Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What is Bacanora Part I

I was recently reading Lawrence Downes' article Linda Ronstadt's Borderland from the New York Times dated December 27, 2013. I highly recommend the article. It was quite informative not only on the life of singer Linda Ronstadt but also the manner in which Downes describes various places along the Arizona/Mexico border that he visited with Ms. Ronstadt. One particular paragraph stood out to me:
Linda put her poles aside and lay back on a bench to watch the stars. As Venus sank to the horizon, the rest of us drank shots of home-distilled bacanora, smooth Sonoran mezcal, from a Bud Light bottle, and talked about things I’ve forgotten.
Now this passage got me thinking about what Bacanora is. I decided to do some research.

Apparently, Bacanora was illegal from roughly 1915 to 1992 in both Mexico and the United States. Why? That I have yet to find in my research but what I did find was that Bacanora is a traditional agave spirit hailing from the Mexican state of Sonora. As with the designation of Tequila being official from Jalisco, Cognac being official from the French departments of Charente and Charente-Maritime and Champagne from the Champagne region in France, Bacanora is the official spirit of the Mexican state of Sonora. According to the article What is Bacanora from the website Tequila.net:
On November 6, 2000 the Official Gazette of Mexico published the "General Declaration of Protection to the Name BACANORA". The former declaration appoints Sonora as the only state in which the production of Bacanora is acknowledged.
Just as brandy is the general blanket term used for any cognac not made in the cognac regions of France, Mezcal is a general blanket term used to describe distilled agave spirits not made in Jalisco (Tequila) and Sonora (Bacanora). There are differences in the types of agave used in the manufacturing and distillation of Tequila and Bacanora.

According to the article Tequila, Mezcal, Bacanora & Sotol from The Tequila Factory website:
"Tequila” is a product of the fermentation and distillation of only one type of agve plant, the Agave tequilana Weber, blue variety. It is known as the state drink of Jalisco (Where the city of Tequila is located)...It is known as the state drink of Sonora (Where the city of Bacanora is located). It is made from agave plants that grow wild in Sonora state. Producers just call the plant “yaquiano” agave, but in fact there are at least four different species of agave that are used.
I have yet to get my hands on some Bacanora in order to give you all a first hand account of how it tastes. But I did find a testimonial from the article When in Sonora Drink Bacanora from the Festive Foods website:
So how does it taste? In my opinion, pretty good. Initially it has a sweet overtone that is replaced by a smoky bite and a harsh kick at the end. It lingers in your chest after drinking it and invites you to reflect. While I understand the necessity to look to the cocktail market to make money, I honestly think Bacanora is much better straight up or over ice than in a mixed drink. Bacanora’s character is much more like a fine scotch than Tequila, and as such it is best enjoyed unadulterated. We played around with mixing Bacanora with grapefruit soda and lime juice for a while, but ultimately found that we were messing with an already good thing. It’s unavoidably strong flavor profile makes me think that the road forward for Bacanora will not involve mainstream mixed drinks, but will more closely resemble what other mescals have done in Mexico. In Mexico City, for example, the hip thing to do is going to mezcal bars, where one can sample mescals from all over Mexico. I could see this in Bacanora’s future. It needn’t, and indeed shouldn’t surrender its fierce flavor in order to fit in. This is what happened to many Tequilas, and should be a lesson for Bacanora. Instead of compromising with anyone, I think that Bacanora could be a bold representative of the region of Sonora, something that Sonorans and foreigners alike could drink and appreciate. It really is distinctively Sonoran, and that side of ranching culture in Sonora is something that Bacanora can share with the world.
The DrinkupNY listing for the Cielo Rojo Bacanora Blanco describes it as having:
An inviting nose of agave, fresh herbs and wildflowers leads to a soft, creamy, medium-bodied palate brimming with generous notes of vanilla, cocoa, spice, anise and roasted agave. A subtle spiciness appears on the long finish.
Guess I have a new mission for the upcoming year of 2014. Have any of you ever drank Bacanora? What did you think. Any input would be appreciated. Here's a video I found on YouTube on how Bacanora is made in the traditional fashion:

Thank you all for your comments, suggestions and questions throughout this past year. May you all have a Happy, Prosperous and Wonderful New Year 2014.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pomegranate Infused Liqueur Part II

Since putting together my Pomegranate Infused Liqueur on October 9th, I've put in some more work on the infusion. Roughly six weeks into the infusion I decided to strain out the pomegranate seed casings and the lemon rinds. This left me with an infusion that was a pale brown to a pale purple in color. Into this I decided to add something that I forgot when I was working from the original recipe: Cinnamon sticks.

I added two sticks to the infusion and back up in the cabinet it went. I believe that by forgetting to add the cinnamon sticks I actually did the right thing. Why? I find that in working with cinnamon and infusions, the cinnamon tends to overpower whatever it is that I am trying to infuse. Adding the cinnamon sticks at a later stage will give me the cinnamon flavor I want without it becoming entirely a cinnamon dominant liqueur. Let's fast forward to December 4th. 

At this stage I decided to add some sweetness to the infusion by adding a simple syrup with a 2 to 1 ratio of splenda to water (1.5 cups of splenda to 3/4 cup of water). Back in the cabinet it went for another week. 

Here we are on December 11th and I've decided that it is time to strain out the infusion. I use a coffee filter to do the straining/filtering of the infusion. Now this is a somewhat painstaking way for filtering an infusion. The liqueur just drips out very slowly into the mason jar as you can see in the image on the right. But I'm in no rush. As the old man tells Al of Al's Toy Barn in Toy Story 2 when fixing the damaged Woody: You can't rush art. Who am I to argue with him. ;) 

While this infusion filters and drips, I'll finish this off in the next post along with a drink or two that I think would taste amazing with this liqueur. 

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Le Cognac De Napoleon

The historian in me loves a good back story. I recently was looking at the bottles that we have on our back bar at The Bleecker Street Bar (56 Bleecker Street 212-334-0244) and a line of text on the bottle of Courvoisier caught my eye. Four words under the "Courvoisier" name stood out to me: Le Cognac De Napoleon. At first I thought that well that's a bold statement to make by a distiller. That this particular brand of Cognac was the favorite one of Napoleon Bonaparte was something that took a bit of chutzpah to say. Whether hyperbole or not, it peaked my interested. To start I decided to look into it a bit by going directly to the source.

The Courvoisier heritage section of their website describes its connection with Napoleon in the following manner:
With the fires of the French Revolution still smouldering, and a country in recovery from the greatest and bloodiest political upheaval in its history, France’s first Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, took the Imperial throne. In this uncertain climate, Emmanuel Courvoisier, our founder, and Louis Gallois, the mayor of Bercy, decided to open a wine and spirit company on the outskirts of Paris, just north of the river Seine. Bercy was the perfect location for their business. It was close to the river for easy transport, already had a thriving wine trade and sat just outside the thick Paris city walls, so they didn’t have to pay taxes.

Louis Gallois and Emmanuel Courvoisier’s reputation grew quickly amongst brandy connoisseurs, so much so that their warehouses in Bercy were honored with a visit from the Emperor himself, Napoleon Bonaparte. Perhaps inspired by what he tasted, he started giving a ration of cognac to troops in his artillery companies to lift their morale during the ongoing Napoleonic Wars, saying, “while you are on the march, have issued to your forces, as much as may be possible, wine in the evening and cognac in the morning.”

After his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon was exiled to the remote island of St Helena, in the wild Atlantic Ocean, halfway between Africa and South America. Legend has it that he chose several casks of cognac as his one granted item of luxury, a treat much appreciated by the English officers on board HMS Northumberland during their 67-day voyage. They named it ‘The Brandy of Napoleon’.
For more information to the transport of Napoleon onboard the HMS Northumberland (sans Cognac reference), click on the following link: NAPOLEON AND SAINT HELENA, 1815-1816 by Morriss Roger, lecturer in Maritme History at the Centre For Maritime History, University of Exeter (UK)  from the Napoleon.org website.

And that seems to be about all I could find concerning Napoleon and Courvoisier. I haven't been able to find anything to prove or disprove this story. I guess I need to do some more snooping around. Until I find out more information, I leave you with a series of ads by Courvoisier that ranges from the 1960's to the 1980's highlighting the connection between Napoleon and Courvoisier.

Bon Potable et Au Revoir,
Sisco Vanilla aka Francois Vanille

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Bit of Personal Reflection

Some of you have noticed that my activity on this blog page has slowed down somewhat. Without going into too much personal information, family health issues and work stress have caused me to curtail my drinking activities. Momma-San has some health issues concerning her liver and was told by the liver specialist that until her situation is resolved, she shouldn't do anything that would cause harm to her liver...including consuming alcohol. Based on that, I don't feel that its right to go out on my drinking escapades (which I sometimes do with Momma-San) and consuming cocktails while she can't. In a form of solidarity, I'm curtailing my drinking.

Another reason for my pulling back on the drinks is that work has been super stressful as of late. Keeping that in mind, it would be easy to just hide in the bottle to block out this and any issue. That's something that I can't do. At the age of 41, it is very hard to bounce back after a night of drinking. The hangovers last an entire day. And that's the mild hangovers. I just can't do it anymore. Add to that the pockets of black moments that I seem to have more and more after a few shots. What are black moments you may ask?

I find that I've had nights that I just don't have a clear timeline of events. That's kind of scary don't you think? I owe a responsibility first and foremost to my family. Its one thing to have a few drinks, another thing is to be irresponsible in doing so. I potentially could be putting myself in hazardous situations in those moments that I don't remember. I have to be smarter than that. Keeping that in mind and the aforementioned situation with Momma-San in mind, I've decided to scale back on the activites of my Sisco Vanilla persona. That doesn't mean that I won't be doing any writing. I just have to shift the focus from just drinking to other areas. I will still be doing the infusions. So don't fret folks, I still have a few things up my sleeve that I will be rolling out in the near future.

I thank you all for your understanding and support. I look forward to more adventures with you all in the future.

Sisco Vanilla

Friday, November 22, 2013

1964 Saketini at Benihana

After our cocktail escapades at Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar and Grill, Momma-San and I headed over to Benihana's for dinner. Since they were so kind to send me a $30-dollar coupon for my birthday (Domo Arrigato Benihana) we decided to cash it in. Unlike the last time we went to Benihana, the place was packed to the gills with other people celebrating birthdays. So we had to forgo the show at the Hibachi grill and just sat off in the lounge area. Which was fine since we had already experienced it once before. We could get the same service in the lounge area without a major wait. While we waited to order, I decided to peruse the cocktail list and decided to keep with the decidedly Asian flavor of the evening.

Now my experience with Sake is limited to the long forgotten Bleecker Street Bar holiday party at Bond Street a few years ago. Forgotten because I can't remember what and how much we drank that night. Given that, my slate in terms of Sake is clean and decided to order one of Benihana's featured cocktails: The 1964 Saketini. Here is how it is described in the menu:

To honor the year Benihana was founded and where the Saketini was born. Grey Goose shaken with Benihana Sake and fresh cucumber.

Before I go into the cocktail, I wanted to touch on what Sake is. According to listing for Sake on the Encyclopædia Britannica website:
Sake, also spelled saki,  Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. Sake is light in colour, is noncarbonated, has a sweet flavour, and contains up to 18 percent alcohol...The manufacture of sake began sometime after the introduction of wet rice cultivation in Japan in the 3rd century bc. The first written record referring to sake dates from the 3rd century ad, and the first reference to its manufacture dates from the 8th century. In ancient Japan sake was produced primarily by the imperial court and by large temples and shrines, but from the early 12th century the general population began to manufacture it. By the early 16th century the modern process for making sake had been nearly perfected. Sake is the drink of the kami (gods) of Shintō, the indigenous Japanese religion.
For more information on the different grades of sake, refer to John Gauntner's Sake-World listing for the different grades of sake with definitions and reviews.

The cocktail was very interesting. First I wouldn't have been able to tell that there was any cucumber flavor to it. Cucumber tends to have a distinctive flavor, especially in cocktails that was not found in this drink. Second, it had the consistency of a Vodka martini with extra dry vermouth or "Wet to Very Wet". It tasted like it had a fair amount of dry vermouth in it. I'm not sure if the sake has the same kind of flavor profile that a fair dry vermouth would tend to have when mixed with a spirit like vodka. It was definitely the kind of cocktail that I needed right before dinner. It had a nice way of cleansing the palate. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

For an interesting article on Sake, check out An Intro to Sake by David Wondrich from Esquire Magazine's website dated October 13, 2011.

For the next post, I highlight the other two cocktails I decided to try during and after dinner: The Strawberry Saketini and the Emperor's Bellini.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Two Yuzu Cocktails at Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar and Grill

To continue with the theme of my last post The Hummingbird at Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar and Grill, my friend Alberto made me a couple of cocktails that contained Yuzu. Since I had never had Yuzu in any way, shape or form I was curious. But what's Yuzu you may ask?

According to the article Yuzu: The Many Wonders of Japanese Citrus by Eric Gower dated October 9, 2011 from the SFGate.com food section website:
It is usually translated as "Japanese citron," but that doesn't tell us much. It is about the size of a tangerine, and has a yellow-orange rind.

The mature fruit is seedy, and produces little juice, but is highly prized for its fragrant zest, which seems to combine the best flavors of Meyer lemon, mandarin orange and grapefruit. The unripe fruit, with its green rind, does provide some juice, which is exceedingly sour yet delicious.
Another of the ingredients used in one of the cocktails was Shochu. What is Shochu?

According to the listing for Shochu and Awarami from the website John Gauntner's Sake-World:
Shochu is Japan's other indigenous alcoholic beverage, but unlike sake, shochu is distilled. It is also made from one of several raw materials. The alcoholic content is usually 25%, although sometimes it can be as high as 42% or more

Like almost all such beverages throughout the world, shochu developed as it did as an expression of region, especially climate, cuisine and available raw materials. Perhaps the factor most affecting the development of shochu is the weather. The island of Kyushu and the western part of  the island of Honshu are significantly warmer than the rest of Japan.

Brewing sake calls for relatively lower temperatures, but shochu can be distilled in these warmer regions. Also, the higher alcohol content and drier feel is more appealing to many in milder climates.    

Unlike many other beverages, shochu is made from one of several raw materials. These include sweet potato, and shochu made from these is called "imo-jochu." Other materials commonly used include from rice, soba (buckwheat), and barley. There is even one island where there a few places that make shochu from brown sugar. It can also be made from more obscure things like chestnuts and other grains.  

And, each of these raw materials gives a very, very distinct flavor and aroma profile to the final sake. These profiles run the gamut from smooth and light (rice) to peaty, earthy and strong (potato). Indeed, each of these raw materials lends a unique flavor in much the same way that the peat and barley of each region in Scotland determine the character of the final scotch whiskey.
Now that we have gotten the explanation of the two more obscure ingredients, here is the first cocktail:
The Yuzu Cocktail
St. Germain
The cocktail came in an old fashioned/rocks glass on the rocks. I found it to be very light and semi sweet with a hidden smokiness and kick on the aftertaste. It was quite pleasurable.

Yuzu Cocktall (left) Yuzu Margarita (right)
The second cocktail was a take on the Margarita using Yuzu. Here is the Yuzu Margarita
The Yuzu Margarita
Siembra Azul Tequila Reposado
Homemade Honey Syrup
This one, served up in a coupe glass was an interesting take on a Margarita. The Yuzu replaced citrus component of the sour mix/lime and the honey syrup replaced the sweetness from the Triple Sec. I can't say that I've ever heard about the Siembra Azul Tequila Reposado. I need to keep an eye out for it for a future blogpost. I have to say that it was a nice cocktail.

What I like about these cocktails and the aforementioned Hummingbird is that they are made with just three simple ingredients. Nothing too fancy or flash. Kudos to Blue Ribbon for keeping it simple and kudos to Alberto for the amazing cocktails. I appreciate the love. :)

Next stop after Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar and Grill was Benihana's. Hey, I had a $30 dollar coupon for my birthday. Couldn't let that go to waste. Right?

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Hummingbird at Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar and Grill

I recently went to visit my friend Alberto who works Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill, located in the 6 Columbus Hotel at Columbus Circle for a few pre-dinner cocktails with Momma-San. Now Alberto and I go way back to our High School days so I've been meaning to go see him at the rooftop bar of the Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill. I was definitely not disappointed with the selection of cocktails that I had.

I left the choice of cocktails entirely up to him and along with the highly recommended pork belly appetizer (Thanks Julia), I was served a cocktail by the name of the Hummingbird. It was a simple cocktail made up of three ingredients: Avinyo Cava, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and Club soda with a garnish of the Yamamomo fruit.

Cava is a sparkling wine that comes from Spain and the Avinyo Cava brand describes itself as being as such:
On the front of every bottle of Cava Avinyó Brut Reserva is a Catalan inscription that translates: “from the must of the flower and with the rigor of a work well crafted.” This phrase sums up the Nadal family’s winemaking philosophy with their focus on producing the highest quality of wine through adherence to the natural fruit and through hard work and great delicacy in the winemaking process. After all, if you’re making wine for your family, you want to make sure it’s as good as it can be. Although the estate dates back to the sixteenth century, the winery was founded over 50 years ago when Joan Esteve Nadal planted Parellada, Xarello, and Macabeo to make sparkling wine for his family. Joan’s children now run the winery but they stick to their father’s notion of using pure free-run juice and delicate care in crafting this family wine. Cava Avinyó Brut Reserva is aged for 18 to 22 months on the lees and then disgorged right before it leaves the winery to ensure the freshest Cava available reaches you.
The Yamamomo is a Japanese fruit which is also known as the Japanese Mountain Peach. It is the size of a raspberry or a small strawberry. The fruit was quite tasty with a little tartness to round the sweetness. For more information on the Yamamomo, read the Shikigami blogpage for the Yamamomo.

The cocktail itself is quite the sight to see and it was nice and light with a sweet taste from the St. Germain and the Cava. I like the effervescent feel this cocktail has. It definitely adheres to the "less is more" philosophy. It was a nice way to start the evening.

I have a couple of more cocktails from Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill that I need to write about. Keep an eye out for them.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Friday, November 15, 2013

60's Era Cold War Cocktails A-La Mad Men Part I

Personal life, work drama and the end of the year Baseball awards have taken up a chunk of my time lately (read my other blog Baseball Sisco Kid Style to keep up with the Baseball world) so while I work on a number of posts for this page, I just wanted to keep things fresh with a couple of 1960's Cold War era inspired cocktails. Why did I choose to highlight the two cocktails I picked? Well, we recently had the 51st anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis aka the October Crisis from October 14 to October 28, 1962 and looming on the calendar on November 22, 1962 is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Plus I recently picked up a cocktail book which mentions these drinks and decided to make a few.

I had recently taken out of the library The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlini. As expected, the book is full of classic cocktails such as the Manhattan, the Martini, the Sidecar and the Vodka Gimlet to name a few. But one particular chapter piqued my interest. In this chapter the authors touch upon the underlying topic of the "bomb" that not only was felt through Mad Men but also in the real world of the 1950's and 1960's. The Cuban Missile Crisis is touched upon in Season 2 Episode 13 (which I have yet to get to).

So the authors talk about how bartenders in that era had fun in making up cocktails that reflected the atomic and nuclear fears of the day. The B-52 (Kahlua, Bailey's Irish Cream and Grand Marnier. Layered) is probably the one cocktail that they list that has stood the test of time and is still ordered today. Two of the other four on the list were able to be made by me at work since I had the available ingredients. Let's dive in and see what they are

The Atomic Fireball
For those of you living under a rock, Fireball Cinnamon Whisky is currently on fire in bars across the country (sorry for the pun folks, just having a little fun). But what most people don't know that this version of Fireball is a reincarnation of an older version of cinnamon whisky that was known as Dr. McGillicuddy's Fireball Canadian Whisky. Now Fireball is not a very strong whisky. It is only 33% Alc/66 Proof but it is somewhat syrupy and very sweet with a strong cinnamon taste. Sam at the bar has to take a couple of Tums anti-acid pills after a few Fireball shots. The cocktail calls for it to be made with the Cinnamon whiskey, rum and Grenadine. Here is how I decided to make it:
The Atomic Fireball
1oz of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky
1oz Bacardi Light Rum

In a shaker with ice, shake up the Fireball Cinnamon Whisky and the Bacardi Light Rum. Pour into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Using the back of a bar spoon, lightly drizzle the Grenadine over the cocktail.
I find that the rum cuts the sweetness of the cinnamon whisky leaving just the kick at the back of your mouth of the cinnamon. Its actually quite the pleasurable cocktail. As you get to the bottom of the cocktail, the drink gets sweeter due to the Grenadine slowly sinking to the bottom. You can either keep the gradual sweetness as is or you can stir the cocktail to better mix the Grenadine into the cocktail.

The Nuclear Cocktail
The authors specify that this is a shot but I decided to make this on the rocks. Keep in mind folks, that tastes have changed over time so you might find this cocktail, as I made it, to be too strong in terms of the Peppermint flavor. The cocktail contains Peppermint Schnapps, Vodka and Grand Marnier. As with the last cocktail, the author does not specify how many ounces of each spirit and liqueur to use so I just made it up as I went along. Here is the recipe I used:
The Nuclear Cocktail
1oz Peppermint Schnapps
1oz Stolichnaya Vodka
1oz Grand Marnier

In a shaker with ice, shake up the Peppermint Schnapps, Stolichnaya Vodka and Grand Marnier. Serve in two ice filled rocks glasses.
Pete thought it was too strong on the Peppermint though he did say it seemed mellow out a bit after sitting for a few minutes. I also found that it was too strong. The Peppermint flavor just overpowers the other ingredients. You can't tell that there is Grand Marnier in this cocktail. The Orange flavor is un-detectable. I would recommend to halve the amount of Peppermint Schnapps used to create a more balanced drink and/or shot for today's palate. Who knows, maybe this is how they liked to drink it back in the 1960's.

If you ever want to relieve the intensity of the impending end via the bomb, make up a few of these, and act like Bert the Turtle, Drop and Cover and kiss your butt goodbye. ;)

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What is Sabra Liqueur

In the same vein of my prior posts on the Peanut Lolita and Cherry Kijafa, I was recently looking for classic liquor ads when I came across the following ad for Sabra Liqueurs. Now I vaguely remembered that Marvel Comics has a character called Sabra who is an Israeli super spy. I decided to check and see if this liqueur was Israeli in origin.

Since this is a somewhat obscure liqueur, I decided to look for sources at the Wikipedia pages for Sabra Liqueurs. One of the sources linked to the article Liqueur rebranding "Sabra" and professional wine exhibition which was written in Hebrew. Thank goodness for modern technology, I was able to read the information in the article through the Google Translate app. Here is what the article states about Sabra Liqueur (as translated from Hebrew by Google Translate):
Sabra liqueur - rebranding. In the sixties, in fact in 1963, it was Edgar Bronfman comes with the need to generate visited Israel be identified with Israel, but will run successfully with liqueurs and spirits abroad. Bronfman controlled the liquor in one of the largest - Seagram - produced quite a few international alcohol brands familiar and important.
The liqueur was the brainchild of Edgar Bronfman Sr., of Seagrams fame to create a liqueur that was Israeli in essence, name and look. So what is the liqueur made of?

According to the Sabra Liqueur listing on the Woodland Hills Wine Company website:
Sabra chocolate orange liqueur is perhaps the most famous liqueur produced in Israel. The primary flavor of Sabra is a rich, bittersweetish (sic) chocolate. The dense chocolate is cut with the sweet and sour taste of Jaffa oranges. This citrus addition gives Sabra an extra kick that chocolate doesn't have. The Sabra bottle is reminiscent of a genie bottle in shape. Slightly chilling Sabra liqueur strengthens the chocolate feel, while slightly warming it brings out the citrus tones.
In addition, the Cocktails of the World website describes it as so:
Sabra Chocolate Orange Liquor: It is a liquor that combines chocolate, and zest of orange peel. The chocolate flavor is from a percolation of neutral spirit through ground roasted cocoa beans to which natural orange flavor is added. This liquor is presented in a geenie (sic) like bottle based on a 2,000 year old Phoenician wine flask found in a Tel Aviv museum. It is great as a mixer or as an after meal liquor.
The original blend of chocolate and orange came in a 750 ml bottle which was imported from Israel and it was Kosher for Passover at Alc. 30% by vol./60 Proof. There is also the Sabra Coffee Liqueur which is also Kosher for Passover at Alc. 30% by vol./60 Proof. The Sabra Coffee Liquor is described by the Cocktails of the World website as such:
Sabra Coffee Liquor: It is a silky, smooth, with a toasty coffee flavor and hints of vanilla liquor, medium bodied and well balanced. It is made by a percolation of neutral spirit through ground coffee beans
The Wikipedia listing also claims that in 2006 an Orange Brandy was launched within the Sabra line but I have yet to find anything pertinent on it. Have any of you out there ever have either of the blends? What did you think? I guess I'll have to add Sabra to the list of the liquor/liqueurs that I need to keep an eye open for.

I have a whole slew of cocktails and liquors that I have in the pipe to write about from the classic Martinez, to minimalist Japanese influenced cocktails to the "brown vodka" which is known to the rest of us as Canadian Club Whisky. As I find myself with a little time, they'll be posted.

Until Then Happy Drinking
Sisco Vanilla

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

You Were Perfectly Fine by Dorothy Parker

Since I last profiled the cocktail The Dorothy Parker-Collins, I decided to post this short story by Dorothy Parker entitled You Were Perfectly Fine (which was published in the New Yorker February 23, 1929). In the story, the protagonist wakes up after a night of drinking with a hangover and is oblivious of what he did during the drinking festivities. His companion is kind enough to highlight the evening while trying to reassure him that it wasn't as bad as he thinks it was. Or so it seems. 

What I find interesting is that this is was published during the era of Prohibition though the story could have been set during any other time but Prohibition. Knowing Dorothy Parker and the company she kept, this could have happened the month before the story was published. 

No matter. It is funny to come to the realization that we have all had nights like these in the past.
The pale young man eased himself carefully into the low chair, and rolled his head to the side, so that the cool chintz comforted his cheek and temple. “Oh, dear,” he said.”Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear. Oh.”

The clear-eyed girl, sitting light and erect on the couch, smiled brightly at him.

“Not feeling so well today?” she said.

“Oh, I’m great,” he said.”Corking, I am. Know what time I got up? Four o’clock this afternoon, sharp. I kept trying to make it, and every time I took my head off the pillow, it would roll under the bed. This isn't my head I've got on now. I think this is something that used to belong to Walt Whitman. Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear.”

“Do you think maybe a drink would make you feel better?” she said.

“The hair of the mastiff that bit me?” he said.”Oh, no, thank you. Please never speak of anything like that again. I’m through. I’m all, all through. Look at that hand; steady as a humming-bird. Tell me, was I very terrible last night?”

“Oh, goodness,” she said, “everybody was feeling pretty high. You were all right.”

“Yeah,” he said.”I must have been dandy. Is everybody sore at me?”

“Good heavens, no,” she said.”Everybody thought you were terribly funny. Of course, Jim Pierson was a little stuffy, there, for a minute at dinner. But people sort of held him back in his chair, and got him calmed down. I don’t think anybody at the other tables noticed it at all. Hardly anybody.”

“He was going to sock me?” he said.”Oh, Lord. What did I do to him?”

“Why, you didn't do a thing,” she said.”You were perfectly fine. But you know how silly Jim gets, when he thinks anybody is making too much fuss over Elinor.”

“Was I making a pass at Elinor?” he said, “Did I do that?”

“Of course you didn't.” she said.”You were only fooling that’s all. She thought you were awfully amusing. She was having a marvelous time. She only got a little tiny bit annoyed just once, when you poured the clam-juice down her back.”

“My God,” he said.”Clam-juice down that back. And every vertebra a little Cabot. Dear God. What’ll I ever do?”

“Oh, she’ll be all right,” she said.”Just send her some flowers, or something. Don’t worry about it. It isn't anything.”

“No I won’t worry,” he said.”I haven’t got a care in the world. I’m sitting pretty. Oh, dear, oh, dear. Did I do any other fascinating tricks at dinner?”

“You were fine,” she said.”Don’t be so foolish about it. Everybody was crazy about you. The maître d’hôtel was a little worried because you wouldn't stop singing, but he really didn't mind. All he said was, he was afraid they’d close the place again, if there was so much noise. But he didn't care a bit, himself. I think he loved seeing you have such a good time. Oh, you were just singing away, there, for about an hour. It wasn't so terribly loud, at all.”

“So I sang,” he said.”That must have been a treat. I sang.”

“Don’t you remember?” she said.”You just sang one song after another. Everybody in the place was listening. They loved it. Only you kept insisting that you wanted to sing some song about some kind of fusiliers or other, and everybody kept shushing you, and you’d keep trying to start it again. You were wonderful. We were all trying to make you stop singing for a minute, and eat something, but you wouldn't hear of it. My, you were funny.”

“Didn't I eat any dinner?” he said.

“Oh, not a thing,” she said.”Every time the waiter would offer you something, you’d give it right back to him, because you said that he was your long-lost brother, changed in the cradle by a gypsy band, and that everything you had was his. You had him simply roaring at you.”

“I bet I did,” he said, “I bet I was comical. Society’s Pet, I must have been. And what happened then, after my overwhelming success with the waiter?”

“Why, nothing much,” she said.”You took a sort of dislike to some old man with white hair, sitting across the room, because you didn't like his necktie and you wanted to tell him about it. But we got you out, before he got really mad.”

“Oh, we got out,” he said.”Did I walk?”

“Walk! Of course you did,” she said.”You were absolutely all right. There was that nasty stretch of ice on the sidewalk, and you did sit down awfully hard, you poor dear. But good heavens, that might have happened to anybody.”

“Oh, sure,” he said.”Louisa Alcott or anybody. So I fell down on sidewalk. That would explain what’s the matter with my—Yes. I see. And then what, if you don’t mind?”

“Ah, now, Peter!” she said.”You can’t sit there and say you don’t remember what happened after that! I did think that maybe you were a little tight at dinner—oh, you were perfectly all right, and all that, but I did know you were feeling pretty gay. But you were so serious, from the time you fell down—I never knew you to be that way. Don’t you know how you told me I had never seen your real self before? Oh, Peter, I just couldn't bear it, if you didn't remember that lovely long ride we took together in the taxi! Please, you do remember that, don’t you? I think it would simply kill me, if you didn't.”

“Oh, yes,” he said.”Riding in the taxi. Oh, yes, sure. Pretty long ride, hmm?”

“Round and round and round the park,” she said.”Oh, and the trees were shining so in the moonlight. And you said you never knew before that you really had a soul.”

“Yes,” he said.”I said that. That was me.”

“You said such lovely, lovely things,” she said.”And I’d never known, all this time, how you had been feeling about me, and I’d never dared to let you see how I felt about you. And then last night—oh, Peter dear, think that taxi ride was the most important thing that ever happened to us in our lives.”

“Yes,” he said.”I guess it must have been.”

“And we’re going to be so happy,” she said.”Oh, I just want to tell everybody! But I don’t know—I think maybe it would be sweeter to keep it all to ourselves.”

“I think it would be,” he said.

“Isn't it lovely?” she said.

“Yes,” he said.”Great.”

“Lovely!” she said.

“Look here,” he said, “do you mind if I have a drink? I mean, just medicinally, you know. I’m off the stuff for life, so help me. But I think I feel a collapse coming on.”

“Oh, I think it would do you good,” she said.”You poor boy, it’s a shame you feel so awful. I’ll go make you a whisky and soda.”

“Honestly,” he said, “I don’t see how you could ever want to speak to me again, after I made such a fool of myself, last night. I think I’d better go join a monastery in Tibet.”

“You crazy idiot!” she said.”As if I could ever let you go away now! Stop talking like that. You were perfectly fine.”
She jumped up from the couch, kissed him quickly on the forehead, and ran out of the room. The pale young man looked after her and shook his head long and slowly, then dropped it in his damp and trembling hands.

“Oh, dear,” he said.”Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear.”
You Were Perfectly Fine by Dorothy Parker from The New Yorker February 23, 1929 

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dorothy Parker-Collins

I recently saw a bartender (who shall remain nameless and for the record they weren't the first I saw make it this way) make a Tom Collins in a very different way than I am used to. In his cocktail, they made the Collins with Sprite and a little Sour Mix instead of Fresh Lemon, simple syrup and soda water. Now this is not the way I like to make a Tom Collins. I go into the possible origins of a Tom Collins and how it is made in my post about Mr. John Collins from July 17, 2012.

Why use those ingredients instead of the fresh ones? Time. I can see if a bar is three deep making a cocktail like a Collins can take a few extra seconds to squeeze the lemons but to be honest, making it with Sprite and Sour is not doing the cocktail (or customer) justice. To the uneducated drinker, they wouldn't know any better but I would think that to someone who has had a few Collins in their day it would be a shoddy cocktail. Rest assured I wouldn't go that route. Fresh for me when it comes to a Tom Collins is my motto.

For my version, I decided to do my best Minister of the Peace impersonation and marry two beautiful people: Mr. Tom Collins and Ms. Dorothy Parker. Who is Dorothy Parker you might ask?

Dorothy Parker (August 22, 1893 – June 7, 1967) was a famous author, poet, screenwriter and playwright who was quoted as saying “I like to have a martini, Two at the very most. After three I'm under the table, after four I'm under my host." (which can be found in her anthology The Collected Dorothy Parker). Parker was a founding member of the famed Algonquin Round Table which met daily for lunch at the Algonquin Hotel, 59 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036.

Starting in 1919, the round table was made up of writers, columnists, comedians, actors and critics. Here is how the Algonquin Round Table was described on the American Masters page for the Algonquin Round Table from PBS.org:
The period that followed the end of World War I was one of gaiety and optimism, and it sparked a new era of creativity in American culture. Surely one of the most profound — and outrageous — influences on the times was the group of a dozen or so tastemakers who lunched together at New York City’s Algonquin Hotel. For more than a decade they met daily and came to be known as the Algonquin Round Table. With members such as writers Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross (founder of THE NEW YORKER) and Robert Benchley; columnists Franklin Pierce Adams and Heywood Broun, and Broun’s wife Ruth Hale; critic Alexander Woollcott; comedian Harpo Marx; and playwrights George S. Kaufman, Marc Connelly, Edna Ferber, and Robert Sherwood, the Round Table embodied an era and changed forever the face of American humor.
Parker, with Algonquin Round Table members and guests (l–r) Art Samuels (editor of Harper's Bazaar and, briefly, The New Yorker), Charles MacArthur, Harpo Marx, and Alexander Woollcott
It all began with an afternoon roast of the NEW YORK TIMES drama critic, Alexander Wollcott. A number of writers met up at the Algonquin Hotel on 44th street and had such a good time that the event was repeated the next day, and the day after that, until the lunch table at the Algonquin was established as a ritual. The core group of friends was sometimes joined by others who attended for short periods or drifted about the periphery of the group, including such notables as actress Tallulah Bankhead and playwright Noel Coward. The Round Table was made up of people with a shared admiration for each other’s work. Outspoken and outrageous, they would often quote each other freely in their daily columns.
When the Round Table broke up, Parker went to Hollywood and became a successful screenwriter. Her caustic tongue and wit was her trademark up to the date of her death of June 7, 1967. The New York Distilling Company decided to name their new American Style Gin after her since she was "An iconic enthusiast of gin and an unconventional woman, no one could have been a more interesting drinking companion".

For this cocktail, I decided to wed both Tom Collins and Dorothy Parker into the following libation:
Dorothy Parker-Collins
2oz Dorothy Parker Gin
1oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1 packet of Splenda/sugar or 1 tsp of Simple Syrup
Club Soda to top
Cherry Garnish

Add a little water to the Splenda/sugar and give a quick shake to dissolve (or the simple syrup if you have some handy). Add lemon juice, half a glass of ice and Dorothy Gin and Shake well. Add ice leaving glass 3/4 full and top with soda water. Give a quick stir and add a cherry.
I like how the properties of the Dorothy Parker Gin works with this cocktail. The New York Distilling Company describes it as being "a blend of traditional and contemporary botanicals including juniper and elderberries, citrus, cinnamon, and hibiscus". I find it to be a lighter gin than some of your classic juniper rich gins like Bombay Sapphire. It was a very light and refreshing cocktail. The kind of cocktail you'd have on a hot summer day or when you just want to take it easy while out drinking.

It is a shame that the Dorothy Parker Gin doesn't do as well as I think it chould at the bar. I think that its an issue of it not being very well known by the general populace. I try to shed a light on it when someone orders a gin based cocktail. Most people are surprised at how tasty it is. It certainly ranks as one of my favorite gins.

Have it as I made it and if you see someone making it with Sprite and a Sour say "No thanks".

For my next entry, I wanted to post a short story of Dorothy Parker's that was published in the New Yorker on February 23, 1929 entitled You Were Perfectly Fine which is about a man's waking up with a hangover and asking his companion about what he did the night before and her attempts to reassure him that he wasn't behaving that badly.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Midnight Masquerade

I love it how my friends love to give me cocktail recipes that they seem to find in magazines and online. This time Pete came across the following ad for Sauza Hornitos Plata, which seems to be making a push for Halloween cocktails.

Of the three, we chose to make the Midnight Masquerade. Here is the recipe for it:
Midnight Masquerade
1.5 parts of Hornitos Plata Tequila
0.5 part of Dry Vermouth
0.5 part of Sweet Vermouth
0.5 part of Campari
1 dash of Angostura Bitters

Stir all ingredients in an ice filled shaker. Strain into a fresh glass with ice. Add a lemon twist.
At first taste the Campari gives me a Kung fu kick straight to the mouth. Normally I like the bitter taste Campari gives my tastes buds but man this little bit i\of Campari pushed all the other ingredients out of the way into the background. You couldn't even tell that there was any Tequila in this cocktail. Then something interesting happened.

As the drink sat for a few minutes and mellowed, the Campari seemed to recede into the background and the cocktail took a bit of a dry texture with the Tequila flavor coming out to the forefront. I guess this is where the Masquerade part comes in. Now the only difference between this drink and the original recipe is that we didn't have any Hornitos Plata, so we used the Hornitos Reposado instead.

If you like cocktails that seem to have different flavors profiles at different times while you drink it, then I say give this one a try.

For my next post, I highlight my attempts to show how not to make an improper Tom Collins while marrying said Mr. Collins with the gin named after the literary diva Dorothy Parker called the Dorothy Parker-Collins.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Asian Pear Vodka Infusion

In keeping with the infusion portion of this blog, I decided to follow through on my ideas to make a pear flavored vodka. I decided that I wanted to use Asian pears in the infusion. What I didn't realize that Asian pears are both huge and expensive. Momma-San picked up a half dozen pears at $2.89 a pound at the Fairway near her job. So at nearly $18 dollars, this would be my most expensive infusion.

According to the article What Are the Benefits of Asian Pears? on the Healthy Eating blogpage, Asian pears have a texture similar to apples and are rich with fiber, potassium, Vitamins C and K and copper. So we'll be getting out vitamins in while getting our drink on? Well, that might be stretching things a bit. But the Asian pear is a very sweet and juicy fruit that I hope will transfer its properties to the vodka.

I took two of the pears and with my trusty (and dangerous) mandolin slicer cut the pears into thin slices. I actually decided to use one and a half pears. What happened to the other half? Well I ate it. I can see where the similarities to apples comes from. The Asian pear is actually quite dense, very sweet and juicy. I placed the pear slices in the jar and muddled them slightly with a muddler to have their juices released.

After muddling the pears, I added 750 ml worth of vodka to the jar, gave it a good shake and put it away in the dark kitchen cabinet with the Pomegranate Infused Liqueur I'm working on.

I'll come back to the Asian Pear Vodka infusion in a few days when I see some changes. In my next post, I want to highlight a cocktail that Pete found in a Sauza Hornitos advertisement called the Midnight Masquerade.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Cocktail List at the Copacabana 1943

For my Fall and Winter 2013 reading/research project I'm going to try and read up on some of the classic New York City café society bars, saloon, night clubs and lounges that helped make New York City a center of entertainment during the early part of the 20th century. I'm also planning to do some cross-promoting post with this blog and my two other blogs BaseballSisco and NYCHistory. This is hopefully the first of the many posts that I am able to bring you concerning some classic and mostly long gone places of the nightlife of New York City's past.

I recently finished reading The Copa: Jules Podell and the Hottest Little Club North of Havana by Mickey Podell-Raber with Charles Pignone. The author is the daughter of longtime Copacabana proprietor Jules Podell and the book is part family biography and part history of the nightclub. The book is a quick and easy read, full of both family pictures and pictures at the club with various celebrities and dignitaries. I recommend it.

I also recently came across the New York Public Library's NYPL Labs' What's on the menu? database. What kind of database is this you might ask yourselves? Here is how it is described on their webpage:
With approximately 45,000 menus dating from the 1840s to the present, The New York Public Library’s restaurant menu collection is one of the largest in the world, used by historians, chefs, novelists and everyday food enthusiasts. 
The collection does not only focus on New York City restaurants but from restaurants from all over the world. It is an amazing database to lose a few hours on if you find that you have the time to spare (which we all know we don't have but lose it anyway). Back to the Copa.

On the database I found a menu for what was described as Monte Proser's Copacabana dated 1943. On the last page of the menu, there was the information that I was looking for: THE BOOZE. Here is what the last page looked like:

Courtesy of the NYPL Labs What's on the Menu Database
What I find the most interesting about this menu is how drinking tastes differed in the 1940's as opposed to today. First thing that catches my eye is that there is no mention of Vodka on the menu. Vodka popularity in the States didn't start until the 1950's and 1960's. I also see that Gins aren't mentioned on the menu though I would assume since the Tom Collins cocktail is listed at the top of the "Tall Drinks" category, that gin was used in not only a Collins but also in a variety of other cocktails.

What stands out to me are the wide selection of Cognacs, Scotches, Rye and Bourbons and especially the Liqueurs. Many of those liqueurs are used today for colors or flavors and in many cases just sit on the shelves gathering dust (depending on the bar). I'm guessing that something like the flavored Brandies on the list (Apricot, Blackberry, Cherry and Peach) were served to someone who wanted something strong but didn't want to drink something that tasted strong. I guess that this is not anything different that the new flavored Bourbons and Whiskies that seem to be popping up everywhere these days.

Give the menu a look both here and on the menu page on the NYPL page. Also check out my cross post on the Copa from my Baseball Blog Baseball Sisco Kid Style. In The New York Yankees Brawl at the Copa 1957, I focus on the brawl that occurred at Copa on May 15, 1957 between some patrons and members of the World Champion New York Yankees. Enjoy.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Tootsie Roll Cocktail

Last night Pete decided to debut a new cocktail in his arsenal of libations. He pulled the Kahlua from the shelf and in a glass full of ice, he poured it almost half way with a slightly larger portion of orange juice. He gave it a nice shake and said "This is a cocktail from the 1950's called the Tootsie Roll". Now I looked at this cocktail rather skeptically. Somehow the thought of Kahlua (which is a Rum and Tequila based Coffee Liqueur) mixed with orange juice doesn't jive.

Now for those of you living under a rock, Tootsie Rolls are an old school American chocolate candy chew that can trace its history back to 1896 to the small New York City candy shop of Leo Hirshfield who was an Austrian immigrant. If you want to read more about Leo Hirshfield and an apparent Tootsie Roll conspiracy theory (of sorts) click on this link: Tootsie Roll Tragedy: The Real Leo Hirschfeld Story by the Candy Professor. Back to the cocktail.

So here is the recipe for the cocktail Pete made:
Tootsie Roll #1
Tootsie Roll #1
2oz Kahlua Coffee Liqueur
3oz Orange Juice

Pour in an ice filled highball glass. Shake to blend.
Echoing the sentiment of my friend Katy (for whom Pete had taste the cocktail), it is sweet. Very much a dessert drink. It was pretty sweet and surprisingly it actually tasted like a Tootsie Roll. Now I was curious to see when this concoction was created.

Now I started to look online and in my trusty Mr. Boston: Official Bartender's Guide and my recently acquired The Savoy Cocktail Book (thanks Barry), to see if there is any mention of a Tootsie Roll cocktail. I found bupkis. My online search for an origin to the Tootsie Roll cocktail was also futile. But what I did find was a slew of variations on the Tootsie Roll cocktail.

I saw one that called for Orange Juice and Dark Creme de Cacao, Orange Juice, Grand Marnier and Dark Creme de Cacao, Orange Juice, Kahlua, and Dark Creme de Cacao. I even saw a variation with Tia Maria, Dark Creme de Cacao, and Frangelico. One that I saw fairly often was the following recipe:
Tootsie Roll #2
Tootsie Roll #2
1/3 Kahlua
1/3 OJ
1/3 Vodka

Build in a highball full of ice. Shake to blend. 
As with the first cocktail, the second one was sweet but I found that the inclusion of vodka in the second one gives the cocktail a less sweeter taste. I find the second one to be a more drinkable cocktail for my palate. Perhaps another kind of coffee liqueur, possibly something not as sweet as Kahlua might give a better/different result.

I have an idea on who or whom might like this cocktail (yes Ari, that means you). Thanks Pete for the new cocktail to add to the repertoire. Time to go back to the lab.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Pomegranate Infused Liqueur Part I

If you've read my blog in the past you'll know that I like to infuse alcohol with fresh ingredients to try and make flavored liqueurs that don't rely on artificial flavors. Though I have been a bit lax on posting my infusions, it doesn't mean that I have been inactive on the infusing front. The big infusion that I am working on is a Pomegranate Vodka/Liqueur.

I found this recipe on how to make pomegranate liqueur on this page Homemade Pomegranate Liqueur. I decided to go about making my liqueur a little different. On the instruction page, they detail the steps to take if using fresh pomegranates. To be perfectly honest, unless I shop down in the city, I'm not going to find pomegranates in the Bronx. So I decide to improvise.

At the local deli by my job, occasionally sells small containers of pomegranate seeds. Luckily I found three packs and decided to go ahead with the infusion (Picture 1). The recipe called for taking the seeds and crushing or mashing them to drain the juice from them (Picture 2).
Picture 1
Picture 2

Surprisingly these little seeds give off an amazing amount of juice (Picture 3). After draining the seeds, you take the juice AND the seeds and put them together in a glass container (Picture 4).

Picture 3

Picture 4
Next you take two lemons and and peel the rind off of it trying your best to get the skin rather than the pith and add it to the pomegranate juice/seed mixture (Picture 5).

Picture 5
Add one liter of vodka to the pomegranate/lemon skin mixture, seal and set aside for a few weeks while shaking it everyday (Picture 6).

Picture 6
Now the infusion recipe calls for a few more steps after the liqueur has been steeping for a few weeks. I'll update my progress when I get to that point. In my next post I'll highlight the other infusions that I have been working on behind the scenes.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Monday, October 7, 2013

Clase Azul Tequila at Bailey's Corner Pub

Last Tuesday I felt like watching the National League Wild Card game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates in a more social environment than just watching it at home. I decided to visit my friend Pete who tends bar on Tuesday nights at Bailey's Corner Pub, 1607 York Ave (Corner of 85th Street), New York, NY 10028, (212) 650-1341.

As per routine, I like to try new beers and spirits that I would not normally find available to me either at work or at my local stops. Today was no different. I tasted a number of different beers from the pleasant line of Leinenkugel Shandys to the solid Victoria to god awful Flying Dog Doggie Style IPA. One thing truly stood out to me in my tasting adventure: Clase Azul Tequila.

Pete brings out this ornate tall white bottle with blue designs and a rounded silver cap and says "You need to taste this bro". I was intrigued. He pours me a little taste with the information that this is $20 bucks a shot. Now I am even more intrigued. I stick my nose in the glass and immediately note that this is Tequila but with a difference. You ever notice when people smell tequila they either shudder or move back from the smell. I attribute that to people having bad experiences with some rotgut tequila. The difference for me was that I didn't do that. The aroma coming from the little bit of caramel colored tequila was amazing. Here is how Clase Azul describes their Tequila Reposado:
For many years, tequila connoisseurs have praised Clase Azul Reposado for its superior taste and stunning handmade decanter. By definition, reposado translates to "rested" or "calm" which can certainly influence the experience of sipping this particular Clase Azul which is aged in used American oak barrels for eight months after it has gone through the distillation process. Each bottle is made with high quality white ceramic and then hand painted by artisans in our bottling facility. Attention to detail comes second to none, which is evident when admiring what is considered an iconic bottle.
Now for the tasting. Without a shadow of a doubt, I have to say that this Clase Azul Tequila Reposado is the best tequila that I have ever had. It was smooth like butter. You get none of the harshness that you would find with your basic tequila reposado but with all of the flavor that you should be getting from a tequila. I sipped on the reposado as it was poured. No need for ice. No need for mixing. Doing so would ruin the experience.

I also had a small taste of the Clase Azul Tequila Plata. While I was leaning towards the Reposado, the Plata was also a superb tequila. Here is how the Plata is described by Clase Azul:
Clase Azul Plata is a fresh tasting blanco tequila produced from 100% organic blue weber agave. The agave is slow cooked in traditional brick ovens for 72 hours and then distilled using a proprietary yeast developed by our master distiller. Plata is not aged and the natural colors that come from the slow cooking are filtered out prior to bottling in a stunning crystal clear bottle with blue accent at its base.
The proprietor of Bailey's Sean aka NASCAR has a tremendous rotating selection of Tequilas that you should make sure to check out on a regular basis. Head over there on either a Tuesday or a Saturday and ask for Pete. Tell him Sisco sent you.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Saturday, October 5, 2013

GMT Punch at the GMT Tavern

In my last post about the GMT Tavern, I highlighted the Southside cocktail which contained Plymouth Gin, Elderflower liqueur, lime juice and fresh mint. For my second cocktail, I wanted something a bit different but keeping with Gin as the main spirit. I asked the bartender for a recommendation and she came up with the GMT Punch.
GMT Punch
Beefeater Dry Gin
Fresh Lemon Juice
Ginger Ale
Seasonal Fruit
I had previously had a good experience with Pimms in the Pimms Rangoon cocktail that I had at The Monkey Bar in May. This one didn't disappoint. I found this cocktail to be very light and refreshing. The ginger ale gives the punch a nice effervescence and the fruit selection of strawberries and lemon with cucumber and mint compliment the fruity taste of the Pimms.

A pitcher of these on an indian summer day like the one we are experiencing today would be quite pleasing. Make sure to head to GMT Tavern for one before they change their cocktail menu for the upcoming Fall and Winter seasons.

For my next post I highlight arguably the best tasting and smoothest tequila I've ever had: Tequila Clase Azul.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mojito Club at Willie's Steakhouse

After Mike and I visited the Vega Alta Tavern and a quick pitstop at Royal Dominican Cigar Shop (two doors down from Vega Alta Tavern), we decided to get some food and we went over to my good old fashioned local restaurant Willie's Steakhouse, 1832 Westchester Ave, New York, NY 10472 (718) 822-9697. We were stuffed after enjoying a "small" platter (which incidentally is rather large for a small. The large platter is gigantic) and a couple Dos Equis Amber beers. As per custom, I like to see what liquors they have on their shelves. On the rum shelf a bottle caught my eye.

At first I thought that I saw a bottle of Havana Club on the shelf. Now for those of you who don't know, Havana Club is one of the most famous of Cuban distilled rums that because of the embargo levied by the United States against Cuba is not available here in the United States. Now if you look at the picture of the Mojito Club bottle (further down below), it has a very similar logo to the Havana Club rum. My curiosity was piqued. I decided to look into this further.

I went to the website Mission Liquors and looked at the listing for the Mojito Club. Off the bat I see that it is "Made in Mexico Made with rum, lime, natural flavors & certified colors". I decided to look into it further. I found an article written by Larry Luxner entitled Mojito Club: everything's Cuban but the rum itself. from August 1, 2002. Here is how Luxner describes the Mojito Club:
Earlier this year, Pernod Ricard USA rolled out Mojito Club--a citrus-flavored, rum-based spirit distilled in Venezuela and bottled in Mexico.

Yet tourists who have been to Cuba will notice that the label on each bottle of Mojito Club--right down to the lettering, coloring and icon of its La Giraldilla logo--is nearly identical to that of Havana Club, which Pernod Ricard can't sell in the United States due to the embargo.

Mojito Club is already available on liquor-store shelves in New York, Los Angeles, Baltimore and South Florida. It retails for $13 per 750-milliliter bottle and also comes in 50-milliliter and one-liter sizes.

Pernod Ricard, which reported $4.5 billion in 2001 sales, says Mojito Club "takes its inspiration from one of Cuba's oldest drinks, the famed mojito cocktail," and that it expects "the recent Latin cultural sensation sweeping America" to boost sales considerably.

"Flavored rums continue to be one of the hottest categories in distilled spirits, while young, urban sophisticates across the country tout the mojito cocktail as the next big drink," hypes a press release written by New York-based Hunter Public Relations. "Mojito Club will further drive this booming trend, offering consumers a bottled embodiment of the passionate, sexy, free-willed Cuban experience."
Pernod-Ricard is the owner of many international brands including the Havana Club brand. Why can they sell this product here in the United States but not the Havana Club rum that this particular product seems inspired by? As per the article, the rum is made and distilled in Venezuela and bottled in Mexico. While the rum used in undoubtedly inspired by the original Cuban rum, it is not made nor bottled in Cuba, hence why it can be sold in the U.S.A.

I asked the bartender what she tought about the Mojito Club. She was unimpressed. As you would assume with any pre-mixed product sold over the counter, it did not stand up to an authentic mojito. Her assessment was good enough for me.

So that's all from my adventures in the Bronx on the night of the last home game for the 2013 New York Yankees. Back to my regularly scheduled post from the GMT Tavern.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Friday, September 27, 2013

Biting Oranges

I know I said in my last post that I would continue to highlight the cocktails and food that I recently had at the GMT Tavern on Bleecker Street but a brief encounter I had last night inspired this post. Last night I attended the last Yankees home game of the season and had the honor of watching future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera throw his last pitches in Yankee pinstripes. Definitely a night for the ages. After the game we went over to the Vega Alta Tavern on 880 Gerard Avenue, Bronx, NY 10452 (718) 992-2445.

My friend Mike had a co-worker who was celebrating her birthday there and we decided to swing by there for a quick brew before going to get something to eat closer to my neighborhood. As we're sitting at a table, a few of the Yankee stadium workers came in and one of the ladies was holding an interesting looking tall can. I asked her what that was and she said it was a delicious drink that was better than Four Loko. She asked if I wanted to taste it. How could I say no. Actually, even if I wanted to say no, she didn't give me a choice. She poured a little into my commemorative Yankee cup. At that point what could I do. When in Rome...ummm When in the Bronx. Right?

It tasted like orange flavored malt liquor. This is really no different that what we used to do back in the day by mixing a wine cooler with a 40oz of Old E or St. Ides. At 12% Alc/Vol it is almost more than double the alcohol content of your average beer. So this sweet tasting concoction can pack quite wallop if you suck too many of them down.

This product is made by a Canadian company called Jaw Drop Coolers. On their website for the U.S. market they show three different flavors: The above mentioned Biting Orange, the Puckering Punch and Sucking Lemons. In Canada they also have the Licking Limes and Squeezing Melons flavors to accompany the lemon and punch coolers. Curiously they don't advertise the orange flavor. Guess that is all for us here to enjoy in the good old U.S.of A.

Now upon further investigation, I came across the If It's Hip, It's Here blogpost entitled Introducing Jaw Drop Coolers. Fun Flavored Alcoholic Beverages In Fabulously Designed Cans from April 12, 2013. In the post they show all the flavors available in this line and something about it is quite curious. Here is what they say:
Available in Canada:
•SUCKING LEMONS - 7% Vodka Cooler
•PUCKERING PUNCH - 7% Vodka Cooler
•**NEW** SQUEEZING MELONS - 7% Vodka Cooler
•**NEW** LICKING LIMES - 7% Vodka Cooler

Available in USA:
•SUCKING LEMONS - 12% Flavored Malt Beverage
•PUCKERING PUNCH - 12% Flavored Malt Beverage
•BITING ORANGES - 12% Flavored Malt Beverage
While the Canadians get 7% vodka coolers in their cans, we get 12% flavored malt liquor in ours. I wonder why. Is it a taste issue? Does malt liquor sell better here in the U.S.A. rather than in Canada? Do vodka coolers sell better Canada than here in the U.S.A.?

Surprisingly, I graciously declined to a second pour of her Biting Orange drink. I didn't want to deprive her of her delicious brew. I have one more post about last night's activites before returning to my regularly scheduled blogging. I'll put that post up tomorrow on the curiously labeled Mojito Club rum.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Southside at the GMT Tavern

A few weeks ago one of my regulars Joe who runs the Nitrate Stock website recently told me about possibly the only adult bar/pub on west Bleecker Street. Before I go into said bar/pub, I just wanted to let you gals and guys know what Nitrate Stock it. Nitrate Stock is a labor of love which entails the following:
This site (Nitrate Stock) will represent the best of repertory cinema in the five boroughs and as far as half an hour outside them, and all reachable by mass transit.
So if you're ever in the mood to explore the world of Repertory cinema in NYC, this is the man to know. Follow him on Twitter @NitrateStock, on his Facebook page Nitrate Stock and at the Nitrate Stock website. Back to the bar/pub. Thanks for the heads up Joe.

I decide to check out the bar/pub known as the GMT Tavern which is located at 142 Bleecker Street (corner of Laguardia Place), New York, NY 10012 (646) 863-3776. I was definitely not disappointed. Amid the frat bars that can be found a plenty on Bleecker Street, this bar is definitely one geared to adults who know how to drink to the point that their Twitter Page @GMTTavern refers to itself as being a "Straight Up, Grown Up Pub". Here is how their website describes itself:
The Greenwich Meantime Tavern (GMT) is a British styled tavern.

It was established in 2011 in the heart of Greenwich Village,
on the corner of the hustle and bustle of Bleecker St & LaGuardia Place
in New York City.

It has truly become the local's favorite, with our impressive selection of 36 draught beers poured through our state of the art beer system.

The draught beer line-up consists of imported English and European beers. We also serve some of the best local crafted beers.

Our cocktail list has been created by mixologist Nick van Tiel, which offers our customers some classic cocktails with a modern twist and some new delicious signature cocktails with fresh fruit and herbs made with precision and taste by our experienced bartenders.

Our menu is casual American with some traditional British fare, from Scotch eggs, fish & chips & the ploughman's lunch to our special blend of Kobe beef for the Meantime burger.

We serve lunch and dinner every day; On Sundays we serve brunch which includes the traditional British Sunday Roast with all the trimmings & Yorkshire puddings.

Our customers are diverse, from the beer connoisseur tasting the latest seasonal beer from local breweries, the conversationalist sitting around our communal tables discussing which wine they should choose and from which part of the world, colleagues meeting after work for our cocktail hour sipping on our classic cocktails, to Sundays and families enjoying brunch sitting in our sidewalk cafe watching the world go by.
I could tell by the vibe that was definitely not the scene for the beer pong frat set that many of the bars on West Bleecker Street can attract.

In terms of cocktails, GMT Tavern has a diverse cocktail list with names like the Hot Limey, The Brown Betty, London Buck and Penicillin. For my first taste I decided to have myself a cocktail known as The Southside:
The Southside
Plymouth Gin
Elderflower Liqueur
Lime Juice
Fresh Mint
I found this cocktail to be light and enjoyable. I loved how the blend of the lime and mint was perfectly balanced as to not overpower the other ingredients in the cocktail, which I find that lime and/or mint can do. It wasn't too sweet or too tart. It was just right.

On an aside, its funny how all of a sudden I've become a drinker of gin. Consider that I went close to 15+ years without having any gin. Why? Read this post to find out why Hendrick's Gin...My Return to Gin 15+ Years Later. And I have a few more gin post coming up. Guess you can teach an old dog some new tricks. ;)

The next post will be the second cocktail I had at the GMT Tavern called the GMT Punch.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla