Fun With Flavor Contrast and Exceptional Aroma

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Last night one of my favorite regulars had a whiskey and Chamberyzette cocktail and asked for a variation of the theme. The meal and the evening were moving along so I thought he could tolerate something a little sweeter, possibly bitter, and I could up the anti on the exotic. My other favorite regular had given me a bottle of his favorite wine maker, Guy Davis’ APPLE-ATION, apple brandy. I’ve had a lot of apple brandies but nothing like appleation ever. It has some kind of unnatural apple potency and an unreal aromatic intensity so the cocktail was as follows:

1.5 oz. apple brandy (apple-ation, end of the bottle)

1 oz. chamberyzette (replica)

1 oz. cynar

2 dashes peychaud’s bitter

stir. I didn’t garnish because it was already so aromatic.

The aromas of the 80 proof plus spirit dominated the other components in the most beautiful way. The strawberry vermouth sounds its own notes and the Cynar provides a very elegant and mysterious bitter finish. The artichoke liqueur adds just the right amount of darkness for an otherwise bright “fruity” cocktail. In regards to the brandy, the Dutton Range orchard apparently has unique aromatic properties and Davis has figured out how to tap them. His website claims he even strays from well followed conventions in his production technique. Others merely press the juice of the apples, ferment then distill, but Davis borrows techniques from red wine production. He simply slices the fruit and ferments it with all the solids, and even puts the solids into the still increasing intensity [it turns out this risks elevating methanol above permissible levels].

I really wanted to revisit the drink and make sure it wasn’t a fluke. Anything tastes interesting when you are in the middle of your dinner rush. I constructed my version with 2 oz. of Clear Creek’s eight year old apple brandy, which is lovely. Clear Creek’s spirit is less pungent but makes up for it with complexity. I found the sweetness of the cocktail so elegant and within the average of anyone tastes at any point of the day. The meeting of strawberry and artichoke is beautiful and very Americana. Flavors crossing seemingly randomly, but synergisticly like most very American conventions. Wine can be interesting but it can’t be as eccentric or exciting as this.

If you are too lazy to construct a Chamberyzette replica, I’ve heard a rumor that the vermouth maker Dolin is going to start wider distribution in the U.S. including their Chamberyzette.

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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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Chamberyzette: An Elusive Eccentric Vermouth

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[11/10/15 Pamela Vandyke Price, the wine scholar, described Chamberyzette as a dry vermouth. After all these years, I’ve still never tried it.]

Always in search of something new to drink, I came across a specialty vermouth called Chamberyzette that is unfortunately unavailable in the U.S. I’ve never had this stuff and have only read of it. Chamberyzette is an alpine strawberry enhanced vermouth and versions have been produced by Noilly Prat and Dolin. The idea seems awesome. They ditch the sometimes gross muscat fruit character of a vermouth and trade it in for the very sensual strawberry. I would really love to make even a half assed approximation of this overlooked tradition. What I cannot figure out is if this type of vermouth is meant to be sweet or dry and which botanical formula would they use? Strawberries are in line with the acidity of dry vermouth, but I can’t imagine the flavors being vibrant without sugar. Clips of internet text (not even worth referencing) elude to Chamberyzette being sweet which as far as I’m concerned seems like the tastiest way to make it. My mother always adds a little sugar to her sliced strawberries anyhow.

So now to whip up a recipe.

We do know that Dolin’s version rings in at 16% alcohol and I lost the link, but Fragoli’s strawberry liqueur (never had it but its probably typical stuff) contains 150 grams of “real wild forest strawberries” in every bottle. These proportions may not mean much but it may be interesting to see how my recipe compares to their proportions in the end.

I started by hulling some cleaned Driscoll’s organic strawberries from wholefoods and ended up with 960 grams of product. I added two cocaine spoonfuls of pectic enzyme to attempt at a better yield of juice (who knows if this helped but fruit winemakers do it), and added 3 cups of Noilly Prat dry vermouth (dry is easier to modify). After everything was in a deep metal mixing bowl, I wrapped it very well with plastic wrap and put it on a double boiler (the heat draws out the juice from the strawberries and creates a beautiful cooked character while keeping in all the moisture). This should steam for fifteen minutes or so. What I don’t know is what the heat does to the alcohol of the vermouth. Even if the alcohol evaporates it would condense in the plastic wrap I hope.

After passing through, pressing as much juice as I could get from a bouillon strainer and then restraining the hot liquid through my metal reusable coffee filter, I ended up with 5 cups of very clear liquid with no seeds (I think it was really 1250 mL). Because there is a pretty intense nonalcoholic dilution of my vermouth I added 250 mL of gin (I used Leyden’s which is pretty bland. It was laying around). You could do the algebra to try and keep your alcohol in standard vermouth range but I didn’t.

The recipe could stop here if you want a dry Chamberyzette but I added sugar.

This could be sugared tastefully a couple of ways. Amerine claims that sweet vermouths classically range from 12% to 16% sugar by weight and I thought the low end may be appropriate for this unusual vermouth. Then I realized I never measured the sugar that was already there and I was probably really aiming for the high end so I weighed my liquid (1485 grams) and used the formula:

x / (x+1485grams) = .12, x = 202 grams of additional sugar to bring it all up another 12 percentage points or so… (you can change the “.12” to any percentage you are shooting for)

In the end rampant estimation yielded tasty results! and I liked it at first sip. And it was fun at 2:1 cognac to chamberyzette. But this is not complete. It is really not as elegant as it could be.

I’m basically at 2 cups of strawberry juice to 3 cups of vermouth. 40% botanical dilution! Techniques of extraction efficiency are different and probably even potency of strawberry, but I used 480 grams of strawberries per 750ml or so compared to Fragoli’s 150 grams! Never having had Chamberyzette but liking beautiful examples of flavor contrast, I’d say the strawberries in the recipe are only about replacing the muscat’s flavor contribution plus just a little more therefore I should have used less. My educated guess of a recipe should probably be in the range of only 20% strawberry juice and push the minimums of sweetness (which would require measuring things better).

Since the Dolin and Noilly people are in control of all the variables they could even increase their botanical intensities to compensate for their fruit dilution. If I really wanted the intense fruit in my replica I could probably just add a little wormwood to get back to elegance.

This turned into alot of what ifs and variables, but it was easy enough to make and quite tasty. My 1.5 liters or so is already disappearing fast.

***update***

The chamberyzette was well received at work and I put it on the menu. “sophisticated enough, yet still a crowd pleaser”. I am invited to present a drink at the Taste of Cambridge so I’m using the Chamberyzette recipe to mix with my sponsor which is Hennessy cognac. 2:1 with a dash of peychaud’s bitters is a delicious drink with cognac but I think other spirits could make it taste much more interesting. Last night I used gin which wasn’t as cool as I thought it would be but I’m itching to try a single malt, reposado tequila, or a rum like Saint James.

One thing that is bothering me is a particular mouth feel that may be due to the pectin in the strawberries. Things feel gelatinous and different from sugar viscosity. I could easily be imagining this but I think i’m going to add more pectic enzyme to the recipe. Maybe aging would take it away?

***second update***

I used this chamberyzette recipe for a cocktail event where I had to make 300 or so of the same drink with it. This meant I had to follow the recipe again and improve on my previous one. For starters, I had better quality strawberries from a local grower. They were very wild looking in shape and a bit of work to hull but the flavors were potent and beautiful. I also steamed less of the vermouth with the strawberries to get the juice going. Steaming things longer also seemed to break them down even more. The juice was hard to strain really well and I eventually had to squeeze it through cloth. Using more pectic enzyme seemed to change the mouth feel to something elegant and more expected. I followed the same grams of strawberries per liter intensity from the recipe using a 5.3 times larger batch (this was determined by how much Noilly Prat I had around). My volume ended up something like 6 liters or so and then I made the rash decision to dilute the results with a 750 mL bottle of Martini & Rossi Bianco vermouth (already sugared) that was left over from a James Beard dinner I presented drinks at. This is less than 10% dilution but did wonders to move the flavor from an easy crowd pleaser to something that is really deserving of the name vermouth. Martini & Rossi’s Bianco vermouth is a really distinct product and kind of makes me rethink the entire recipe. You could easily use solely the bianco vermouth, barely add any sugar but to bring the strawberry juice and its fortifier up to the bianco’s average. This particular bianco vermouth has a briary, woodsy leaning botanical formula that is like every other part of that patch of strawberries, less the fruit. If you simply added a sugar to the Martini & Rossi dry you would not come close to the Bianco vermouth. The bitter is notable and the makers probably know it is for a niche market. Over all, it really helped my replica taste a lot better.

****update***

I may be producing this again for the restaurant. My plan is to use only Martini & Rossi bianco vermouth and to use a 96 oz. can of Oregon harvest strawberry fruit wine base. I will also maintain the specific gravity of the bianco vermouth by the addition of some alcohol (everclear) and some sugar. The only snags are that I don’t know exactly my juice yield from the pulp or how well pureed it is. Will it be easy to strain? The wine making instructions suggest using a straining bag in the fermentor. I will need a vessel to mature it in that is just the right size that things won’t oxidize. I bet this standardized approach will produce about a case of 750ml’s. can’t wait! [the Oregon harvest pulp turned out to suck!]

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Putting the “extra” back in extra dry vermouth

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Acidity is my favorite part of a drink. I, like so many people enjoy a dry wine. I, like so many people also enjoy a tart cocktail. The golden ratios are beautiful, such as one ounce of lemon juice to one ounce of Cointreau or the stunning in a mojito, one ounce of 1:1 simple syrup to one ounce of lime juice. Classically, there is barely anything to work with besides lemons and limes. Not enough people take dry vermouth seriously as an acid or very dry sparkling wines., dry sherries., etc. Well one thing I’ve always enjoyed is making some of my favorite slightly dry things drier (dry vermouth, orange juice) and then just plain inventing things (tart pineapple-irish moss syrup).

On the long list of things that needs a drier option is dry vermouth. It is good the way it is, but I also want the lemon strength option. Luckily this can be done in mere seconds.

A couple days ago I bought a bottle of Gallo dry vermouth which really turned out to suck (grapey bland swill). Well I thought it might be more adult if it were drier so I decided to add some acidity. There are lots of options and I could go into them, but I keep lots of malic acid (think apples) around and decided to go with it. Malic is more natural to most fruits and has never steered me wrong. The pH of the Gallo dry vermouth was 3.23 and lemons have a range of 2.1 (Harold McGee) – 2.3 (a random forgotten source)

My test volume was 250 mL and to get to a pH of 2.33 (where I stopped) I had to add 6 grams of malic acid powder. I don’t know why I stopped and I think I should have continued. It may have taken 8 grams to get to 2.1. The powder easily dissolved while stirring at room temperature.

The test cocktail was:

2 oz. batavia arrack van oosten (my favorite spirit)

1 oz. adulterated dry vermouth

1 oz. simple syrup (400 g/L)

shaken!

The cocktail is pretty cool. This is like a lemon sour but sort of different. Same tartness and sweetness but with a different flavor contrast for the spirit. The grapiness of the vermouth is a delicate foil for the expressiveness and pungent character of the arrack. Of course bitters would make it better.

I think I’m going to try this again with Noilly Prat or stock and take the pH all the way down to 2.1. Maybe I’ll even ceviche some shrimp savoy style while I’m at it.

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A Cheese and Vermouth Pairing

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I stopped into wholefoods and bought a couple affordable cheeses and a baguette to make an easy lunch. I then sat down with the cheeses and a couple vermouths I had open and tried to see what happened. With vermouth even successful pairings can be beyond the words I know, but I’ll try.

The first cheese was a small cut of Marcillat Alsatian Munster. The cheese is very creamy, sort of nutty, and rather stinky. My cheese sensory evaluation skills are very amateur so hopefully I’m conveying a good description.

The first vermouth I tried it with the was a very ancient Cinzano Reserva dry vermouth (chilled) which is based on chardonnay, probably at least 15 years old and has some serious old wine character. Food really seems to wake it up. The dry vermouth melts right into the cheese and the weights of each match well. The cheese seems to bring out some of the banana flavors in the wine.

Chilled Stock brand sweet vermouth pairs pleasurably with the Munster and again one doesn’t really over power the other. What happens is rather difficult to evaluate but the vermouth seems to reflect back into focus some of the stinkiness of the cheese.

The second cheese was Petite Reblochon de Savoie. It is much firmer than the Munster but still soft. Overall a similar cheese but sort of milder. The Reblochon may have been a little over ripe as there was a faint ammonia character. I was told that is a hazard of buying small cuts at wholefoods.

Though the cheeses seem similar, the Cinzano reaction is different than with the Munster. The cheese seems to make the wine seem more alcoholic and strip away the fruit. The reaction is very subtle but overall it probably doesn’t pair well. Perhaps the vermouth is too dry.

The reaction from the Stock sweet vermouth is very delicate and the cheese seems to make the fruit of the vermouth taste like dark brooding berries.

Because the Reblochon was a bigger cut, I had some cheese left over and decided to taste it with Gallo’s dry vermouth which I’ve never had before. Gallo’s dry is actually kind of horrible. The fruit character of the wine is over the top. Kind of akin to how the fruit character sticks out on fresh Martini Rossi but much more so. The muscat character becomes as inelegant as a concord grape wine. The botanical weight also seems to be much lighter than imported dry vermouths and the whole product seems not very adult. The vermouth may be too dry for the cheese because it makes the fruit of the wine taste even thinner and draws out the ammonia character of the potentially overripe cheese. But I do give Gallo points for a pretty label.

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Amer Picon Replica

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I received one of the last bottles of the beer Picon in Boston and thought it was pretty cool. Low alcohol, orangey, bitter and that’s about all. You can taste all the ingredients that are on the label and nothing more (gentian, quinine, orange peel). Picon’s allure is enhanced by the fact that you can’t get it, but over all its pretty peasanty stuff and never fetched much money.

Well, I have all the ingredients to construct a batch from scratch so I thought I could make a replica of the elusive, original, higher proof version (that I’ve never had). The recipe will be constructed by educated guess of what it would take to make cocktails that used it sing. Amer Picon feels like it would be the same as any other orange liqueur (brizard, cointreau, creole shrub) but just with gentian and quinine. If Amer Picon had the same alcohol content as the great orange liqueurs then it probably had the same sugar content. And probably even the same orange peel intensity. It is likely that Picon just emulated success.

I made some beautiful tinctures of gentian and quinine and added them to a bottle of creole shrub. And about .75 grams of each botanical by weight dissolved in a tincture (5ml of my proprietary tinctures deployed with a culinary, needleless syringe).

The result of this easy to construct replica is some pretty tasty stuff. Picon (from what I have tasted and what I’ve read of it) really isn’t that bitter. It is not exactly Campari. But the botanicals really lengthen the finish to something very elegant. And make the sugar content seem more pleasant. Maybe it is not peasanty. Maybe it is more like middle class sophistication (fine vermouth is my idea of upperclass tastewise sophistication).

I based my botanical intensities roughly on guidelines from Maynard Amerine’s books of the subject and those guidelines seem to meet the average of most people’s tastes. The test will really be to drink as many Picon cocktails as I can and see if the elements are all parsable and in acceptable sugar balance.

I feel like quinine is a nicer bitter than gentian and maybe I should make it more dominant. That would be my only change so far.

The first cocktail I tried was the Brut Cocktail Variation from the cocktaildb

1.5 oz. dry vermouth (M&R)
.75 oz. amer picon (replica)
dash peychauds bitters
stir!

This is beautiful and everything contributes. I even like how my replica Picon’s lack of caramel doesn’t muddy the cocktail’s color. It has this pretty pink hued tint. The acid of the vermouth is in good ratio with sugar of the Picon (justifies my sugar content?) and the bitter quotient is sublime.

My tinctures are as follows:

powdered quinine tincture.

463.3 grams of powdered quinine.

infused in 2 liters of deville brandy (80 proof) with 500ml more of jaques cardin vsop (80 proof) to bring the total to 2500ml

The idea was to terminally infuse the quinine and create a volume measurement that translates to gram of quinine. So I can have a proprietary way of using historical recipes. It didn’t quite work in the end as planned but it is still very useful.

Separating the quinine from the liquid is very difficult so I made the tincture by racking off only the clear liquid from the top. The rest will stay at the bottom and maybe make a different tincture for quinine soda that I make to taste.

The result was 1375ml of tincture (the color is the most stunning ebony!). To account for it differently and approximate the grams per ml

463.3g / 2500ml = .18532 g/ml ! but you don’t know if things are uniformly dissolved or even terminally dissolved. So if anything it would be weaker. And you don’t know anything about the relative quality of raw material anyhow. So this is rather proprietary but reproducible. (I had it all in a standard 3 liter mason jar if that helps anyone) A huge amount of liquid is still locked in the powdered quinine sludge.

gentian tincture…

93.6 grams of gentian (i only bought a quarter pound)

infused in 750ml of jaques cardin VSOP (80 proof)… (the nose of it reminds me of nuts. peanut and hazelnut with a woody aspect) ended up with a 600ml tincture once it was strained after a couple weeks… 93.6/600 = grams/ml the tincture is .156 grams per ML

This approximates direct infusion. Should you account for that 150 that was lost or not to really get to direct infusion? The big loss of volume means that my measurements are really proprietary to my tinctures.

Maybe if I finish my creole shrub project I can extrapolate how much sugar weight and orange weight goes into every liquid ounce so people can use it to construct Kina Lillet replicas based on old recipes or whatever floats their boat.

***update

So I still haven’t revisited this project but I should still add some tasting notes before I forget them. Down at the tales of the cocktails I was lucky enough to taste Jamie Boudreau’s recipe side by side with a bottle of the original formula Picon. Jamie’s replica is far closer to the original than mine but I did notice that his had too much orange which easily seems to be eliminatable from his recipe. The orange character of mine is way off but who knows how the bottle of the original has aged. The original formula has an oxidized, darker kind of orange character. I wonder if the shade of orange is augmented by the spirit base where maybe my recipe would be much better with a blend of creole shrub and grand marnier. Jamie’s recipe and the original was also far more bitter. My theory of using Amerine’s recipes as a guideline are obviously way off and the original formula anyhow, is far closer to Campari than I would have thought. Oh well, I can just add more tincture.

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Hercules: a liqueur interpretation, replica or rendering

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The bartenders at the savoy were fans of a really esoteric liqueur called Hercules which was basically an avante garde aromatized wine. Esoteric may not be the right word because it implies some kind of roots or a tradition which can’t be tracked down in this case. Hercules was probably a flash in the pan liqueur-health tonic trend akin to the same stunts we see in today’s popular culture like pomegranate juice and kombucha. Well, there is some evidence (and I forget how to reference it) that Hercules hyped the newly popular botanical yerba mate.

Yerba mate is pretty cool so it could be a great cornerstone for an aromatized wine. A good product will need a lot more details but we can use our imaginations and observe flavors mingling in the wild to get some ideas. Yerba mate is classically paired with the menthes and a good Greek menthe would be quite fitting. The two botanicals even seem to compete for attention really well on a one to one ratio. I don’t know of any other liqueur uses of menthe besides the mono creme de menthe and maybe it’s use in some obscure Italian amaros, but the savoy has some really avante garde menthe combos besides the Stinger like the:

American beauty (1 dash creme de menthe, 1/4 OJ, 1/4 grenadine, 1/4 french dry vermouth 1/4 brandy)

Caruso cocktail (1/3’s of creme de menthe, gin, and french dry vermouth)

Castle Dip (1/2 apple brandy, 1/2 creme de menthe, 3 dashes of absinthe)

Cold Deck (1/4 creme de menthe, 1/4 italian sweet vermouth, 1/2 brandy)

Ethel Cocktail (1/3 apricot brandy, 1/3 creme de menthe, 1/3 curacao).

And as I tried to collect more recipes the list just keeps going… The savoy people were menthe happy beyond the reaches of my imagination.

So if menthe was another cornerstone within Hercules, then the savoy people would know exactly what to do with it. It is possible that they even got lots of Hercules for free (like many influencer bars do today to promote products) so they had to do something with the stuff. Anyhow, my formula needs more details, true to the original or not. I like the sound of the aromatic mildly psychotropic gruit botanical, yarrow, which has this aromatic meadowy kind of character. It is definitely not as bitter as I thought which means I may have to find another bittering agent. Some star anise may also add some nice savoy style character and some potentially inebriating effects.

I thought I’d ferment my own wine for my Hercules and see what I thought. For one gallon of wine I based my must on Knudsen’s organic juices and aimed for an estimated potential alcohol of 10%. I’m going to fortify to an estimated 24% alcohol for something herculean like Campari and aim for a sugar content of 13% like many sweet vermouths according to Amerine’s Technology of Wine Making.

I’m taking botanical suggestions. My fruit wine is fermenting. And I’ll add to the final recipe as time allows. This may need to age a while so patience people!

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More Fun (or not) With Seville Orange Juice

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I still have a little bit of the Seville sour orange juice left so I thought I would sit down and try it in a drink. Having liked the Gilroy cocktail from the savoy cocktail book and having parodied it many times I thought that would be another good place to begin.

1 oz. gin (seagram’s cask aged distiller’s reserve)

1 oz. cherry heering

.5 oz. dry vermouth (M&R)

.5 oz. sour orange juice (the real stuff)

2 dashes peychauds bitters. (orange bitters seemed redundent)

This isn’t working for me and I think I need to add more acid. The Gilroy is already a low acid cocktail but using the lower acid orange juice over lemon juice puts it just over the tipping point of cloying. Adding another half ounce of the orange juice saves the drink and really seems to bring into balance some of the flavor contrasts.

For my second cocktail I thought I’d explore the elusive Amer Picon with the equally elusive sour orange juice.

2 oz. st. james ambre

1 oz. sour orange juice

.5 oz. amer picon (21 proof version)

scant half teaspoon of turbinado sugar

dash of peychaud’s bitters

I liked this drink a lot but probably not because of the special ingredients. More or less because St. James is good for the human condition and it is lately my favorite spirit. I get beautiful flavor contrast from the orange peel of the Picon and the orange juice of the acid versus the dirt and earth spicy character of the rum. The acid to sugar structure is perfect and the bitter elements are subliminal. You don’t exactly know if they are there but you’d miss them if they were gone. All in all I think the rum makes the drink. If you used something other than Amer Picon paired with an over the top cocktail bitter you’d get a stunning drink from the St. James sour orange combo.

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Hand Made Creole Shrubb

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[I’ve learned so much since this post and have distilled orange liqueurs, deconstructed commercial brands, tackled terpene science, learned about fixation, created best bets, discovered Joseph Merory’s recipes, and so much more!]

Hopefully I can add to this liqueur recipe as I get a chance to work on it, but writing things down will help me to analytically tackle things and create a functional, reproducible recipe.

The the six sour oranges that I bought (which were slightly larger than the ones I got earlier in the season from Specialty Produce) yielded 113.5 grams of peel un-dehydrated (micro planed with as little pith as possible). The peel is very unique and is sopping with moisture. I don’t own a dehydrater so I dried it out in a 200 f oven for 45 minutes or so spreading it across my non stick container to make it dry fast. The peel contained 80.4 grams of water which is 70.8% of the original weight! This leaves us with 33.1 grams to work with to make as much shrub as possible.

My strategy for seeing how many grams per liter a good shrubb takes will be to introduce it to an already sugared alcohol stock and keep increasing the amount until my tasting panel thinks we obtain comparable intensity. This may take quite a while as things need time to dissolve and integrate. The creole spices are another issue all together and I think the only way to really add them in a recipe for a liter batch is by adding a small calculated tincture.

A good spirit base is important for a good shrubb. Cointreau (not a shrubb I know) and clement’s creole shrubb both weigh in at 80 proof which means that with their massive amount of sugar they both start with something quite stiff. To figure out their sugar contents and gain a clue at what proof they start with I can sacrifice a cup or two of clement’s shrub and cook out the alcohol, refill the volume with distilled water and then get an unbiased refractometer reading [I developed so many other ways of doing this]. I think you could make a great version starting from an 80 proof spirit and I will probably have to make that concession. I would love to make a creole shrubb someday that used some of my favorites rums like St. James or Ron Barrellito for flavor contrast.

For the sensory evaluation, I think I’ll use a technique from Maynard Amerine’s Wines: Their Sensory Evaluation and provide three tasting samples, two that are alike, and an odd man out. The panel will try to differentiate my product from a commercial product in regards to orange intensity and hopefully it will be difficult because things will be the same. This means I have to use a similar base spirit for my test batch.

***update!***

So for this proof of concept batch I ended up using Bunratty’s potcheen (90 proof) that I got for free. It has a creepy banana aroma and basically says it was adulterated but it was free so it is hard to argue with.

The 750ml of 90 proof liquid weighed 703.7 grams to bring the sugar up to 38% by weight I had to add 432 grams of whole foods organic white sugar.

432g/(432+703.7)=.38 (this increases the volume to something like 1.1 liters or so.

then I added the 33.1 grams of orange peel… now we must be patient and let everything dissolve.

My educated guess is that if vermouth gets 28 grams per 3.8 liters of orange peels, 33.1 grams of orange peel may flavor quite a lot of creole shrub. Luckily this does make the recipe quite economical.

Amerine has a table in his Technology of Wine Making that shows how many pounds of oil you get per 100 pounds of most culinary spices and herbs. Oranges weigh in at 5lbs. which is fairly high relative to most other botanicals. Hopefully we can expect a nice creole shrubb yield.

What were only dreams will be Newman’s own creole shrubb.

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Sweet Potato Fly

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I first read of the fly on Wayne’s Guyana Outpost and thought it sounded really interesting. Sweet potato lemonade. I avoided making the recipe for quite a while because I thought it would be a bitch to clarify and I’d be left with a starchy mess… well apparently its a little easier than I thought. The first time I attempted to make the recipe I accidentally bought a strange variety of potato that didn’t produce a lot of pumpkin like sweet flavor but rather something less sweet, more mineral driven and very sophisticated. For anyone wondering what they end up with, Harold McGee does a lot to differentiate the types of sweet potatoes found in his On Food and Cooking. Anyhow, who would think you could bring terroir to lemonade?

I enjoyed the distinct minerality of those sweet potatoes which was brought on by the calcareous clay marls of a west facing terraced Guyana hillside. From the west indies potato appellation controllee of lemonheart hill [satire].

The conventional sweeter variety was okay too but for some reason I remember the previous potatoes being much more adult.

So this is basically a classic lemonade recipe with lemon juice, sugar, and sweet potato water to dilute and add flavor contrast. It is so much easier than I thought to get the sweet potato water clear. You basically just roast the potatoes until they are really soft, de-skin and mash them, then cook for a while with the additional amount of water that you want to bring out of them. Simply run the pulp while really hot through a fine kitchen strainer. Then run it again hot through a coffee filter. My roasting at 400 f took an hour but getting the reasonably clear percolated water took less than 10 minutes. For anyone that wants more details within the recipe, the way you roast the potatoes can alter the flavor because a lot of sugar is produced by starch consuming enzymes and Harold Mcgee explains the options well.

4 cups of sweet potato water (flavored by pulp of six medium sized roasted sweet potatoes)

1.5 cups lemon juice

.75 cups of white sugar

1 extra cup of water because i thought it needed to be diluted more…

For those that are counting the sweet potato water rang in at 10.5 brix. Which may be a potential alcohol of 5.4% (maltose not sucrose, which is 30% as sweet as sugar so who knows the measure is accurate or if you can really get that much alcohol). I’m sure you could probably get more sugar out of them and they’d make a pretty rocking beer (sweet potato ginger beer).

I drank my fly with flor de cana’s gold rum but next time around I think I’ll try batavia arrack van oosten for a little more flavor contrast.

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