A Simple Drink

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2 oz. aguardiente! (90 proof distilled i.p.a. with pomegranate seeds)
1 oz. chamberyzette (replica)
dash peychaud’s

The grain like character of the young spirit is really cool and the hop-strawberry contrast is divine. The spirit is uncut but I don’t seem to mind. I wanted to make sure I got all the aromas. I was always told a distilled heavily hopped beer would suck because the hops would be obnoxious but that doesn’t seem to be so. I think a big part of the hops are left behind (bitter) and all you get is a floral capacity. This supposedly has a large amount of pomegranate seeds but their distilled character is really subtle.

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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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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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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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