Friday, August 22, 2014

The Hearst Cocktail

Its been a while since I have made a classic cocktail that I found in a magazine and/or cocktail book. I came across the Hearst Cocktail in the September 2014 issue of Esquire Magazine in the MaHB column by David Wondrich where he profiles different utensils that he recommends when it comes to making cocktails. He describes the recipe as such:
The Hearst Cocktail
2 Parts Gin
1 Part Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters 
Over ice, stir and strain into a cocktail glass 
Now that sounds simple enough except that on the Esquire website where Wondrich has a column, there is a slight difference in the version that is listed above. Here is how the Hearst Cocktail is listed online:
Hearst Cocktail
2 ounces London dry gin
1/2 ounce Italian vermouth
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters

Glass Type: cocktail glass
Stir the London gin (or Plymouth gin, if you can find it) and the other ingredients well with cracked ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Wondrich further goes into the following details:
Gin. Vermouth. Okay. But soft! Two parts to one? And could that be red vermouth? Sweet vermouth? Anathema! Moloch! Did not the Lord command us to, in the words of Leviticus, "put difference between holy and unholy, unclean and clean?"
Fortunately, there's a simple incantation that'll put you back on the way of the righteous. Throughout the construction process, repeat sotto voce: "It's not a martini. It's not a martini." By the second sip, you won't have to. After all the pish-tosh about dryness and martinis and eyedroppers -- nay, atomizers! -- of vermouth has been pished and toshed, you're left with a perfectly suave cocktail that has nothing of the milquetoast about it. If you want to leave the Angostura out, do -- but then it's a Hoffman House you'll be enjoying.
Diffords Guide for Discerning Drinker's listing for the Hearst Martini has the following dimensions:
Hearst Martini
2oz London Dry Gin (Tanqueray)
1oz Martini Rosso
1 dash Angistura Bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
What to do with these differences. It seems that I am at a stalemate with all three cocktail recipes listed. It would seem that based on Wondrich's statements, that the first listed recipe is more in line with the Hoffman House cocktail recipe. If you notice it contains two dashes of orange bitters instead of a one and one ratio of Angostura and orange bitters. Another point of confusion this time for the Hoffman House is that Except that it has French Vermouth instead of the Italian Vermouth that I have seemed to find in recipes for a Hoffman House. I guess that is a mission for another post.

For simplicity sake, I'm going to have to make the recipes listed on the Esquire and Difford's websites. I know, its a tough job...For my two cocktails I used Beefeater London Dry Gin, Cinzano Rosso Vermouth, Angostura Bitters and Bitter Truth Orange Bitters.

The first cocktail I made (Esquire) had 2oz Gin to .5oz Sweet/Italian Vermouth. It has a beautiful red-brown color and I can see where some people online have said that this cocktail reminds them of The Martinez. Now I can see that in terms of look but I found the Martinez with the Old Tom Gin to be a bit of a sweeter cocktail. The Hearst with the 2-.5 ratio wasn't very sweet at least to me. I do agree with David Wondrich in his assessment that this cocktail is a perfectly suave cocktail. It is strong without being overpowering in both the strength and the sweetness.

2oz Gin/
.5oz Sweet Vermouth
The second cocktail I made (Difford's) had 2oz Gin to 1oz Sweet/Italian Vermouth. It has the same nice red-brown color though I find that this one is a bit sweeter and not a crisp as the version that had half the amount of sweet vermouth. To be honest, I don't find it offensive in the least. I think that if I had a choice, I would go with the crisper version that had .5oz of Sweet Vermouth rather than the full ounce. But if I was served this one, I'd be fine with it.
2oz Gin/
1oz Sweet Vermouth
One last point I want to touch upon. Wondrich gives the following explanation for the origin of the cocktail:
The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book credits this simple gloom-lifter to certain of old William Randolph's minions "who were in the habit of dropping in at odd times when assigned to a story in the neighborhood." Probably not more than three times a day, we'll bet.
Since Wondrich mentions the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, I decided to look at my copy (The 1935 Reprint) to see what is said about the Hearst Cocktail. In terms of the recipe, it calls for equal parts of a half jigger of the Italian vermouth and Plymouth Gin with the one dash each of Angostura and Orange Bitters.

In terms of the origin, the cocktail is named not after William Randolph Hearst directly but after his employees of whom probably worked at one of Hearst's newspapers such as the New York Journal later known as the New York American and/or the New York Evening Journal. These and other competing newspapers were located in the Herald Square area, near where the flagship Macy's Department Store is today. For more information, with a number of historical pictures of the Herald Square area, I refer you to the article A whirlwind tour of Herald Square: More than just Macy's, the intersection of publishing, theater and debauchery from the Bowery Boys website dated December 14, 2012.

In a bit of NYC newspaper history, The New York American and the New York Evening Journal would merge into one paper in 1937 as the New York Journal-American. The New York Journal-American was an afternoon and evening paper. Part of the New York American's morning news section would be become part of the New York Daily Mirror which was also owned by William Randolph Hearst. This was described in the article Hearst to Merge New York Papers from the Miami Times dated June 23, 1937 (which is found online at Google news)

The New York Daily Mirror would fold on October 16, 1963, after the 114-day 1962–63 New York City newspaper strike. The New York Journal-American would merge with with its evening rival, the New York World-Telegram and Sun, and the morning New York Herald-Tribune in 1966. The consolidated paper would be known as the World Journal Tribune and started publishing its daily paper of September 12, 1966, but would close shop eight months later.

There you have it. A little cocktail, NYC and newspaper history all rolled up into one nice little package with in a chilled cocktail glass. In terms of the cocktail, I wonder what it would taste like using an American Dry Gin such as a Dorothy Parker Gin or a Bluecoat Gin. That, as with the Hoffman House cocktail, is a post for another day.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What is Liqueur Mombin

I recently updated my SiscoVanilla at the Movies tumblr page in honor of the recently deceased Lauren Bacall with images from the Howard Hawks directed To Have and Have Not (1944) which starred Humphrey Bogart and a debuting 19-year old Lauren Bacall. Now I'll go into the movie in a later post, but one particular poster (which I have highlighted with the red box) in the scene where Bacall is first on screen stands out to me.

She is seated having drinks with Johnson (Walter Sande) when I notice a poster right above them that advertises something called Liqueur Mombin. My curiosity was piqued. What was Liqueur Mombin. Before I go into what the liqueur is, I want to touch upon what a mombin is.

The Mombin is a fruit from a plant that grows in tropical areas. It originally was found in the Americas and the Caribbean and was successfully transplanted to Africa. Now from what I could gather, there are two distinct types of mombin fruits: The Yellow Mombin aka the Hog Fruit (Spondias mombin L./Spondias lutea L.) and the Purple Mombin aka Spanish Plum (Spondias purpurea L.).

Now be honest, I don't know which one is used to make a liqueur out of, but from what I've read, it seems as if the Purple/Red varietal is the one that is the most popular of the two. Why do I say that? The Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plant Products (NewCROP) quotes the following source: Yellow Mombin Spondias mombin L. Spondias lutea L. which quotes Morton, J. 1987. Yellow Mombin. p. 245–248. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL. Here is what was printed about the popularity of the Yellow Mombin:
The Sumac Family (Anacardiaceae)
The yellow mombin is less desirable than the purple mombin and is appreciated mostly by children and way-farers as a means of alleviating thirst. Ripe fruits are eaten out-of-hand, or stewed with sugar. The extracted juice is used to prepare ice cream, cool beverages and jelly. Some people make those of fair quality into jam and various other preserves.

In Amazonas, the fruit is used mainly to produce wine sold as " Vinho de Taperiba". In Guatemala, the fruit is made into a cider-like drink.

Mexicans pickle the green fruits in vinegar and eat them like olives with salt and chili, as they do with the unripe purple mombin.

Young leaves are cooked as greens.
In terms of the Purple Mombin Spondias purpurea L., NewCROP quotes the same source Morton, J. 1987. Purple Mombin. p. 242–245. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.
Courtesy of Daley's Fruit
The ripe fruits are commonly eaten out-of-hand. While not of high quality, they are popular with people who have enjoyed them from childhood, and they serve a useful purpose in the absence of "snackbars". In the home, they are stewed whole, with sugar, and consumed as dessert. They can be preserved for future use merely by boiling and drying, which keeps them in good condition for several months. The strained juice of cooked fruits yields an excellent jelly and is also used for making wine and vinegar. It is a pleasant addition to other fruit beverages.

In Mexico, unripe fruits are made into a tart, green sauce, or are pickled in vinegar and eaten with salt and chili peppers.

The new shoots and leaves are acid and eaten raw or cooked as greens in northern Central America.
If you are curious about the source material, you can click on the following link for Fruits of Warm Climates by Julia F. Morton on the The Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plant Products (NewCROP) website.

Now that we know what a Mombin is, let's focus on the Liqueur Mombin. Look at the images below.

This particular kind of Liqueur Mombin, which is produced by Distellerie ReimonenQ is a blend of Rhum, sugar and mombin extract. It is not a very strong liqueur at 25% Alc.Vol or 50 Proof. It seems to have a nice subtle yellow/orange color. The label with the Corsair is kind of cool.

Another brand of Liqueur Mombin is the Madras brand from Guadeloupe and they describe their Liqueur Mombin as being:
Made from the very exotic fruit Mombin, this liqueur can be savoured as a digestive or can be used for cocktails. 
They list the alcohol content at 18% Alc/Vol or 36 Proof.

The real question is what does this taste like. That my friends will have to be for a later post. Maybe I should make a trip to one of the West Indian neighborhoods that are near me in the Bronx to see if I can maybe find a bottle. I'll get back to you on this one folks.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ian Fleming (May 28, 1908 – August 12, 1964)

With today being the 50th anniversary of the passing of British author and journalist Ian Fleming, I wanted to highlight a passage from his original James Bond book Casino Royale. It is in this initial offering of his now immortal spy series that we are introduced to Ian Fleming's signature cocktail: The Vesper. In honor of Ian Fleming, here is how the Vesper is both introduced and named in Casino Royale starting on page 44:
Bond had a feeling that this might be the CIA man. He knew he was right as they strolled off together towards the bar, after Bond had thrown a plaque of ten Mille to the croupier and had given a Mille to the huissier who drew back his chair.

'My name is Felix Leiter,' said the American. 'Glad to meet you.'
'My name is Bond - James Bond.'
'Oh yes,' said his companion, 'and now let's see. What shall we have to celebrate?'

Bond insisted on ordering Leiter's Haig-and-Haig 'on the rocks' and then looked carefully at the barman.

'A dry martini,' he said. 'One. In a deep champagne goblet.'
'Oui, Monsieur.'
'Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?'
'Certainly, monsieur.' The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
'Gosh that's certainly a drink,' said Leiter.

Bond laughed. 'When I',' he explained, 'I never have more than one before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name.'

He watched carefully as the deep glass became frosted with the pale golden drink, slightly aerated by the bruising of the shaker. He reached for it and took a long sip.

'Excellent,' he said to the barman, 'but if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better.'
Bond finally finds a suitable name for his cocktail upon meeting Vesper Lynd on page 52:
'Vesper,' she said. 'Vesper Lynd'

Bond gave her a look of inquiry.

'It's rather a bore always having to explain, but I was born in the evening, on a very stormy evening according to my parents. Apparently they wanted to remember it.' She smiled. 'Some people like it, others don't. I'm just used to it'
'I think it's a fine name,' said Bond. An idea struck him. 'Can I borrow it?' He explained his special Martini he had invented and his search for a perfect name for it. 'The Vesper,' he said. 'It sounds perfect and it's very appropriate to the violet hour when my cocktail will now be drunk all over the world. Can I have it?'
'So long as I can try one first,' she promised. 'It sounds a drink to be proud of.'
'Will have one together when all this is finished,' said Bond.
So did Bond and Vesper finally enjoy her namesake cocktail? I'd recommend that you read the book to find out.

Many thanks to Ian Fleming to introducing this very potent cocktail. Watch how master mixologist Alessandro Palazzi of the famed Duke's Hotel in London not only makes the Vesper Martini but gives us the behind the scenes history on the inspiration that Ian Fleming tapped into when creating the Vesper. Duke's is known to be the place where Ian Fleming came up with the idea for the Vesper.

So take a moment to give thanks to Mr. Ian Fleming for not only creating such a unique cocktail but also for creating such a timeless character in James Bond. 

Thank you Mr. Fleming. May you continue to Rest in Peace.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mahogany (1975)

Today's installment of SiscoVanilla at the Movies takes us from the hard scrabble streets of Chicago to the glamorous fashion world of 1970's Rome in the movie Mahogany (1975). Tracy (Diana Ross) is an aspiring fashion designer from the inner-city of Chicago that puts herself through fashion school in the hopes of becoming one of the world’s top designers. Her life takes an unexpected turn as a fashion model in Rome that will cause her to make a choice between the man she loves (Billy Dee Williams) or her newfound success. Also starring Jean-Pierre Aumont and Anthony Perkins.

The movie has a couple of liquor references. As you can see from the picture below there's the placement of bottles of J&B Scotch Whisky and Grand Marnier Orange Liqueur.

There are also numerous instances of champagne being poured and drunk in various party scenes throughout the movie. You can see a number of these pictures on my Tumblr entry for SiscoVanilla Presents Mahogany (1975) Part I. One liquor reference that is not so obvious can be found in the scene where Tracy visits the Gavina Agency.

On the wall is an advertising for a product called Cynar. What is Cynar? Well, keep reading.

Cynar (pronounced “chee-NAHR”) is an Italian bitter liqueur made from 13 herbs and plants. As the sign says "L'Aperitivo CYNAR A Base di Carciofo", the main base of the Amaro is artichoke (carciofo/carciofi). Yes, that same vegetable that looks like a little tree. Cynar is dark brown in color and has a bittersweet flavor. It has relative low alcohol level of 33 proof/16.5% ABV. Here is how Cynar is described from the Cynar webpage on the Campari Group website:
The artichoke liqueur known for its versatility and taste, Cynar is an artichoke based bitter. Its distinctive flavour is enriched from an infusion of 13 herbs and plants, making it a completely natural drink, rich in scents and a unique taste . It perfectly conserves all the health properties of the ingredients used in its preparation. Only moderately alcoholic (16.5%) Cynar is a modern and versatile drink that is always welcome.

Cynar was launched on the market in 1952, and its history is closely tied to its successful television advertisements interpreted in the 1960s by Ernesto Calindri. In 1995 Cynar became part of Gruppo Campari that has grown the brand into a “digestif apertif” and one of the main players in the “after dinner” category.

Cynar is distributed internationally, its main markets are Brazil, Italy and Switzerland
In the article All Choked Up: Embrace the bittersweet allure of Cynar by Hannah C. Feldman from the May/June 2009 issue of Imbibe Magazine, Seattle-based cocktail blogger Robert Hess recommends using Cynar in drinks that call for Campari to create a softer, smoother version of classics like the Negroni. He also suggests using it as you would bitters. “Take a Martini, add a dash [of Cynar] to it, and you’ve got a totally different drink.”

In the same article, Stephen Shellenberger who at the time was bar manager at the Boston restaurant Dante (and is the blogger in charge of the Boston Apothecary blogpage), calls Cynar “the greatest cocktail-centric amaro ever produced.” and suggests pairing it with sweet, fruity flavors like strawberries, “so you get kissed and slapped at the same time.” 

For some suggestions on cocktails that contain Cynar, check out this article by Lesley Jacob Solomonson entitled 4 Great Cynar Cocktails: L.A. Bartenders Love the Artichoke Liqueur from the LA Weekly blogpages dated December 20, 2013.

I have yet to have a taste of this interestingly sounding amaro. Hopefully I'll soon have a chance either behind a bar or up at the bar as a patron. Work seems to be hard to find in this soon to end summer season in NYC. Hopefully that will change after Memorial Day.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Bluecoat American Dry Gin

I've had a bottle of Bluecoat American Dry Gin sitting in my liquor cabinet for about two months now courtesy of my friend Pete. Sitting home on a Friday night, I decided to crack it open and give it a try. Before I go into what I thought of it, I wanted to give you a little background info on this product.

Bluecoat is made here in the United States in the City of Brotherly Love: Philadelphia, PA. Here is how they describe their product Bluecoat American Dry Gin:
In terms of how it is made:
And what goes into their gin:
The citrus immediately jumps out at me. The gin has a pleasant lemony and citrusy feel that I find very different from other gins that I have tasted. I tried this gin neat with no refrigeration and it was very smooth going down without any kind of after taste or bitter kick. It was very delicious.

In terms of utilizing it in a cocktail, I decided to try something tried and true for me. I posted about this cocktail back on June 1, 2012 under the title of Who Is This Rickey Guy The Gin Rickey Is Named After. Ladies and Gentlemen I present you the The Gin Rickey. Here is the recipe that I used both then and now:
The Gin Rickey
1.5 oz. Gin
.5 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
Soda water
Lime wedge

Pour gin and lime juice into a glass over ice cubes. Fill with soda water and stir. Add the wedge of lime and serve.
I love how the lime juice blends with the Bluecoat gin. The soda water gives it another level with the effervescence that it brings to the cocktail. This is a very laid back and refreshing cocktail on the humid night that I find facing me at the moment.

I really have to say that I am impressed with Bluecoat. It will definitely be a go-to gin for in the same vein as Dorothy Parker American Gin and Hendricks Gin. The website has a number of cocktails that they recommend making with Bluecoat. Since I find that I am missing one ingredient or another, I am going to wait to make a few of these for later posts.

Until Then Happy Drinking,

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cilantro Lime Margarita

I came across the recipe for this cocktail on Google+. Melissa Nof of The Dailynoff website is a mixologist from the Pacific Northwest and reading her description for the Cilantro Lime Margarita intrigued me. The thing about Cilantro is that there are many people who do not like that little green leafy herb. I personally don't have an issue with this. I could never make it for Momma-San since she hates herself some cilantro. Oh well, I guess I'll have to test this one on myself.

Here is how to make the cocktail as per Melissa's instructions:
Cilantro Lime Margarita
1.5oz Favorite Silver Tequila (I used Casa Noble)
.5oz Grand Marnier (or tripel sec)
1oz Sweet and Sour
Juice from two halves of a freshly cut lime
2 lime slices
1 tbsp of freshly minced cilantro
salt (for rimming glass)

Mince your cilantro first just to get that out of the way first.  Next, place two lime slices and tequila into shaker with the cilantro.  Muddle thoroughly until limes looked sufficiently smushed.  Then squeeze the juice from the lime halves on in. Add the oz of sweet and sour. Now it’s time to shake.  

Try to shake hard enough so the ice breaks down a little bit creating the ‘crushed ice’ effect in your margarita.  Once you’ve achieved this, pour the whole thing in a salt rimmed margarita glass.  Float the Grand Marnier on the top and garnish with a lime wedge.
I chose to omit the salt since I tend to stay away from the excess salt. Aside from that, I made this cocktail as directed and I have to admit that this is a very interesting combination of ingredients here.

The cocktail is very herbal, especially to the nose due to the cilantro. It does work well together with the Espolón silver, Grand Marnier and the fresh lime/fresh sweet and sour. It is a very light cocktail albiet a bit tarter than I would like. I agree with Melissa, this is a nice summery kind of drink.

I made a second one with a slight difference. Here is my recipe:
Cilantro Lime Margarita
1.5oz Espolón Silver Tequila 
.5oz Grand Marnier 
1oz Freshly made Sweet and Sour Mix
Juice from half a freshly cut lime
2 lime slices
1 tbsp of freshly minced cilantro
Splash of freshly squeezed orange juice
Mince the cilantro. Place two lime slices and tequila into shaker with the cilantro. Muddle. Squeeze the limes into the shaker, add the sweet and sour and the Grand Marnier. Add ice. Shake thoroughly and pour into a glass. Add more ice if needed. 
The splash of orange juice tempers the tartness of the lime juice and sweet and sour. My sweet and sour tends to be on the tarter side so if you don't want to add the orange juice AND you don't want it tart then you should probably use the juice of half a lime rather than a whole lime as in the original recipe. I really do like this cocktail. Now if we can get those people who don't like cilantro to give this cocktail a shot...

Thanks to Melissa Nof for this recipe. Please give her page a look and give her a follow on Twitter @TheDailynoff. Tell her SiscoVanilla sent you.

Until Then Happy Drinking,