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