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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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…


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…


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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