Green Apple Soda as De-aeration Color-Indicator-Test

Acmeapple soda

For a while I’ve been trying to dream up a test that could illustrate the effectiveness of reflux de-aeration with the champagne bottle manifold.  Of course you can smell the absence of oxidative aromas in de-aerated lemon juice but not everyone smells so well, not even experienced culinary professionals.  A better test would be something visual which made me think of apples.

Apples are subject to oxidative browning which many people are well aware of.  The juice starts out pale and fairly clear like white wine then slowly turns brown before your eyes.  My hope was that de-aeration could remove enough oxygen to prevent any visible browning.  This might be achieved without even adding any ascorbic acid as anti-oxidant.

Using only reflux de-aeration, the juice of green apples stays green and the highly carbonated product is delicious even by itself with no added sugar or acid.

Of course it is even more delicious in a cocktail:

5 oz. highly carbonated green apple soda (probably 8g/L dissolved gas)

1 oz. gin (something burly and high proof)

.5 oz. lime juice

2 g. non-aromatic white sugar

The green apples were juiced with an Acme centrifugal juicer.  The juice was then quickly funneled into a champagne bottle (a clear bottle!) and reflux de-aerated at 65 PSI.  Centrifugal juicers are known to whip a lot of air into the juice accelerating browning but miraculously reflux de-aeration takes the oxygen right out.  Once the oxygen was vented, the juice was carbonated to 8 g/L of dissolved gas which gives it quite the sparkle.

At this point the unadulterated juice is turbid and has some sediment which might irk some neurotics, but the settled juice could easily be racked before carbonation to remove most of the particulates.

To clarify the unadulterated juice within reason on the larger scale (gallons), I bet the juice could be de-aerated in a 3 gallon keg, allowed to settle, then racked off by use of a floating down tube.

Production is pretty quick, low foot print, and economical. No enzymes, no agar clarification, no centrifuges (even though I love those techniques!). Just plain old raw juice, reflux de-aerated.

An Amazing Mead based Shrub Cheater

One of my latest quests is to have amazing bar prep and to do it in a reasonable amount of time. I typically favor cold processes because it is really hard to get time on the stove when the kitchen is working hard. I’m also sick of coming early and leaving late. I meet so many women bar tending that I need a system that allows me to show up late and leave early.

Last August I discovered the great new mead offerings of Sap House Meadery in Ossipee New Hampshire. When I first got a hold of them I was only mixing their stuff with over proof rum in cocktails that look like this:

.75 oz. hopped blue berry maple mead

.75 oz. el dorado 151

.75 oz. lime juice

.5 oz. campari

4 g. non-aromatic white sugar

dash peychaud’s bitters

The mead on its own has a flabbiness (a characteristic inherent to mead) due to a lack of acidity but in a cocktail when you can add acidity in countless ways, my god, the aroma of the mead can be turbo charged beyond belief. So much pent up flavor is dying to be unblocked by a little calculated extra stimulation (g-spot!).

I’ve even started marrying the mead and overproof rum and mellowing them together in champagne bottles that have been de-aerated with the champagne bottle manifold. In equal proportions the alcohol content averages out to 45% and I have the hopes that the higher proof and change in various equilibriums will create conditions for favorable aroma change, namely via esterification of fatty acids [this turned out not to make a marked difference even after significant time elapse].

Recently I was challenged to make a carbonated shrub cocktail. I was also pressed for time so I reviewed my favorite aroma sources and immediately was seduced by the idea of using mead. The Sap House meads are readily available, their fruit sourcing is better than mine, and the product is already clarified. I quickly settled on a shrub base of:

1.5 oz. Sap House Meadery Hopped Blueberry Maple Mead

1 oz. honey vinegar (5% acetic)

10 g.  non-aromatic white sugar

The results are beautiful and a simple system is established where ingredients can be substituted for gentle variations.  The alcohol content averages out to 4% which when diluted more, such as in a lemon-aide recipe, becomes soft drink territory. Remember, for those scaling up and searching for more precision, we can estimate the dissolved volume of the white sugar by considering its density. White sugar is 1.57 times more dense then water so 10 grams displaces 6.37 ml.

I nailed something beautiful on the first try of a drink:

Pantry Cocktail

2.5 oz. Hopped Blueberry Maple Shrub Cheater

.5 oz. Campari

.5 oz. blanco tequila (I used the epic Arette)

Shake and double strain into a champagne 375ml then carbonate to 7 g/L of dissolved gas.

Really Wonderful. There is a unique meeting point of the vinegar acid and the bitterness of the Campari. Campari plus typical acids often construct grapefruit expressions but here, at the meeting of acetic acid and gustatory-bitterness, recollection knows not what to do.  If this cocktail cannot retrieve memories I bet it can cement them. Only drink such a rare experience when you want an evening to be unforgettable.

Other Sap House Mead based cocktails from the archives:

Look to the Sanru

1 oz. cascade mountain gin
1 oz. Sap House Meadery, hopped blueberry maple mead
1 oz. punt y mes
2 dashes peychaud’s bitters


Variation on a Brooklyn

1.5 oz. overproof overholt (55%)
1 oz. sap house meadery, hopped blueberry maple mead
.25 oz. cynar
.25 oz. maraschino liqueur


Passing the Torch

1 oz. pizoes aguardente de medronhos
1 oz. byrrh
1 oz. Sap House Meadery, hopped blueberry maple mead
float of del maguey mezcal “vida”

This new generation of meads are just so useful as a source of extraordinary aroma. I hope to develop even more techniques for them. For the lazy, or the aroma obsessed, or the meadophiles, this is good stuff.

[added 11/26/13]

chestnut shrub

1.5 oz. Die Hochland Imker chestnut flower & chestnut honey dew Mead

1 oz. honey vinegar (5% acetic)

10 g.  non-aromatic white sugar

first at bat

2.5 oz. chestnut “shrub”

.5 oz. campari

.5 oz. laphroaig 10 year cask strength

1.5 oz. water

carbonated to 7 g/L dissolved CO2

mezcal might be even more appropriate

2.5 oz. chestnut “shrub”

.5 oz. campari

.5 oz. 100 proof old forester

4 dashes peychaud’s bitters

1.5 oz. water

carbonated to 7 g/L dissolved CO2

(only missing the mostarda)

Martini Time!

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I never really drink gin martinis. I’d rather have an interesting sour or something more exotic like a Sanru. After making and drinking a few gin martinis I thought I’d muse a little.

(3 to 1)
2.25 oz. Citadelle gin
.75 oz. Noilly prat dry vermouth
dash orange bitters
homogenized lemon peel (expressed in the stirring pitcher)

This variation is fantastic and refreshing. Citadel is a gin with a ratio of juniper and coriander that is not as extreme as other more juniper dominant bottlings. The acidity of the vermouth does not stand out significantly and the lack of sweetness mutes the effect of the orange bitters to elegance.

(2 to 1)
2 oz. Tanqueray gin
1 oz. Dolin dry vermouth
dash orange bitters
top notes of lemon peel

This version has a different sense of harmony. Tanqueray has a very large amount of juniper relative to coriander, yet in the drink, because of the inhomogeneous lemon peel, the gin’s aggressive angular aromatic nature is intensely overshadowed. For some, the acidity from the large quantity of dry vermouth is too challenging. Dolin is also a brand known for its gorgeous bright muscat meets elder flower fruit, but even in such a large quantity and paired with orange bitters, the fruit is not readily obvious.

The martini is a drink in love with exclusivity and has a very skewed sense of harmony. Elitists are quick to defend the iconic beverage as high art and their misty prose leaves others with little understanding of what is really going on.

Within, the the martini is composed of two well entrenched high art ingredients. Dry gin defends itself by adding extra exotic-seeming botanicals in trace amounts that have no real bearing on the overall aroma. The extra ingredients are strictly symbolic (gin is all about olfactory symbolism), yet new producers constantly fall into the trap of actually using the extra botanicals to influence flavor with the consequence of their gins often smelling like someone added cracked black pepper. Gin drinkers are often very brand sensitive but the most important, least analyzed difference between producers is their juniper to coriander ethic. Some producers are in love with juniper and their gins can come across as bottled pine trees while others show restraint and can come across as either elegant or sometimes bland if too much overshadowing happens. No one way is better. Each is just a different sense of harmony related to symbolic value placed on the juniper aroma within an imbiber’s osmology (olfactory world).

Vermouth is one of the trickiest beverages to understand, eluding language and being defined only circularly as a “beverage that resembles the characteristics of and tastes like vermouth”. Dry vermouth may have been paired with gin because of its alliterative botanical concept as well as its delicacy and inability to overshadow. Gin’s exclusivity techniques look like white lies relative to the many claims of deliberate misinformation in vermouth production techniques. The main item of misinformation in question is that botanicals are extracted using high proof solvents when the truth is really the opposite. The solvents are adjusted to the minimum of microbiological stability so they don’t over extract bitter principles. If aspiring producers fall for the high proof trap, they will never figure out how to replicate existing producers’ success. Exclusivity is furthered with claims that formulas are composed of a massive array of botanicals which conflicts with some open producer’s claims of using only a few.

As the sum of its parts, the Martini has a strange sense of spatial effect. If made as gin and dry vermouth in a varying ratio, sweetness, which is important to so many other styles of drink, is nearly eliminated. As opposed to a sour style drink with voluptuous pornographic proportions, the martini is tall, gaunt and uniquely very attractive. The function of dry vermouth in the martini is complex. For starters, dry vermouth simply dilutes gin’s alcohol and aroma. This all happens with a swap for vermouth’s acidity and its largely self contrasted round aroma. The change in ratio between gin and vermouth is really the push and pull of numerous planes of it’s spatial effect. Angular aromas and real acidity are not exactly an even trade and many people find vermouth’s acidity to be inharmonious with the absence of sweetness in such a high alcohol environment. It just all has a shape within the mind they can’t handle.

Besides imbibers enjoying an easy connoisseurial point to distinguish themselves, aroma may be the reason the gin martini has evolved to the dry, no vermouth style. If the nature of aromas can significantly effect our perception of structure, modern gin styles employ aroma to effectively create experiences that can go unameliorated. No acid necessary, modern gin producers took care of that literally (dissolved acid post distillation) or figuratively (shape of the aroma). No contrasting round aroma necessary, modern producers built that in. Not that anything malicious is going on, but eliminate a middle man and you can sell more product.

Modern gins have enough angular aroma to be refreshing but not too much that they need to be diluted with vermouth to find common harmony. There is more citrus peel in modern formulas and coupled with orange bitters, as well as effective use of a twist, martini-esque sense of space can be maintained without the vermouth.

Now that the largest points of contention are squared away, what are thought of as mere garnishes, the olive and lemon twist, often become the most exciting and defining parts of the martini. The olive adds salt from its brine which is still a rare plane to manipulate in the cocktail realm. The twist can either be applied into the liquid and stirred or directly to the top of the drink with the difference being the creation of a homogeneous or inhomogeneous element. Frontal olfaction is very powerful, and strong inhomogenous top notes have a large tendency to overshadow aromas within the drink therefore they can make an experience very distinct. A lemon twist should be wielded with a lot of empathy because it really determines the fate of dollar-an-ounce gin.

With such a skewed sense of space, temperature becomes a plane that is critically important to the martini. The gaunt, thin drink becomes very cranky as it warms and is best thought of as a three part shot. Stirring the drink to minimize dissolved gas with an adequate amount of ice is important as well the realization that an un-chilled glass will suck the cold right out of the liquid.

Like the architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe stated, God is in the details. If you understand the landmarks you can move around and shape an entire world with its own spiritual life. The martini has a surprising amount of relationships that can benefit from more attention than most. Small changes have a very significant influence on spatial effect and therefore emotional response. With every decision within the martini having such intense impact, the drink might actually be worthy of all the obsession and fetishism lavished upon it.

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Dry Rum & Dry Gin? I like mine wet…

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[This post on spirits acidity was written about five years ago and some how generated a huge amount of google search returns. In the time since, my understanding of the matter has gotten a huge upgrade, but there is still a lot of questions.]

A fairly accessible and historically significant paper on the topic is Studies with Brandy. I. pH by Guymon, Tolbert, and Amerine who were giants in beverage technology.  These papers were planned as a series but due to the “exigencies of war” (WWII) only the paper on pH and another on tannin from barrel aging were published.  Strangely, these two papers do not appear in any bibliographies that I can remember.

I’ll try and pull some unique things out of the paper and I’ll leave everything I’ve written previously in tact below.

“The pH of seven whiskies varied from 3.68 to 4.78, the highest value being a new whisky.” I think the pH of even the new whisky here is lower than some would think due to a significant amount of volatile fatty acids.

 “In rum Valaer (1937) found the pH to vary according to the source, exceeding 5 for Cuban and Puerto Rican rums.  The pH of rums distilled in this country was lower.”  The pre-Castro cuban rums referenced here have a higher pH because they were relatively more neutral and closer to a vodka.  So when we look at these old papers I suspect the pH of new make spirits can say a lot about congener profile.

“The low pH values of young brandies were attributed to the use of distilling material higher in sulphur dioxide.  A portion of the sulfur dioxide passing through the still is dissolved in the distillate and is slowly oxidized from sulphurous acid to sulphuric acid.  Presumably this is not always the cause of low pH in brandies, for 20 authentic French cognacs, in which the sulfate content owing to oxidation of sulfite is relatively low, the pH was found to vary from 3.76 to 4.98, averaging 4.14.”  What they are getting at here is that back in the day a lot of wines intended to be table wines went through the still and because table wines get added sulphur they ended up with a confusingly low pH even though they were probably well rectified and deficient in fatty acids.  When a wine is constructed specifically for distillation sulphites are never added.

“pH’s as low as 2.24 and as high as 7.97 were found in certain anomalous samples reported by Valaer in a private communication giving in detail the original data.” This foot note is historically very interesting.  Peter Valaer was the great IRS chemist who probably saw and deconstructed more spirits of more types than any ever in the history of beverage science.  The foot note shows that the UC Davis guys new Valaer personally beyond just his papers.

“It is therefore evident that the pH of commercial distilled spirits ranges from 4 to 5, that it tends to decrease during ageing, and it appears that rum has a higher average pH than the other distilled spirits.” I think the rums they refer to here are the fairly neutral “dry” rums.

“Some of these abnormally high pH’s are probably due to the distillation of neutralized distilling material and the consequent lack of volatile acids in the distillate.” Neutralizing distilling material with baking soda is practiced by home distillers making spirits from Turbo Yeasts.  Often their fermentations get “pricked” and excess acetic acids needs to be neutralized before distillation but at the risk of converting an ammonium salt into volatile ammonia which can corrode the condensor producing a distillate tinged with blue verdigis.

“The buffer capacity of new alcoholic distillates is so low that the addition of only small quantities of either acid or alkaline substances results in abnormally high or low initial pH; for example the use of alkaline water for cutting may result in high pH. Caramel syrups are not stable in alkaline solutions and the brandies with a high pH precipitated most of their caramel as a gummy, reddish mass.” This reference to buffer capacity might be why UV vodka referenced in the original post is proud of their pH neutrality. Cheap vodka might have a lower pH because un-desired fatty acids remain in their distillates.  When an old fashioned is batched (guilty!), the sugar probably does not precipitate because the pH is far lower than the fairly pH neutral spirit they are referencing which is basically the brandy equivalent of grape drink.

“Newly distilled brandies with a pH below 4 are also abnormal. Valaer (1939) found a number of the young California brandies of very low pH and, as already mentioned, he explained this on the basis of their high sulfurous-sulfuric acid content.” California used to make sloppy shit! but if you look back at the early days of wine as described by Allan Hickenbothan at Roseworthy in Australia, back in the 1920’s they had a 30% failure rate on wines meant to be table wines and they were all sent to the still.  After Hickenbothan discovered the significance of pH and started acidifying wines, what they sent to the still decreased to 5%.



Lately I see the word dry confusingly placed on all sorts of spirits from gin to rum and I don’t really understand what it means. dry is even confusingly used in wine speak. Many people can’t make heads or tales of whether a wine is sweet or not. Is there unfermented sugars or are people referring to levels of acidity? many people think rums are sweet because they are made from sugar but that sugar is transformed into alcohol as well as not-volatile so if rum has sugar it is added post distillation. Well whats the deal?

If like wine, dryness often ends up referring to acidity, what is the acidity of spirits? Should un-aged spirits mostly be the same and there be some difference in aged spirits? is there perceived sweetness due to high extracts in spirits like some times is encountered in wine?

The UV vodka website proudly claims their product is close to pH neutral relative to other budget producers who acidify their product for some spirits tax loophole. This makes really no sense to me but the budget producers would definitely have some dry booze. Could these practices in neutral spirits be born out of some sort of tradition? Should my C.J. Wray dry rum be fairly low in pH? and if it is, would the result be due to additives or stuff naturally going through the still?

Maybe to solve some of the mystery I should calibrate my Hanna Instruments pH pen and have a go at the spirits that are laying around.

Calibrated with fresh solution.

Whole foods distilled water. pH??? Well my distilled water was below 7 which is kind of a bad omen, but maybe acid is attached to my electrode from my cleaning solutions etc? Maybe the temperature is messing with things? Well I put on a new electrode, calibrated it and I still can’t get a 7 out of this distilled water but maybe its is messed up.

C.J. Wray dry rum pH 4.85

Gordon’s dry gin pH 6.90 <— switching back and forth and this rockets back to 6.90 so the pen works?

Myer’s platinum white pH 4.42

Clement VSOP pH 3.78

Back to the calibrators… things check out… more or less… I tried to go back and forth between samples to duplicate my initial numbers. More or less they check out.

Batavia Arrack Van Oosten pH 5.02

Seagram’s Distiller’s Reserve pH 5.13

Trimbach Framboise raspberry brandy pH 6.80

lemon juice pH 2.37 (time for a cocktail!)

So wow, I don’t really have too much confidence in the tester but I think it can still teach something about what we drink. It is strange how drastically different Gordon’s and the Trimbach are from the others. Your choice here would apparently have a large impact on balancing a sour. Are the results here the reason the rum & coke is more popular than the fairly acid neutral UV with coke? Harold Mcgee puts black coffee at pH 5.0 and yogurt at pH 4.5. So are the results here negligible because we pile on the sugar with our mixers or are these pH factors important in shaping consumer preference over the long run?

Now I’m curious how the more mainstream gins that I work with at the bar stack up, and how does all this acidity get there in the first place? any insights?

I haven’t really put things to test on what comes through my still, but now I’m even more curious and I think I’m going to have to test some things… distilled, citric, malic, tartaric, and acetic acids… and it was the last of my bottle, but if I added baking soda to the low pH Clement would it have fizzed? could I neutralize that acidity?

Do some dry gins have more acidity now because the palate needs it in a martini (or maybe not, it is my assumption from loving dry wine) but no one wants to get it from dry vermouth. So does a great marriage of gin and dry vermouth like you see in weird reviews really have to do with finding a most harmonic pH?

Quite a lot of new mixology questions.

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An Extinct Style Of Drink?

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Due to circumstances in my life I have evolved into a vermouth drinker. Some how this stuff called vermouth went from totally being in vogue to being completely ignored and barely written about where nearly all real knowledge of it has been lost generations ago and the producers seem to be as quiet as moonshiners. No one is exactly interviewing vermouth producers for wine spectator which I’d pay to read. Luckily with all this decline of things the price, for the most part, has stayed down in two buck chuck territory as well. One reason I think all this persists in modern times anyhow, is because true connoisseurship and afficion is really challenging. Vermouth is sort of alienating because its flavors are so adult, and apparently for many people its alcohol levels are too low for most people (the lushes) to bother with which I think is really significant to its decline.

Cocktails also are a problem for vermouth. The worst vermouth cocktail ever created was the dry martini. I’m not talking about a 1/8 dry vermouth cocktail or a wave of the bottle. I’m speaking of dry vermouth and gin in any ratio with bitters or not. For some reason variations with little deviation had such a profound impact that so few people moved in other directions after its popularity began. Erosion of taste slowly stripped away all the wine and an impatient culture that needed their buzz from one glass took over.

You don’t have a real vermouth drink until you mix up some flavor contrast. And most importantly, you cannot be afraid of having two or three if a buzz is your goal. A couple evenings ago I was looking for a drink for the Cocktail Chronicle’s MxMo event. In browsing the always inspirational cocktailDB, I came across Stephen’s cocktail. I was really impressed by this forgotten Stephen’s good taste. It totally read as my style.

1 oz. sherry (I interpreted this as dry sherry to get a good balance so I used La Cigarrera’s Manzanilla)
.75 oz. dry vermouth (European Noilly Prat)
.75 oz. Benedictine

The drink has a serious flavor to alcohol ratio and a really elegant acidity to sweetness ratio. I wish I could have a good bar experience somewhere drinking maybe five or six of these and pay beer prices because it has close to a craft beer cost basis. Another big problem for vermouth is the nature of our gouge restaurant economies. To sum it up quickly, distributors and marketers push super expensive products on the market leaving generations not even knowing that $12 liters of rye whiskey and rum are stunningly delicious, and to add insult to injury, restaurants in so many cities rather be half full all night long, gouging guests with super expensive drinks than actually work hard, understand spirits, and use products that don’t have pharmaceutical style promotional expenses.

Is there any room in the market for this class of fortified and aromatized wine drink? In matters of taste, sherry with its intense barrel treatment is like whiskey flavored wine (I group sherry drinks with vermouth drinks). I feel like people should be able to relate to it more than they think. Vermouth and sherry are also damn cheap relative to distilled spirits. Tapas places often sell small glasses of them for $5. Additionally, restaurants are trying to get people less drunk these days in the world of liability and conservatism and many people have to work increasing hours but still need time to unwind with some adult tasting stimulus. If in Milan, the vermouth drinkers happy hour is extended well into the evening by the perfect alcohol content and affordability of aromatized wine, couldn’t this new style of drink help revive many lagging urban bar cultures?

So now you’re curious and want to mix up some vermouth? The king of these drinks is the Half Sinner, Half Saint:

1.5 oz. sweet vermouth
1.5 oz. dry vermouth
.5 oz. absinthe (floated)
twist of something

I still have yet to find someone that doesn’t like this drink. the sweetness to dryness ratio is perfect. This drink also makes a dramatic mockery of absinthe. The cloying versus the relief. You can’t know pleasure until you know pain. I need to give No. 9 park credit for introducing it to me. Now one or two is a daily ritual. The two mentioned cocktails illustrate some of the really simple formats but just a few of the many players. When you know their simple properties like whats sweet and whats dry, things can easily be substituted to your wildest imagination.

The players:

Sherry: sweet or dry. Oxidized to elegance with flor yeast, in love with oak like whiskey flavored wine. Fresh styles like Manzanilla are very chamomily while 30 year old sweet sherries, as made by Matuselem, are like liquid bread pudding.

Vermouth: sweet, dry, or bianco. With so many different brands having styles that are hard to nail down, but with little exception all being good. some drys have more fruit than others. Some sweets are sweeter and some are more intense. Some biancos are more bitter than others.

Played out iconic: Brand names Lillet and Dubbonet are usually sweet, usually really orangey and more or less other stuff is more fun.

Forgotten savoy: The Savoy which covers parts of southern France and northern Italy in and around the Alps is aromatized wine country. There are so many forgotten specialties like Chamberyzette which is vermouth heavy handedly aromatized with Alpine strawberries. Chocolate’s best friend is the epic Barolo Chinato which is elegantly bitter aromatized Barolo wine. This region makes aromatized wines that would remind you of a more handsome Campari or a more complex Lillet. (great ones are made by Vergano)

Americano: More intensely bitter aromatized wines that kind of overlap with the Savoy specialities. Great producers are Vergano, Gancia, and I would say Vya of California. I’ve even made my own with good success.

Aromatized cheaters: Bitter and low alcohol but do not have a wine base (to my knowledge anyhow) Cynar, Campari, Aperol, Picon Bier.

Monastic contrast: Incredibly masterful aromatized high alcohol liqueurs. Masochistic flavor contrast, the Chartreuses which are an artistic synthesis of the flavor “rocket fuel” via booze and botanicals, and Benedictine which is liquid cigar concentrate.

The wines: Passito, Botrytised, Ice Wine. Sauternes, Port, :Madeira (cercial, bual, malmsey, rainwater!) Fresh or oxidized styles, honeyed, mysterious, and made under rare circumstances.

What can be surprising is how well certain brands perform in the randomness of it all. Cribari sweet vermouth anyone? Try it with some dry sherry like La Cigarrera Manzanilla and a finger of Saint James Royal Ambre rhum. There are a million ways to mix this style of drink and a million of them are already on the books. Check it out and see how much less whiskey you end up drinking.

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Fighting the Good Fight with Cocktail Acids

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[Me thinking out loud so long ago]

I keep reading about stiff drinks made with interesting liqueur combinations. an example would be the window’s kiss.

1.5 oz. calvados or apple brandy
.75 oz. yellow chartreuse
.75 oz. benedictine
dash angostura bitters

This drink has wild flavor contrasts and massive nuance but it is still cloying and I can barely enjoy more than a sip unless it is stingingly cold. This style of drink is sweeter than port or ice wine, but you can learn great lessons from it. Epic liqueur duo with an apple-y contrast, amazing idea. How can more drinks get in on that action? I need some serious contrast to that sugar. My thought was to split the calvados into a barrel proof spirit diluted with a very dry apple-y sherry like a manzanilla. I tried making the drink as:

.75 oz. old potrero 18th century style rye (124.3 proof)
.75 oz. la gitana manzanilla (30 proof)
.75 oz. yellow chartreuse
.75 oz. benedictine
dash of angostura bitters

I preserved the alcohol content that the calvados contributed and added acidity but still found the drink cloying. I then added another ounce of manzanilla and things started to be within the average of my tastes but my alcohol content went down which is also not good for what I wanted. Of course I could decrease the amount of liqueur relative to fortifier.

1 oz. old potrero 18th century style rye (124.3 proof)
1 oz. la gitana manzanilla (30 proof)
.5 oz. yellow chartreuse
.5 oz. benedictine
dash of angostura bitters

Mother’s milk, even when reduced, the contribution of the liqueurs is sweeter than the sweet vermouth of a Manhattan but now I have acidity from the sherry. This definitely needs to be strained over fresh ice so it can be as cold as possible and for some reason I wish it smelt of oranges.

I like this concept. The right sherries with barrel proof spirits doesn’t really interrupt my barrel flavors and gives me acidity and something economical because barrel proof spirits are never priced correctly and sherry is so affordable. Now I need to find more dry sherry and more barrel proof spirits.

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Manzanilla a.k.a. Chamomile Acid

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[progressive ideas from very long ago]

I just acquired La Gitana which is a classic bottling from Bodegas Hidalgo. These dry sherries are often beyond the average of most people’s tastes to drink alone, but so is straight lemon juice and that means they can mix spectacularly.

i just entered Boston’s Hendrick’s cocktail contest and this what I settled on:

1.5 oz. hendrick’s gin
1 oz. manzanilla sherry (la gitana, a very classic bottling…)
.5 oz. sloe gin (plymouth)
.5 oz. yellow chartreuse
dash of peychaud’s bitters

Chartreuse and sloe gin are my favorite liqueur duo’s at the moment. The yellow works especially well. The contest was looking for cocktails that highlight a botanical besides cucumber and rose petal within Hendrick’s botanical formula. Manzanilla as a sherry style was named after the chamomile flower because its flavor has that earth apple character, but it also has badass cocktail craving acidity! A classic example of the sherry (unlike the La Cigarrera manzanilla that I really like) gives chamomile acid to contrast the liqueurs and support the gin.

When I tried the drink with green Chartreuse all it brought out in the wine was the intimidating oxidized wine character. Yellow Chartreuse really highlighted the earth apple character of the sherry.

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Capturing the Big Easy (or not)

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I’m on the edge of my first real vacation in quite a few years which I’m making out of the tales of the cocktails event down in NOLA. Part of getting ready is a little bit of practice drinking. To keep up with everyone else I need a strategy. I’m taking advice from Chris Charmichael of the Tour de France training fame and using a high cadence with smaller sips technique. Many great drinkers of the past have used the technique to hold their booze over arduously long evenings. I’m also trying to acclimate myself with cocktails that capture the spirit of New Orleans. Easier said than done without ever having been there. The first go at it looked something like this:

2 oz. baby sazerac rye
.75 oz. pimento dram (homemade, Alpenz would probably be better)
.25 oz. yellow chartreuse
1 oz. dry vermouth as tart as a lemon (9 grams of malic acid per 250 mL of gallo dry vermouth)
dash of peychaud’s bitters.

This drink was okay, but needs a better balance and maybe something other than yellow chartreuse or just more of it. I wanted gross excess and no compromises by way of lots of liqueurs and also the flavor of vermouth but also a dry, refreshing drink that you could only get with lemon or lime juice. I got what I was looking for to some degree, but the particular allspice in my dram may be too fiery to be elegant. As easy going as I hear New Orleans is, there still may be a dress code at times and that may hold true for good drinks.

My second try took a different direction. I almost thought of changing up the first drink then I put on some jazz. I wanted a style of drink that could give more length to my night (lower alcohol, fuller flavor).

1 oz. baby sazerac rye
1 oz. dry sherry (La Cigarrera manzanilla)
1 oz. sweet vermouth (noilly prat)
stir over ice then float:
.5 oz. peychaud’s bitters (7 dashes?)

Those that drink a lot of vermouth may recognize the Half Sinner, Half Saint in all of this, but with a couple different notes. Flavors like sherry always remind me of either a rich solo by Stephane Grappelli or sometimes an upright bass. sherry is the greatest expression of wood and oxidation that I can consume to my heart’s desire because of its low alcohol level. I’ve also found that Absinthe is the most overrated product in beverage (I’ve never encountered one that was more adult tasting than good & plenty candies). I’d take a large dose of peychaud’s bitters over absinthe any day of the week.

For breakfast I just revisited the riff on the Half Sinner, Half Saint:

1.5 oz. sweet vermouth (noilly prat)
1.5 oz. dry sherry (last of La Cigarrera manzanilla)
.5 oz. of floated peychaud’s bitters

This drink is most satisfying. I personally enjoy the taste of the bitters over an absinthe, but it just doesn’t float the way I’d like it to. The thin barrier of absinthe in a Half Sinner, Half Saint coats your lips in a briefly cloying way to enhance the refreshing experience of the vermouths underneath. Sinners and saint, pleasure and pain. One can’t exist without the other and the drink exemplifies it. I keep coming across sherries like Matusalem that use biblical marketing and they seem to fit in with the role of the saint without missing a beat.

On its own, by the way, this Noilly Prat sweet vermouth is kind of interesting. it seems to have a drier finish than other sweet vermouths. This vermouth also seemed darker in character. In a moment of clarity a couple days ago, I thought I perceived strong notes of wormwood relative to any other sweet vermouth. This might be in line with the Noilly’s reputation as being more bitter than the others. Whether they can actually use wormwood or not who knows. Recognizing it is from my experience of using it in my projects. This vermouth feels like its in danger of tasting too much like coffee or too much like chocolate. Coupled with a whiskey I suspect one might end up with a flavor dead end. I’m willing to invest in the drinking to figure out if that’s true or not.

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Fun with La Cigarrera’s Manzanilla

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I picked up a half bottle of “la cigarrera” manzanilla. It is really pale and dry like every other Manzanilla I’ve ever had but has a pungent and intoxicating nose of the likes I’ve never come across. The character and complexity of the wine really shows what sherry cask finishes do for highland whiskeys. As hypnotic as this stuff is on the nose, it is not really that much fun to drink without the appropriate food to elevate it. I find it beyond the average of anyone’s taste for dryness, which makes it perfect to a cocktail. Pair the sherry with something sweet and its back into balance. If paired with a highland whiskey like Macallan you can get the acidity a cocktail needs with uninterrupted flavor continuity.

1 oz. macallan cask strength
1 oz. manzanilla (la cigarerra)
.5 oz. luxardo maraschino
.5 oz. cynar
2 dashes peychaud’s bitters

This drink is a beautiful attempt at pairing sherry cask seasoned whiskey with sherry as a cocktail acid. I get an uninterrupted highland experience with no annoying lemon or lime interrupts. The sherry alone with its acidity balances the sweetness of the liqueurs. The whiskey and sherrys’ own flavors are so good together they don’t even need to be elevated with vermouth. I typically despise maraschino, and its subtle almond note always reminds me of poison putting me on edge, but here it works. Another beautiful liqueur like strawberry would probably work even better. The cynar really moves this drink deep into the bitter cocktail genre but definitely isn’t the only way to go. Hopefully I can come up with a drink that is unforgettable.


1 oz. macallan cask strength
1 oz. manzanilla (la cigarerra)
.5 oz. sloe gin (plymouth!)
.5 oz. yellow chartreuse
2 dashes peychaud’s bitters

This drink turned out really well with decadently powerful flavors. If blind tasted the cocktail almost resembles a Manhattan with fruit and botanicals contrasted against brown liquor. Hopefully it wouldn’t be called over engineered. Everything is a little more advanced than a Manhattan because the blackthorn fruit is more exotic and there is more well integrated structure from the sherry. I would really love to try this again with a common rye whiskey like Old Overholt instead of the Macallan. I think that with the sherry in tandem the cocktail would be wildly fun to drink for low dollars.

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Interesting or Pathetic Circumstances

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It is before noon but I was up early enough to justify a drink. Contrary to popular belief I don’t keep a lot of booze in the house. I mainly keep around obscure Italian amaros, eau-de-vie, and of course lots of projects. You’d be hard pressed to find a lemon unless I really premeditated a drink so all of the cocktails consumed around the house are subject to a lot of ingenuity.

This is much like the artistic constraint of my favorite cocktail book. Henry Lyman’s Collections and Creations. The book is a prohibition memoir of a New Englander with an exceptional sense of humor which is reflected in his drinks. I highly recommend checking it out.

My favorite cocktail from Collections and creations:

Charlie d’ Almee (in a pint tin mug)

strawberry syrup, quite a lot

brandy (better not fill it entirely full)

“this is inserted, not because it is good, but because it was all we could get in Dannes-Camieres, and also for historical interest– it saved the life of a distinguished and beloved physician”

So this morning I found my self in similar circumstances and all I could get was:

1.5 St. James ambre (end of the bottle)

1 oz. super tart dry vermouth project (no lemons)

1 oz. chamberryzette (some one’s gotta drink it)

2 dashes peychaud’s bitters

2 dashes “bee sting bitters” (stinging nettle tincture) *watch out for allergies!

This cocktail turned out quite good. Next to Alpenz co.’s Batavia Arrack Van Oosten, St. James is my favorite spirit. I heard Cointreau sold it and I haven’t heard who picked it up so I may be drinking old imported stock. Luckily I’m the only one I know that drinks it, but that means some day my circumstances may be even more pathetic.  At least I’m lucky that I may never have to buy a lemon again because I like my enhanced dry vermouth so much. And the flavor contrast between the Chamberzette and the rum was really quite stunning and could save lives and end wars. My bee sting bitters are really quite wonderful. My lips already feel fuller and my arthritis is clearing up. They add new subliminal sensations to a drink, but I guess I have to save them for myself so I don’t accidentally kill someone with allergies.

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