Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Bobby Burns

Yesterday was the 253rd Birthday of famous Scottish Poet and Lyricist Robert Burns. In honor of his birthday, I decided to whip up his name sake cocktail: The Bobby Burns. It really is a simple cocktail to make and how you make it really is a personal preference. When I mean how you make it, I mean what kind of scotch and what kind of sweet vermouth to use in the cocktail. The only constants are the small amount of Benedictine used and the lemon peel. Here is the recipe I used:
The Bobby Burns
1.5oz Sweet Vermouth (I used Chinzano)
1.5oz Scotch Whisky (I used Johnnie Walker Black)
3 dashes (1/3 teaspoon) Benedictine DOM

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass with cracked ice. Stir briskly until well chilled, and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass. Twist a piece of lemon peel over the glass, rub it lightly around the rim, and drop it in.
I made as directed and poured it in a basic rocks glass. I shared some of it with Pete and also made one for Melvin. We all agreed that it was a tasty cocktail. Melvin stated that even though it was tasty, it kind of fell off rather quickly. We both agreed that perhaps using a higher quality scotch (perhaps something more peaty and smokey) and a higher quality vermouth such as Carpano Antica it would give us a longer lasting and more flavorful cocktail. But since I am a neophile when it comes to scotches past Dewars, Johnnie Walker and the occasional Single Malt like Macallan 12 I really don't know what to use.

Any personal recommendations? Suggestions? I'm all ears.

And speaking of recommendations, my friend Amanda Schuster recently wrote an article called A Toast to Bobby Burns from the Shakestir website giving recommendations on what Scotches to consume on Robert Burns day and any other that for that matter. Give it a read. Slainte mhoiz (Good health).

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bitters, Liqueurs and More Bitters

My back has been acting up and have decided to not have anything to drink until it gets better. =( But on a good note, I finally received the package from Germany that I have been waiting for. During the beginning of the year I ordered a travel set of Bitters plus one sample sized bottle of Pimento Dram, Apricot Liqueur and Violet Liqueur. I placed my order through the Drinkology website and though it took about three weeks to receive, I am very satisfied and would definitely recommend anyone to order from them.

So what kind of bitters did I get in the travel set? Well, the set is made by The Bitter Truth and comes with the following (as per the website):
The Bitter Truth – Cocktail Bitters Traveler’s Set is ideal for in flight hand luggage and therefore the ideal companion for all globetrotters who won`t settle for anything less than perfect drinks during their flight! Including 5 flavors in a vintage design tin box limited edition. This set of bitters is also the perfect addition to anybody’s home bar.

Tasting Notes:
CELERY BITTERS: Very complex and exotic. The initial flavor of celery is dominant, leading into a complex palate with aromas of lemongrass, orange peel and ginger.

OLD TIME AROMATIC BITTERS: Classically bitter and tangy. Combining the aromatics of cinnamon, cardamom, anise and cloves, it reminds one of gingerbread.

ORANGE BITTERS: The aroma of bitter orange peel is in the foreground, complimented by the spicy flavors of cardamom, caraway and nutmeg.

CREOLE BITTERS: The complex combination of flavors hints upon spice, bitterness and cardamon with a subtle floral finish that evokes the flavors of Creole cuisine in New Orleans/Louisiana.

JERRY THOMAS BITTERS: Very fruity and very bitter. Citrus and dried fruit aromas unite with the spicy and bitter flavors of cloves, angostura bark and cinnamon.
Doesn't that sound delicious? As I stated above, I also received three small bottles of liqueurs. Here is how those liqueurs are described:
Pimento Dram: Allspice liqueur in a miniature bottle with delicate aromas of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper. For Tiki drinks and classic cocktails.

Apricot Liqueur: Fruity apricot liqueur in a miniature bottle with rich body and reduced almond flavor for stellar cocktails.

Violet Liqueur: Elegant, light violet liqueur in a minature bottle with floral aromas and reduced sugar content for stellar cocktails.
In buying these little bottles, I see myself making some new and exciting cocktails. I look forward to jumping in and posting on a few of those very soon...once my back gets back to normal.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

FYI: If you don't want to order these products from Germany, you can also do so through the DrinkupNY website. I would assume that you'd get them faster since you don't have to deal with International shipping.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Cayman Lemonade

I found this recipe on Pinterest the other day and I found myself curious. The cocktail was named the Cayman Lemonade and here is how it is described:
The Cayman Lemonade! Delicious, but dangerous as well…considering it tastes exactly like lemonade but there is not one ounce of actual lemonade in the drink! Enjoy! 1 oz Vodka 1 oz Triple Sec 1 oz Peach Schnapps, Cranberry juice, Club Soda. Mix vodka, triple sec and peach schnapps in a shaker. Pour over ice, add a squeeze of lime and a splash of cranberry juice and club soda. Stir and enjoy!!!
I decided to make it as described and you know what? It didn't taste exactly like lemonade. It tasted like a fizzy peach drink since the peach schnapps seemed to be the dominant flavor in the cocktail and it was unbalanced in terms of sweetness. It wasn't a bad or ill-tasting cocktail, but it just didn't live up to the description of it being a "Lemonade". I decided to play around with the cocktail to make it somewhat like a boozy lemonade. Here is how I made it:
The Cayman Lemonade (Updated)
1oz Vodka
1oz Triple Sec
1oz Peach Schnapps
Juice of Half a Lemon
Cranberry Juice
Club Soda

Mix lemon juice, vodka, triple sec and peach schnapps in a shaker. Pour over ice, and a splash of cranberry juice and club soda. Stir and enjoy!!!
This one was definitely a more balanced cocktail which actually had a lemonade feel and taste to it. I had Marta take a taste of it and she absolutely loved it. It is a cocktail that one can have at a beach somewhere while you are lounging back on a beach chair with your favorite book.

I think I may have found a new Spring/Summer cocktail to make at the bar. Try it. Let me know what you think.

Until Then, Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Friday, January 18, 2013

The James aka The St. James

I'm often asked to make drinks for customers that either they create on their own or their friends create for them. This one comes with a bit of an international slant. Allow me to elaborate.

Last Monday night the Bleecker Street Theater at 45 Bleecker Street hosted a concert by prominent Zimbabwean guitarist and songwriter Oliver Mtukudzi aka Tuku. So how does that factor in for us at the Bleecker Street Bar? Well, apparently the Bleecker Street Theater does not serve any alcohol so we got a large group of thirsty Zimbabweans come through our door eager to drink post-concert. I was curious about something. Perhaps this is something about drinking in Zimbabwe. There were three basic beers ordered by the group: Stella Artois, Heineken and Amstel Light. Could this be due to do the global reach of the three brands? But I'm digressing here. Back to the drink at hand.

One particular gentleman, whose name was James, piqued my attention with his order. At first I found it somewhat peculiar since the ingredients didn't seem to go together. Here is what he ordered.
The James aka The St. James
1.5oz Makers Mark Bourbon
1oz Triple Sec
Pineapple Juice to top

Build over ice and give two quick shakes. Serve with lemon and lime wedges.
Now I asked James if this was a concoction of his own creation. He told me his friends made it up and that it can be seen as being a cross between a Manhattan and a Sidecar. It its extreme form, you can replace the Triple Sec for Grand Marnier but that he wasn't going to do so since it was a "school night". Ok, so before I go any further, let's look at both the Manhattan and the Sidecar.

The Manhattan typically consists of Rye Whiskey or Bourbon, Sweet Vermouth, Bitters and cherry juice (personal personal preference here folks). A Sidecar consists of either Brandy or Cognac (which are basically one in the same. Naming has to do where it is made), an orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier (or any other triple sec) and lemon juice.

I kind of see where he says that it is a cross between a Manhattan and a Sidecar though there really isn't a bitter/sour component to the drink as is found with the Bitters in the Manhattan and the Lemon juice in the Sidecar. I personally wouldn't say that it was a cross between the Manhattan and a Sidecar but allow me to continue.

I took a little taste of one of the many I made him and found the cocktail to be too sweet for my palate. The triple sec and pineapple juice seem to mask the Makers Mark with its sweetness while I find the Makers to be rather sweet on its own. It definitely needed a sour portion to the drink to balance the sweetness. I would say that the cocktail is definitely an acquired taste.

Oh, on a side note. As you see about the drink is "aka'd" as the St. James. Why? Well James told me since the drink is named after just him and if I wanted to make it a bit fancier that I should add the "St." to the name though he isn't a saint in any way, shape or form. Aren't we all James. Aren't we all.

Let me know what you gals and guys think of the James aka the St. James.

Until Then, Happy Drinking
Sisco Vanilla

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Version of the Orange Dream Martini

New Year's Day was a helluva a tired day for me. After working a super slammed New Years Eve at the Bleecker Street Bar, unwinding a bit at Home Sweet Home and having a New Year's Day breakfast with Momma-San and the kids I finally got to sleep at 11am. Unfortunately I had things to do that day and it was "up and at'em" by 3pm. So after running, we decided to have dinner at the Applebee's in Parkchester. As tired as I was, I decided to order something light off of the cocktail menu. For this I chose the Orange Dream Martini. Here is how it is described:
Orange Dream Martini: Creamy Pinnacle Whipped Vodka shaken with ice, orange juice and garnished with Whipped Cream
Now this cocktail was indeed light, which was what I was looking for. But I felt as if there was something missing. In essence it was a Whipped Cream vodka screwdriver with whipped cream. It was kind of bland. Something was needed to zing it up a bit. So I purchased a small bottle of the Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka and got to working on the zing part of it.

Now I initially thought that maybe adding Triple Sec to the mix would give it an extra layer of orange flavor to the cocktail. Maybe even stepping it up by using Grand Marnier or Cointreau would do the trick. But I decided to go with something entirely different. A few weeks ago I bought a sample sized bottle of an orange liqueur called Gran Gala Liqueur.

The label says that it is a "Rare Triple Orange Liqueur Made With VSOP Brandy"  It is an 80 proof liqueur (40% alcohol by volume). Here is how their website describes Gran Gala:
Bring exceptional taste and smoothness to your cocktails with Italy's Gran Gala Triple Orange Liqueur. Hand-picked from beneath the Sicilian sun, Tarroco, Bionda and Rossa oranges are infused with mature, barrel aged Italian Stock '84 VSOP brandy. The result: Gran Gala's rich amber color, velvety-smooth feel and full-bodied, sweet fruit flavor.
A quick taste brings a swift burn to the throat which slowly turns into a mild and flavorful orange taste. I was satisfied that this would give the zing that I was looking for my version of the orange dream. So keeping with the feel of the original recipe, here is my version of the Orange Dream Martini:
Sisco's Orange Dream
1.5 oz. of Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka
1 oz. of Gran Gala Orange Liqueur
2 oz. of Orange Juice
Whipped Cream

Build over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain in a chilled cocktail glass. Swirl whipped cream on the top of the cocktail.
So what do I think of it? The Gran Gala gives it a bit of a stronger zing that seemed to be missing from the original Orange Dream but to be honest, it still feels a little blah. Its also a little sweet.Perhaps its just not my kind of drink. Momma-San says it tastes like a strong Creamsicle. I guess this will be something I make for my sister or Stella next time they come over. Their palates lean more towards the sweeter cocktails.

Until Then, Happy Drinking
Sisco Vanilla

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

La Paloma

I've been meaning to make this cocktail since my friend and fellow cocktail enthusiast Joel sent me a link to the following video in September:

Now you would think that being in the Bronx, I would find some grapefruit soda like Jarritos Toronja rather easily. Well, I guess my schedule makes it hard to navigate the local Mexican bodegas. Luckily for you fine folks (and me as well) I was able to find some recently and here is my attempt at making a Paloma.

This is the recipe I used, based on Jacques Bezuidenhout's recipe. Bezuidenhout is a bartender at the Eastside West Restaurant and Bar in San Francisco:
La Paloma
2oz of Sauza Tequila Blanco
Juice of Half a Lime
Pinch of Salt
Top off with Jarritos Toronja Soda.

In a highball glass filled with ice, pour Tequila. Add salt, lime juice and top off with the Grapefruit Soda. Stir and serve.
I originally made this in a smaller glass and found it to be somewhat strong. After transferring it into the larger glass you see here and adding a little more soda I found myself with one refreshing cocktail. The Toronja soda gives it a nice effervescent feel while balancing out the lime juice and the tequila blanco. I can see how Mr. Bazuidenhout says in the video that in Mexico you are given the ingredients to the cocktail and make it at your leisure as you sit among friends.

I think I may have found a new favorite cocktail. Have you tried it? Let me know what you think.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Thursday, January 3, 2013

How The Peppermint Bark Became The Jaclyn

Happy New Year 2013 gals and guys!!!!! I have to tell ya, the last three weeks of bar shifts for me at the bar have been super crazy. From the Dos Caminos holiday party, to the wild and woolly Christmas Eve to the super slammed New Years Eve party, I have been run ragged. Now mind you, I'm not complaining. In between the busy times, I found a way to have a simple shot morph into what might become something of a signature cocktail for me. Allow me to elaborate.

On Christmas Eve, I asked one of our lovely waitresses Jaclyn if she wanted a shot. Since I know that she is not a hard liquor shot taker, I decided to make her something sweet. Since I also know that she has a chocolate covered sweet tooth, I decided to make her something within the world of Le Chocolate. Also, since we were in the Holiday season, I figured something Peppermint flavored would also be apropos. So I decided to combine the two. Here is what I came up with:
The Peppermint Bark Shot
1oz Bailey's Irish Cream
1oz Dark Creme de Cacao
1/8oz Peppermint Schnapps (or a splash to be imprecise)

Build over ice, shake vigorously and strain into a shot glass.
The shot was creamy, chocolaty with a hint of peppermint. It was quite tasty actually. A couple of hours later Dana and Caridad came in and I decided to make Caridad a similar cocktail to the Peppermint Bark with a slight alteration. To the creamy blend, I decided to add a splash of Kahlua to the mix. Let's just say that ever since then, every cocktail that I've made for Caridad has been the second version. Let's fast forward to New Years Eve/Day.

After Marta and Jaclyn were done with their shifts on New Years Eve, they decided to sit down and have a cocktail to unwind. Marta ordered a Dry Ketel Martini with a lemon twist and olives. Jaclyn asked for something she might like. What better opportunity to make the cocktail that evolved from the Peppermint Bark. Here is the recipe named for the lady who it was originally made for:
The Jaclyn
2oz Bailey's Irish Cream
2oz Dark Creme de Cacao
1/8oz Kahlua Coffee Liqueur (or a splash to be imprecise)
1/8oz Peppermint Schnapps (or a splash to be imprecise)

Build over ice in a shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
As you can see from the smile in the picture, Jaclyn loved it. As a matter of fact, both ladies loved their respective cocktails. Hey, I aim to please.

Now THAT's a nice way to start off the New Year in cocktail making. Off we go with a blast into 2013. I have a bunch of new cocktail recipes that I am eager to make for you and for me to taste. =) Keep tuned true believers.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla