fava beans and bruleed pecorino toscano with aged balsamic

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This rather simple yet interesting dish entered rotation into our tasting menu. The dish is rather basic and I don’t really get why it is special enough to get a slot on our menu. The dish however, is interesting enough to think about with wine.

The plate consists of fava beans three way (pureed raw, blanched, then boiled), soppressata, a seasonal type of pecorino toscano that is bruleed with sugar and topped with aged balsamic, and then some interesting bitter greens to garnish of a type I can’t remember. Very little elaborate preparation happens here. The raw beans have a very fresh and green taste that darkens as they are cooked more while the texture gets softer as well. The bruleed cheese is pretty incredible. The sweetness and complexity of the caramel is beautiful contrasted with the acidity and balsamicness of the vinegar. The cheese adds awesome texture and you tastes it before the other parts diffuse through your mouth. The stacking of the flavors makes things linger for quite a while. I see how the acidity of the soppressata could contrast the richness and sweet elements of the cheese, but how do the fava beans fit in? I think that they may just be there because chef really likes favas. so many other delicious and seasonal things could be substituted and the favas just change the rules of what wine works for the whole dish. So many wines could work for certain elements but when you consider everything on the plate, things will be narrowed down.

The first wine i tasted with the dish was a really focused, dry reisling from clos de rochers in luxembourg. With the pureed favas, the beans seemed to lighten the wine and stretch the fava flavor on the tongue. Nothing special happened with the cheese. The interaction of the wine and soppressata was simple and harmonious. The dryness of the wine was refreshing. The best part of the pairing was the greens which showed the elegant flavor depth and sophistication of the bruleed sugar and balsamic.

The next wine was bridlewood’s viognier which has a very different structure and is rather low acid. The raw pureed fava pairing was nothing bad, but the greenness contrasted with the baked peach like fruit of the wine was weird. The bruleed cheese with the wine was really long lived in the mouth and created an experience where both were tasted in a continuous and pleasurable stream of sensations. The soppressatta on the other hand, made the wine taste flat perhaps because the soppressata has more acidity than the wine. Comparable acidity may be a requirement for success across the entire dish. Again, the greens with the balsamic was beautiful and quite long lived in the mouth with the wine.

Whitehaven’s intensely grapefruity new zealand sauvignon blanc enlivened the balsamic but was barely interesting anywhere else.

A lightly extracted Chinon rose of cabernet franc, which is rather dry and quite aromatic, seemed to overpower the favas. The wine was nothing special with the cheese and seemed to bring out a vanilla note that may have been from the caramel. Like the favas, the soppressata seemed to get lost in the intensity of the wine.

The last wine that I tried was Montinore estates very feminine style of pinot noir from the willemate valley. Even being considered light for a pinot noir, the wine was too full bodied for the favas and soppressata creating an inelegant vanilla flavor trap with the bruleed cheese.

Knowing that to have a successful pairing across the board you would need sufficient acidity, the wine I wish I could have tried with the dish would have been a vino verde from portugal like “joao pires”. joao pires is a muscat based wine and has a unique “greeness” of flavor that could perhaps be interesting with the favas themselves or perhaps provide the flavor contrasts the favas have while refreshing the palate with every sip. This worked similar to the signal that chefs give when they pair a fruit with a meat. If the chef feels that shade of fruit is a good contrast, a wine that captures that similar note will probably work wonderfully as well. Fava beans are not exactly fruit, but the greenness of a vino verde is not too outlandish a comparison. Some vino verde’s have a really peasanty, gritty finish, but I find joao pires to be the best of the few examples I’ve tasted. Another interesting wine of potential success would be a fruity dry vermouth like Martini & Rossi’s.

I never really pinned down the ideal wine but I know more about it than when I started and I think I have a better appreciation of the dish.

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Cerises au Soleil

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[This post is horribly out of date and has some flawed concepts that I have since learned quite a bit about. A new recipe is part of my distillers workbook that references some great literature and unlocks more of the mysteries of the preserved cherry. Anyhow this is what I was dong back in 2008]

In the last couple weeks many forces have been preventing me from making it to Hay Market but today I finally got there. After checking out all the vendors, I bought four pounds of cherries for two dollars a pound (two pounds of Rainier, two pounds of Bing).

Cherries are not a big part of my diet and I usually only ingest their flavors through wine. The Rainier cherries are quite sweet relative to the Bing and my understanding is that the peak of their season is in July. In wine I’d say you might experience the Rainier flavor in the fruit of a lightly extracted rosé. The Bing variety has the most stunning sour quality and are really refreshing. They are really juicy in flavor and I think I should eat more of them. Bing cherry as a wine descriptor is thrown around quite a lot, but I can’t think of any wine that truly captures their flavor which is quite concentrated. A very young Dolcetto would be the best bet. The Piave liqueur Elisir Gambrinus synthesizes a Bing or probably better yet Marasca cherry like flavor by reducing the wine of the weed grape Ribasso. Only after concentrating the flavors (it makes a bland wine on average), does it come close to the intensity of a raw cherry.

So I bought all these cherries because one of my favorite discoveries of last year was the Provencial specialty called Cerises au Soleil or cherries of the sun. In this canning tradition, the French jar cherries with sugar and eau de vie then age them on roof tops for the duration of the summer. I got a couple jars of the imported version at formaggio kitchen and used them for a special Brown-Forman cocktail event I did for a couple hundred people last year. The product was great but the only thing I didn’t like was that the pits of the cherries were intact making them slightly difficult to eat.

For my recipe I cleaned and pitted all four pounds of cherries and put them together in a three liter mason jar. Instead of eau de vie, I added 750 mL of cachaca and 750 mL of Stock brand maraschino liqueur because both ingredients were on hand. I then added a small fraction of the pits that I took out to add a subtle nutty character. If I smell too much of that nut character I feel like someone is trying to poison me with cyanide. (if I ever put an almond liqueur in a drink, I need a float of dark rum to cover up that unnerving smell). So the only sugar I’ve introduced to the cherries has come from the maraschino liqueur which is quite sweet. The sugar content is enough to make the preserving liquid dense enough to float the cherries which is not where I want to be. Herve This advises in his Molecular Gastronomy that the proper sugar content for canning fruit in syrup is one at which the fruit doesn’t all fall to the the bottom (not enough sugar) or all float (too much). This is complicated by the differing ripeness of the fruits which is exacerbated in my batch by the differing varieties (I’m not stressing, at good average is what I seek). At the moment all of my fruit is floating and I should take out some of my alcoholic syrup and add either water or more Cachaca. Optimizing the syrup will keep the fruit from bursting if the sugar content is too low or shriveling if it is too high. Every home made maraschino cherry I’ve had has been shriveled, while the Cerises au Soleil from Provance were perfectly shaped. (I’m also not afraid of wasting any booze to get the correct maraschino liqueur to Cachaca ratio because anything I take out is going to flavor some sangria)

The next interesting part of the recipe to consider is the sun. Submitting the jarred cherries to the elements especially sunlight induces oxidation and basically speeds up the aging process. Maynard Amerine describes aspects of the idea in his Technology of Wine Making but doesn’t exactly recommend any of it. The technique may not create any attractive flavors in a wine or brandy but may add further sophistication to the over the top flavors of unfermented fruit. I keep putting my batch out in the sun when I work lunch while I’ve heard of other people decorating their gardens with their canning jars. Time will tell exactly how much I like my domestic results.

Some ideas for down the road would be to augment the acidity to my liking. I really enjoy aspects of the Rainier cherries but feel that they are kind of sweet. Diffusing a little extra acidity through a sprinkling of malic or tartaric acid would really create a preserved yet refreshing palate cleanser. Also enhancing the preservation with avante garde base spirits would be cool. A really minerally Cape Verdean rum or over the top Peruvian pisco would add awesome sophistication.

**** update****

So mixing the two types of cherries turned out to not be a great idea because their colors became kind of homogeneous and they definitely had drastically different densities therefore requiring different amounts of sugar (half sunk and half floated). I do think they taste good but for some reason the cherries taste far more alcoholic than the liquid they are in and I have no idea why. Another problem is that the cherries at the very top of the jar have browned due to oxidation. None of the imported Cerises au Soleil browned even though there was no preservative listed and the jars were not even filled to the top. How did they do it?

I found a clue in the electronic addition of Artisan Distilling by Kris Arvid Berglund. Berglund provides a small and very useful guide for small distilleries that is definitely worth checking out. An interesting part of the guide describes the tradition of the pear in the bottle of eau de vie and what it really takes to make it stick. Apparently an 80 spirit isn’t enough to really preserve a fruit and prevent browning. For starters Burglund recommends a 45% alcohol spirit. Then very surprisingly to me, Burglund recommends filling the bottles with a 1% sulfuric acid solution and letting it stand for one hour. The bottles are then thoroughly rinsed with softened water. One gram of ascorbic acid is dissolved in every liter of fortifying brandy. After filling the bottles Burgland recommends to vacuum out the oxygen as well with something like a water jet pump or maybe a vin vac (I have no idea how you would do it to a canning jar). Another surprise to the story is that often the fruit has to wait in the jar quite a while before the eau de vie is even ready for it. to preserve it in the mean time a solution of 10 g citric acid, 1 g ascorbic acid, and 100 mg SO2 (= 2ml SO2 solution 5%) per liter which can supposedly preserve the fruit for up to six months while the eau de vie is being produced.

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Sloe Gin Two Ways

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I just got a bottle of Plymouth’s sloe gin and find it quite satisfying. I did describe it on egullet as so:

“I just picked up a bottle of Plymouth sloe gin ($40) at Charles Street Liquors on Beacon Hill. Its pretty cool. The nose has a charming cough syrup kind of character. Its is elegantly sweet but finishes almost dry like there is much more acidity than a liqueur like Cointreau. The botanicals seem to add only subtle nuance and there is no piny juniper leaping out at you.”

My first attempt of playing with the stuff was as follows:

1.5 oz. st. james ambre (my favorite martinique rum)
.5 oz. plymouth sloe gin
.5 oz. yellow chartreuse
1 oz. lemon juice
dash of angostura

This was fantastic and integrated, and even the small amount of sloe gin gave this sour style drink unique identity. I could drink many of these without getting bored from the repetition. But I remembered it so vividly that I didn’t feel the need to drink it again. Instead I re-animated it with my beloved Seagram’s Distiller’s reserve gin.

1.5 oz. seagrams distiller’s reserve
.5 oz. plymouth sloe gin
.5 oz. yellow chartreuse
1 oz. lemon juice
dash angostura

The next day (today) this variation relative to the first was beautiful. The accompaniments are the same but with the change in base, the first thing that came to mind was the aroma of chamomile with a salinity on the palate that didn’t really exist, but might have been brought on by the drier perception of the spirit. This reminded me of a manzanilla sherry lurking under the fruit of the sloes (but certainly not something heavy relative to the manzanilla style like “la cigarrera”). This drink’s synthesis of flavors lurking in my own mind’s personal flavor reference library was really fun but probably lost on less kinky drinkers, oh well.

***update!***

So some friends came to visit for the afternoon and I took the opportunity to make another cocktail. This theme was fresh in my head with plenty of flavor references ingrained in my subconscious self so I opted to use my distilled version of Hitachino’s white ale from Japan. This is basically a gin like system derived from a highly regarded beer that I’ve drank on many occasions. The botanical system differs from gin by using hops instead of juniper accompanied by orange peel and coriander. The results of Hitachino’s efforts are amazing and completely validates the nearly $2/oz. price. My strategy for working with something Charlie Trotter decadent like this is to use a drink that I’m really familiar with and enjoy so I get a better chance at understanding the new spirits contribution. In this drink the hops create the most beautiful floral quality. In beer you usually encounter it with little fruit flavor contrast but in a cocktail anything is fair game. Here there is the contrast of diluted sloes and Chartreuse. Nothing is redundant and everything gets a chance to speak. wow!

1.5 oz. hitachino’s “kiuchi no shizuku” distilled white ale
.5 oz. plymouth sloe gin
.5 oz. yellow chartreuse
1 oz. lemon juice
dash angostura

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“Bolivar soy yo!” (if you drink enough of these…)

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Every now and then when its scorchingly hot and I crave a respite in cool marbled halls, I slip into the old wing of the Boston Public Library and make sure everything is still there where I left it last summer. The lions still guard the staircase and my favorite busts are still lurking in the cool shadows. An interesting one to incite some day dreams is at the top of the main staircase and to the left by the window that over looks the most underused and stunning courtyard garden in the city. “El Libertador”, Simon Bolivar, this guy liberated all of my favorite booze producing countries from the colonial grip of Spain so that they could start their own paths to culinary greatness. And so, if a drink is named after Bolivar, it doesn’t exactly have to contain any of the fruits of the revolution, it simply must be Bolivar-esque a.k.a. heroic in the spirit.

“the Bolivar”
1.5 oz. lagavulin 16
.5 oz. dried apricot infused pisco (a handful per 750ml of barsol)
1 oz. chamberyzette
1 oz. lime juice
spoonful of simple syrup
dash of angostura bitters
shake!

This smells like nothing but intimidation, but its all scotchy smoke and mirrored reflections off mixing glasses. Those brave enough to imbibe “the Bolivar” will find a refuge more reposeful than the BPL.

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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.

***update!***

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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Alma’s Whisper…

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Alma’s Whisper
1 oz. blanco tequila (herradura)
1 oz. reposado tequila (herradura)
1 oz. chamberyzette (replica)
1 oz. lime juice
.5 oz. simple syrup
2 dashes of peychaud’s bitters

I had made this drink quite a few ways and every time it was good, but last night I made it as listed for Roman who is the greatest patron of my cocktails. Roman and I discussed how to name the drink and determined that when consuming something that contained the bottled, but not exactly caged spirits of plant beings, you should be possessed by them and let them whisper to you…

This drink is dominated by loud and impressive agave voices conversing amongst each other amidst a crowd of adolescent, alpine, eavesdroppers… The lime is wise enough to stay silent, but rests itself against the other spirits changing the pitch of what comes out… Last night, according to Roman, the only dialogue that could be deciphered is “the desert is large”…

If you try it out let us know what you hear.

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gambling on a gallon of wine…

really liking cynar, i thought i’d take a stab at making something similar at home. the infamous loved or feared liqueur claims to be about the artichoke, but i suspect there is more going on. creating something similar is going to either be easy or turn out to be far more complicated than anyone has ever given the spirit credit for… probably the latter.

what i’ve learned so far is that cynar is a distilled spirit that is cut with what is probably only water to 16.5% alcohol where anything wine like would be highly perishable… its also flavored with other botanicals besides the artichokes and get a pretty reasonable sugaring… i also wonder if they use something like potassium sorbate as a preservative considering the low alcohol… from the artichokes, i think they only use the leaves which could easily be a byproduct of a cannery… one mans trash another man’s treasure… upon further tastings, the bittering agent is probably really important. more than any artichoke character, the bitter botanicals is probably what makes or breaks the liqueur… i suspect it is some elegantly applied quinine… but with who knows, maybe rhubarb root or something weird and only mildly bitter playing a supporting role…

my strategy to make a similarly interesting liqueur (not exactly a replica) is to make an artichoke wine, fortify it, and add extra botanicals to make it as interestingly bitter as cynar… cynar likely has citrus peels in its botanical line up but i thought more fun would be strawberry (or i could add pomegranate seed if it needs more help down the road) and use coca cola as my backdrop. to me cynar’s allure is its sexy bitter kola character… after unsuccessfully playing with kola nuts it may be best to get this botanical’s help straight from the masters… and the wine will turn coke’s dreaded corn syrup into a useful alcoholic solvent… this just started fermenting tonight and many months later on i can revisit the recipe and bitter it up as necessary…

“strawberry kola artichoke wine” (for one gallon)

2 liters coca cola

1 liter water

414 grams of sliced and hulled organic strawberries (a couple pints)

1005 grams of sliced and cleaned artichokes (5 medium sized)

i cut the stems but did leave the hearts in as well as the leaves…

this all went int a stock pot and was boiled together for an hour…

i strained everything into a carboy but only had about 1.5 liters at 13 brix. to get a potential alcohol of 10% i need a brix of 18 and had to complete the gallon with a 21.5 brix syrup… you may end up with different results here so its best to do the algebra yourself. authors like amerine recommend fortified wines only ferment to 10% or so before they are fortified so i’m taking their advice…

i then added a campden tablet, 1/2 teaspoon of pectic enzyme, and pasteur’s champagne yeast

its probably 80 degrees in the house and this started fermenting very quickly…

**my previous attempt at an aromatized wine, the “hercules” is coming along nicely and encourages these styles of rustic liqueurs… there are lots of mistakes to learn from but hopefully i can disclose them all…

***update!

so i just racked this wine to the secondary fermentor and saved myself a sample taste. the wine so far rang in at approximately 6 brix so it has about 2.7% alcohol worth of fermenting to go to be dry… what i racked off so far looked very untypical… there was the most intense scum that stuck to the bottom and the yeast was concentrated in it… everything that was racked off looked rather clean relative to my one gallon “hurcules” wine… i’m wondering if this is a result of the unfermentable gums that are in coca cola? i know this is young stuff and i don’t really understand how things evolve but i have no confidence that it would taste like i intended… the acidity is there somewhat so its not too flat tasting, but i will have to measure it for a comparison to other wines. the artichoke flavor is there but the cola seems to have faded alot. hopefully aging and a little botanical embellishment may help it out…

***update!

so this wine sat around for a quite a while after it finished up in the secondary fermenter. after racking the wine i was left with 3.5 liters and i added 2 liters of miscellaneous 80 proof spirits to bring the 10% alcohol wine into the 20%’s before i increased the sugar to 16% by weight (required 1003 grams) leaving it in the very high teens of alcohol. i also did add 1 oz. of my quinine tincture. the result is pretty cool but not exactly mind blowing. i used white sugar but things taste really caramely which could be due to the bottle of cruzan black strap in the fortifying mix. so over all interesting shades of this and that but the product is definitely not as complex as cynar. i do feel like it grows sweeter as you drink it so much so that you crave some acidity. maybe i did capture some of the cynarin… so i just need some better botanicals. hmmm… wormwood, gentian, and orris?

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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