MxMo XCV, March 16, 2015: Call Me Old Fashioned!

February brought us to reflect on one of the classic cocktails, the Martini. If made properly with a dash of bitters, it has all of the hallmarks of the simple cocktail — spirit, sweetener (dry vermouth does have 4% sugar), and bitters. What if we were to take things back even further with the concept of the concept? What if we contemplated a time before vermouths were regularly mixed into cocktails? Perhaps introducing our host for MxMo this month, Laura of the Sass and Gin blog, might make this idea better understood.

This month’s theme slated for March 16th is one that will get you considering the basics for the theme is “Call Me Old Fashioned!” Please read Laura’s full announcement post, but here is a brief description:

The Old Fashioned is the original “cock tail,” dating to the early 1800′s. In this humble bartender’s opinion, it is the pater familias of all other drinks, and it has taken its place as such in the recent cocktail revival. We have seen many variations of the Old Fashioned (i.e. Mayahuel’s Oaxaca Old Fashioned, PDT’s Benton’s Old Fashioned) and the resurgence of similar cocktails (i.e. the Sazerac). The bitters market has exploded over the last decade, with more flavor profiles than ever before, and with a more health-conscious public, your local grocery store is likely to carry a selection of sugars to play with (agave, coconut sugar, turbinado, etc). So, here’s the challenge: We will be sticking to the traditional ratios of spirit, bitters and sugar, but I’m challenging you to step outside the box with your selections. In addition, how will it be chilled or garnished? Do you want to add a secondary spirit or rinse? Go to town!
The theme is an interesting one since it forces you to take a step back and consider the basics. Besides which spirit or split spirits to use, how about sweetener? Besides so much variation in sugar including dark ones like muscovado and jaggery, there are syrups like maple, molasses, and honey. Not sure if orgeat is too far of a stretch, but the Japanese Cocktail in Jerry Thomas’ 1860s tome has a similar Old Fashioned structure. The explosion in bitters, both potable and nonpotable, on the market is immense as well. Could a dash of Fernet Branca or absinthe do just as well as the bittering agent (or as the optional glass rinse that Laura allowed) as Angostura Bitters would? So many simple but thoughtful options that few will not have a liquor cabinet ready to take on this adventure. Briefly, here’s how to participate:
  • Find or create a recipe for a cocktail that is Old Fashioned in form, 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 Sass and Gin sites. Once the roundup post is put up, updating your post to include a link to that one as well would be appreciated.
  • Let Laura know about your post by Monday night, March 16th by posting a link to your post in the comment section on her post or by tweeting at her via @sassandgin with the hashtag  #MxMo.

That gives you about two weeks to start contemplating the 1806 definition of the Old Fashioned and adjust accordingly to modern sensibilities or to screw it all and feel turn of the 19th century. I can’t wait to see what basic but elegant libations the blogosphere can conjure up!

MxMo XCIV, February 16, 2015: That’s Not A Martini!

Did January’s Mixology Monday just come and go so quickly? It just seems like two weeks ago that I wrote the last announcement post. MxMo “Blue” brought out a lot of fun and frivolity in the realm of drinks with Tiki and other cocktails that look like Windex. But perhaps we should take an opposite direction for February by looking at variations of an old standguard. Perhaps introducing our host for MxMo this month, Dagreb of the NihilUtopia blog, might make this idea better understood.

This month’s theme slated for February 16th is one that will get you looking at all things gin and perhaps vermouthy for the theme is “That’s Not A Martini!” Please read Dagreb’s full announcement post, but here is a brief description:

A Telecaster’s not an Esquire. A Melody Maker’s not a Les Paul Jr. A Marauder ain’t a Crown Vic. A Blue Moon is no Martini… well, almost. Take away the dash to a quarter ounce of Creme Yvette and we’re left with gin (a must!), dry vermouth, and orange bitters. That’s a Martini! It’s at least one canonical Martini anyway. This month’s Mixology Monday theme is that which is almost, but not quite, a Martini. Perhaps there are dashes (or more) of a liqueur (or two) added to the basic structure. Perhaps a Fino Sherry (or other fortified/aromatized wine) is standing in for vermouth. Maybe there’s Oxygene instead of bitters? Gin, certainly! Use your imagination! Use your library! Make a Martini, that’s wearing a hat!

The theme excites me for I went on a Martini-variation craze late last year. One of my guests at the bar was an Ambassador from India who came in for lunch and a Martini. I began chatting with him about the drink and its history, and soon I was discussing my favorite variations. The mini Martinez I made him won him over, and he later sent me an email letter of thanks that started up a conversation. The next time he showed, it was a Hanky Panky as my choice which garnered another email of thanks. And I had an arsenal of next go-tos including Puritans and Poet’s Dreams, but alas, he has not showed again to date (although his two visits were well spaced, so he could appear any time business brings him my way). Therefore, we should all do some research about Martini variations, or perhaps create a new one? What about a gin, vermouth, and Ancho Reyes spicy-savory one? Utilize that blue curaçao still on the counter from January and make a Blue Fancy Martini? So many options! Briefly, here’s how to participate:

  1. Find or create a recipe for a cocktail that is “almost, but more than, a Martini” (while heeding Dagreb’s need for gin), 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.
  2. Include the MxMo logo in your post, plus links back to the Mixology Monday and NihilUtopia 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 the end of February 16th-ish — leave a comment on Dagreb’s announcement post, or tweet him at @dagreb with the hash tag #MxMo.

That gives us all 2 weeks or so to figure out which gin to use and how close to stick to the original Martini structure. The pre-Prohibition cocktail literature was a scatter of Martini variations and the dirty gin Martini still with dry vermouth appeared mid-20th century, I believe. Oh so many ways to go about this! I am definitely curious to see what crisp and dignified (or lack thereof) libations you and your curiosity can come up with…

MxMo XCIII, January 26, 2015: Blue

With December’s theme of Apples still wafting through the blogosphere like freshly baked pie, we should move on to January’s Mixology Monday before that pleasant aroma dissipates. And if it does decrease, will we get sad? And can we embrace that sadness? Perhaps introducing our host for MxMo this month, Andrea of the Ginhound blog, might make this idea better understood.

This month’s theme slated for January 26th is one that will get you considering a certain area of the cocktail rainbow for the theme is “Blue.” Please read Andrea’s full announcement post, but here is a brief description:

January needs a bit of color – or perhaps the month after all the holiday mania makes you feel…blue? Either way this month’s Mixology Monday is a chance to live those emotions out. You can dazzle us with a brilliant blue drink or you can share that blue feeling with a melancholic drink.

Blue has been predicted as a new cocktail trend several times in recent years… But any mixer of blue drinks is faced with a bit of a dilemma as there is nothing “natural” about E133 – the most common of blue food colors: Do I really want to mix chemicals into my prefect mixture of fresh juices and good booze? Feel free to interpret blue as freely as you wish – if natural is the way you want to go blueberries, violets, cornflower or red cabbage could be good ingredients to work with.

This theme is rather cool because it allows the Tiki-philes to break out the blue curaçao and get all funky and festive with the drinks. Moreover, the fans of garden-to-glass can break out this past summer’s blueberry shrub or syrup (or use this past season’s glory via the frozen food aisle of the supermarket as I have done in the off-season). Have a bottle of Hpnotiq and not afraid to admit it? I bet there are some tasty uses for it. Don’t feel like buying a bottle of blue spirit? Well, blue food coloring can save the day! 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 demonstrates your take on the theme of blue, 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 — either the old school original or the funky blue one Andrea designed, plus links back to the Mixology Monday and Ginhound sites. Once the roundup post is put up, updating your post to include a link to that one as well would be appreciated.
  • Let Andrea know about your post before midnight on Monday night, January 26th (Denmark time) by posting a link to your post in the comment section on her post, emailing her at andreadoria56-at-gmail.com, or by tweeting at her via @husejer.

That gives us all two weeks to start thinking of cocktails on the short end of the visible wavelength spectrum or on the short end of joyousness. I am definitely curious to see what refreshing libations you, your curiosity, and your colorful liquor cabinet shelves can come up with!

 

MxMo XCII, December 15, 2014: Apples

With November’s lighter style of drinks, the Shim, under our belts, it’s time to keep on drinking through the Holiday season. Perhaps you will keep it lighter like last month or old and stiff like the days of yore; no need to drink benevolently here, but feel free to drink with malus. Perhaps introducing our host for MxMo this month, well me — Frederic of the CocktailVirgin blog, might make this idea better understood.

This month’s theme slated for December 15th is one that will get you looking at all things orchardy for the theme is “Apples.” Please read Frederic’s full announcement post, but here is a brief description:

Apples have been an American booze staple with Johnny Appleseed as its symbolic hero. John Chapman became that legend by planting apple tree nurseries across the northern Appalachia and the Midwest. He did not choose grafting techniques to reproduce sweet edible ones, but bred them to make sour apples perfect for cider and applejack. Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire proclaimed, “Really, what Johnny Appleseed was doing and the reason he was welcome in every cabin in Ohio and Indiana was he was bringing the gift of alcohol to the frontier. He was our American Dionysus.” Apple products began to enter into the mixed drink literature in the 19th century with the Stone Fence appearing in Jerry Thomas’ Bartender Guide and got quite refined by the end of the century such as the Widow’s Kiss in George Kappeler’s Modern American Drinks. Indeed, apples have found their way into modern cocktails via Calvados, applejack, sparkling and still cider, apple butter, and muddled apple.

While there are plenty of classic and new recipes that use applejack, Calvados, and cider, consider great complementary pairings like apple products with Scotch, agave, Benedictine, and Yellow Chartreuse. Could you substitute champagne for sparkling cider, Calvados for Cognac, Laird’s Bonded for whiskey? Sure, feel free to make a riff on a classic as well. 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 concoct a recipe that features apple as one of the star ingredients whether it be fresh, cooked, fermented, infused, or distilled, 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 in your post the MxMo logo (whether the classic or any of the three apple ones provided here) and a link back to both the Mixology Monday and Cocktail Virgin sites. And once the round-up is posted, a link to that summary post would be appreciated.
  3. Submit a link one of three ways by midnight on December 15th — leave a comment on the announcement post, tweet Frederic at @cocktailvirgin, or send an email to yarm(at)verizon(dot)net.

That gives us two weeks to start making apple butter or scouring the shelves for artisinal applejack producers or anything in between! Light a candle for John Chapman, get out the paring knives and mixing vessels, and start tinkering! Or search the century and a half plus of apple-laden cocktail recipes available to mixologists. Oh so many ways to go about this! I am definitely curious to see what refreshing libations you and your curiosity can come up with…

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!