Smash

I am not sure that I am completely over June’s Mixology Monday theme of “Pineapple,” but luckily, it will not be necessary to eschew the welcoming fruit for July’s theme. It’s most certainly a fruit that a muddler could handle. Maybe introducing our host for MxMo this month, Stacy of the Stacy Markow blog, might make this idea better understood.

This month’s theme slated for July 28rd is perfectly timed to surround Tales of the Cocktail with as little issue as possible and one that will get you in the perfect feel for warm weather drinks. Moreover, one that will allow you to tap into your classic 19th century alter ego or your modern 21st century self for the theme is “The Smash.” Please read Stacy’s full announcement post, but here is a brief description:

I’m proud to announce that July’s theme is all about the Smash, those ice-laden, refreshing concoctions designed to celebrate my favorite things about life: stiff drinks and warm weather. It’s no surprise that in 1862 Jerry Thomas was the first to declare that “the Smash is simply a julep on a small plan.” The drink originally gets its name from the way mint was smashed up in the shaking process. Fast forward twenty-five or so years later to 1888 and barman Harry Johnson addresses the Smash as a separate cocktail from the julep entirely and expands the components to include “fruits in season.” What little was originally written about the Smash can lead most to believe it wasn’t a terribly popular beverage, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. According to David Wondrich, the author of Imbibe!

“From it’s first appearance in the mid 1840′s until after the Civil War, the Smash was just about the most popular thing going. In the 1850′s, at the height of the Smash’s popularity, all the “pert young men, ” the Broadway dandies, San Francisco swells, and junior New Orleans grandissimes, seemed to spend the warm months of the year with a Smash glued to one hand and a “segar” to the other. In fact, the Smash rather became an icon of dissipation”

Johnson’s smashes truly resemble many modern interpretations. With that said, the basic elements of the drink have remained the same over the years: they always include a spirit base, ice, fresh herbs (most popular is mint), sugar, seasonal fruit, and a little bit of water. Let’s get ultra creative, smash things, and then drown them in alcohol and ice. Allow your creativity take flight and concoct sweet and/or savory combos to remember using any fruit or herbs you can get your hands on.

Want to play it conservative with lemon wedges, mint, and spirit or go adventurous with kumquats, saffron, and amaro? Perfect for the range on this one is wide. Remake a Midori-laden drink with real melon muddled into the mix? Sounds grand. Briefly, here’s how to participate:

  • Find or create a recipe for a Smash, then post the recipe, and include a photo and your remarks, on your blog, tumblr, or website. If you lack one of those, feel free to post on eGullet’s Spirits and Cocktails forum on the thread Stacy created for the event.
  • Include the MxMo logo in your post, plus links back to the Mixology Monday and Stacy Markow sites. Once the roundup post is put up, updating your post to include a link to that one as well would be appreciated.
  • Let the Stacy know about your post before midnight on Monday night, July 28th by posting a link to your post in the comment section on her announcement post.

That gives us all two weeks to pick up our muddlers and thinking caps and get to work. Perhaps a stroll or two through a garden or the farmers’ market for inspiration is in order. Even if you are going to Tales of the Cocktail, the timing for this event has been planned for your convenience. Feel free to have one of the wizards in New Orleans at The Cure, Bellocq, or similar assist you in making your post if need be. I am definitely curious to see what refreshing libations you and your produce sources can come up with!