Undoubtedly we will be spending a lot of time on the topic of Whiskey on this blog. There is just so much to know and learn, that it is unavoidable. But don’t let that scare you, the topic of whiskey, or whisky (if you are on the British isles), is one of great joy and intrigue. There are so many variations on this spirit that I can’t possibly try and explain everything in one blog post. We won’t even attempt to get into the Scottish aqua vitae known as Scotch, which deserves a whole blog post on its own. But, i digress, for what i can do is introduce you to some of the basics…and my favorites, of course!
First things first, Whiskey is a distilled spirit that is distilled from different grains, including barley, rye, wheat, and corn. Different mixtures of these grains make up what is known as the ‘mash’.
It’s All About the Mash!!
Each type of whiskey has its own particular mash bill that must be adhered to. So let’s start with a couple of my favorites: bourbon and rye whiskey.
Bourbon, or Kentucky straight, as some call it, is a mash of at least 51% corn. Once the corn is milled at the distillery, it is added to water and heated, to begin the fermentation process. It is in the process that
enzymes break down the grain and produce alcohol as a by-product. The name Bourbon comes from the county in Kentucky where it is primarily produced. It does not, by definition, have to be produced in Kentucky, although most Kentucky-ans (is that a word?) would have you believe otherwise! In fact, neighboring Tennessee also produces a bourbon, but they call it Tennessee whiskey to differentiate it (think George Dickel or Jack Daniels). However, there are SOME stipulations to be labeled Bourbon…
Bourbon must be distilled in the United States
Bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels
Bourbon must be at least 51% corn mash
There are other stipulations as well that deal with the proof of bourbon, but this is enough info for now. I should note, that in order for Bourbon to be called ‘straight’ bourbon, that means it has been aged at least 2 years. Furthermore, the aging in the charred oak barrels is what gives whiskey the color and subtle caramel notes. As a general rule, bourbon tends to be on the sweeter side of whiskeys due to the high corn content in it’s mash bill. This is important when mixing cocktails, as you may already know, for you home cocktailians.
American rye whiskey, on the other hand, must contain at least 51% rye in it’s mash bill. On a side note, there is also a Canadian rye whiskey, that may or may not contain rye. Let’s stick to the American rye since it appears the Canucks don’t have their rye right! Besides, why call it rye whiskey if it may not even contain rye?! In any event, the other ingredients in the rye mash are usually corn and malted barley. Like it’s bourbon counterpart, rye must be aged in new, charred oak barrels, and must be aged at least 2 years to be considered ‘straight’. Interestingly enough, rye was the prevalent American whiskey in the Northeast prior to that wretched time in American history known as Prohibition. However, it began to disappear around that time, some would argue, because bourbon was sweeter, and therefore easier to mask the alcohol. This was important should anyone, ahem, inquire about the beverage you were drinking or selling. The main differences between rye and bourbon is the mash and the flavor profile. While bourbon is sweeter, rye tends to be drier, and has some spicier tones to it. One other interesting note…currently, at The Citizen, we are carrying Redemption brand Rye and Hi-Rye Bourbon whiskeys. The Hi-Rye Bourbon got my attention recently because it is > 30% rye and just less than 60% corn in the mash bill. This is indeed unusual for a bourbon, but I happen to really like it. You still get some sweetness of the bourbon, and also some spice notes from the rye – it’s a really nice blend.
So, there lays the groundwork for your whiskey, or whisky, wherever you may be. A couple of cocktails to get you started…shall we??
I have mentioned the Sazerac in one of my previous posts – a quintessential rye cocktail.
So, I will throw out another cocktail that is just as much a classic, and may indeed be used with either rye or bourbon. Here I will use rye whiskey. But next time you are down at The Citizen, ask to make one with the Hi-Rye Bourbon, for an added twist…
2 oz. Rye whiskey (Redemption Rye or Old Overholt works well)
3 dashes of aromatic bitters
2 dashes of orange bitters
1 brown sugar cube
Garnish – orange peel
Place sugar cube in empty rocks glass. Add bitters and just a dash of club soda (to help dissolve the sugar).
Muddle sugar cube until mostly dissolved.
Add 2 oz. of bourbon
Add 1 ice ball, or ice cubes
Finish cocktail with orange peel (squeeze oil from orange peel over drink)
1 oz. Bourbon
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Carpano Antica (sweet vermouth)
Stir in shaker and pour over rocks in short rocks glass
Garnish with orange peel (squeeze oil from orange peel over drink)
This is a great idea.
It would be nice to see some of the larger breweries follow suit…
Not sure how i feel about this one…
What are your thoughts?
I hope everyone enjoyed our Prohibition Repeal Party on Saturday December 4th. We will be posting more on that later, when we can get the pictures uploaded, etc. But for now, on to the upcoming holiday which has become a big night in the cocktail business, and that is New Year’s Eve, of course. While some people prefer to stay in, cozying up with their loved ones and ordering take out, others prefer to gallivant around town and ring in the new year with complete strangers, and of course, their favorite glass of bubbly. This leads me to an interesting discussion on the different types of bubbly that are out there. While there are many different kinds of sparkling wine from every continent (including America), I would like to shine the spotlight on the 3 most prominent, in my own humble opinion, and in no particular order: Champagne, Cava, and Spumanti. Keep in mind that all sparklers have one thing in common – secondary fermentation. That is to say, they ferment again while stored in the bottle.
So where to begin? Well let’s start with the gran’ daddy of them all – Champagne. This has become one of those words that are used as a generalization for all sparkling wines for many people. When someone mentions bubbly – immediately Champagne springs to mind. And why shouldn’t it – it has been produced since the middle ages. However, it began its booming popularity in the more recent 17th and 18th centuries. For starters, Champagne, by definition, is a sparkling wine that MUST be grown in the Champagne region of France. This is actually in the northeast region of France, and more specifically, only about 100 miles from Paris. The location of this region invokes high altitude growing conditions for the grapes, producing high acidity, ideal for sparkling wines. Some of the most popular grapes grown in this region for use in Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Au Revoir from France for now!
Next, we move a bit further West on the Iberian Peninsula, to our friends in Spain. Spain is more popularly known for their fantastic red and white wines that can be bought at great values, and of course, their Sherry. However, they are quietly becoming an excellent source of good sparkling wine. And with over 2.9 million acres planted, Spain is the most widely planted wine producing nation. Spaniards began producing the sparkling wine in the late 19th century and originally called Champagna – as it is made in the same tradition as its French cousin. The primary grapes used in Cava production today are Macabeo, Perellada, and Xarel-Lo. Most of the Cava production these days comes from the region of Catalonia in Spain. Interesting note: Cava actually comes from the Latin word ‘cava’ which means ‘cave’. This refers to the early uses of caves for the storage and aging of the Spanish sparkler. Cava has varying levels of dryness and can range from dry to semi-sweet. Either way, Cava makes for a much more economical substitution in cocktails then does Champagne, as it is currently much cheaper. So adios for now as we head East to the Mediterranean country of Italy.
The Italians produce their own kind of sparkling wine known as Spumanti. Some of the more popular kinds of Spumanti are Asti – from the Piedmont region, Lambrusco from the Emilia region, and Prosecco, which is on of the more common sparklers from Italy. While Asti tends to be on the sweeter side of sparkling wines, Prosecco can be dry. However, they do make some sweeter wines from Prosecco as well. Most common grapes used in the Italian countryside for this sparkling wine are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc.
Whichever your choice for the holiday season, keep in mind, each sparkling wine has its own unique characteristics. Here are a couple of my favorite recipes to use when making a sparkling cocktail…Cheers!
SPARKLING NO NAME
3/4 oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1 bar spoon fresh lemon juice
Shake in cocktail shaker with ice
Pour in chilled champagne flute
Top with your choice of sparkling wine
1 oz. Creme de Cassis Liqueur
1 bar spoon fresh lemon juice
Shake in cocktail shaker with ice
Pour into a chilled champagne flute
Top with Champagne
…as some have called it. It is a dark black liquid that, in appearance, resembles Jaggermeister. But to most people that have tried it, that is where any similarities will end. Often, one can be seen at the bar tipping back a shot of this mystery dark liquid followed with another shot of ginger ale or, better yet, ginger beer…followed by a smile. Or for first timers, you may even see a grimace, like they just got punched in the face, and then comes the smile. For those of you that know me, you know what I am talking about. The ginger beer probably gave it away. If heaven were a liquid, I would indeed be referring to Fernet Branca. Fernet who? Branca What? Undoubtedly, most people do not know what I am talking about. But for those that do…that first sip is probably akin to sticking your head in an ice water bath. But what follows is magical, mysterious, and uplifting all at the same time.
A little background for starters… Fernet Branca is what’s known as a digestive, or digestivo. It is a type of aperitif that is supposed to be drunk after a meal to help you digest. It is an Italian bitter made up of over 40 different herbs and spices. Some of the herbs and spices include myrrh, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, saffron, and anise. The liqueur itself is grape based and has a caramel color added to it. So now we know some of the ingredients that make it up, let’s take a look at who made it up.
Turns out, this venerable liquid is the product of the Branca family. Specifically, the proprietary recipe has not changed since it was invented in 1845 by Bernardino Branca. Initially, there were many health benefits that were attributed to Fernet. Some would use it to quell a common cold, and as a medicine, the drink was still considered legal during America’s Prohibition in the 1930’s.
These days Fernet has garnered quite the cult following here in the United States, mostly amongst bartenders and other “industry” folks. I know many a bartender who has formed love affair with this intriguing spirit. However, it is fun to see patrons come in and request a Fernet and Ginger more and more now without having to suggest it.
It is true that Fernet and Cola has become the national drink of Argentina, where it is drunk there more than any other place in the world, including Italy. Here in the states, San Francisco has attained the ubiquitous title of the Fernet capital of North America. Actually, it is said that San Franciscans drink the most Fernet Branca outside of Argentina. Indeed, I have read articles about places in San Francisco where the Fernet flows freely and in abundance. Whilst Worcester is not quite there yet, we will continue to try and let Worcester-ites in on the secret that is known as Fernet. In fact, “excuse me barkeep, I’ll take a shot of Fernet with some ginger beer on the backside.”
As many of my co-workers and friends know, I decided to spend my birthday this year in New York as a one man show, and I must say, it was pretty awesome. I decided to chronicle my experience and share it with anyone who had nothing better to do but hear me ramble. Now I will say that in this chronicle I may not have been able to get the names of all the places or people that I visited along the way; but at the same time this was a trip of utter indulgence.
I started out on this trip in my overly anxious way by arriving to the bus station approximately two hours prior to departure. Being that a bus ride was not the most fascinating thing in the world, I spent most of the time sleeping. The one thing I learned from this is that riding on a bus for several hours warrants a drink. So after taking the subway over to Grand Central Station, with a stop at R.A.G. clothing store, I popped out to find the nearest watering hole. I stopped at the first bar I found, a small, cheap Irish bar that I will never know the name of but will probably visit again. Two Stoli & Sodas and a change of plans later, I jumped back on the subway and made my way to Brooklyn.
I arrived in a mostly hipster part of the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn. After a short nap and getting settled in at The New York Loft Hostel, I took a quick shower and donned my new attire. With no particular plans I headed towards the subway station. I passed a custom bike shop with a sign in the window saying barber shop. I decided to investigate this peculiarity, and sure enough in the back of the shop was a barber shop, and being in dire need of haircut I said why not. It turns out the barber was originally from Massachusetts. I asked him where he got the idea to open a barber shop in a bike shop, and he told me he used to own a skate shop in Mass with the same setup. When he moved here his friend suggested he do the same thing in the back of his bike shop. One haircut later, I rounded the corner and came across a small wine & liquor shop (of which I did not catch the name). I went inside to browse, noting an attention to quality by the bottles of Chartruese behind the counter. After a quick chat with the clerk I decided to move on.
Taking a recommendation from my friend Andre, I decided to make my way to the Chelsea area of Manhattan and grab a bite to eat at El Quinto Pino, a small tapas restaurant on West 24th Street. I was immediately struck by the coziness and ambiance of the place that probably only holds thirty people. The menus were written on chalkboards on the wall, the cocktail menu was actually written on a painted column in the middle of an elliptical bar. I ordered a glass of white wine and a couple of tapas based on the recommendation of my server, all of which were delicious and excellently prepared. I then decided to make my way to their sister restaurant, Txikito, just a short walk away. Txikito specializes in Basque cuisine and the cider, or sidra, barrel outside the front door let me know that this place was the real deal. I was welcomed by a warm, wooden interior and a small, inviting bar. I grabbed the first seat I saw and ordered a glass of Basque-style cider made in New Hampshire by Poverty Lane Orchards & Farnum Hill Ciders. It was delicious and true to the Basque tradition of making cider. Taking the bartender’s recommendation, I ordered one of the specials written on the chalkboard. It consisted of fresh dates and thinly-sliced Jamon Serrano piled atop of piece of sweet, hard bread and lightly drizzled with a vibrant glaze. I enjoyed this with a crisp, acidic glass of Ulacia Txakoli that got better with each sip. In talking with the bartender, she recommended I check out a wine shop in the East Village called Tinto Fino, as well as, a couple cocktail bars in the city. Upon getting ready to leave I was greeted by chef/owner Alex Raij, and had wonderful talk with her about her restaurant and also our own offerings in Worcester. Moving on, I decided to head to the East Village.
The next morning I was thankful I had the wherewithal to buy a bottle of water from a vending machine in the hostel the night before. After consuming the bottle in about two seconds, I showered and prepared for another day in the city. Needing a caffeine fix I decided to check out Café Orwell located right next door; this would become my primary source of caffeine for the rest of my trip. It is a great little café that has plenty of comfortable seats and boasts live music on certain nights. I decided to head to the wine shop the bartender at Txikito recommended in the East Village.
After returning to the East Village mid-morning I decided I would grab a bite to eat at the first and most appropriate place I came across. I chose an Italian wine bar, and unfortunately, I didn‘t get the name. I ordered a glass of prosecco and some prosciutto with cantaloupe. After a quick chat with the cute and very Italian young lady behind the bar I continued on my way. I arrived at Tinto Fino to find that they didn’t open for another half-hour. I decided not venture too far from the shop and grabbed a cappuccino with some biscotti at the nearest café I found. Given the unseasonably warm weather I decided to enjoy my selections at a small table on the sidewalk patio. Upon returning to Tinto Fino, I entered a quaint wine shop with some very unique Spanish wine adorning the racks along the walls. My eyes were immediately drawn to three bottles sitting atop an oak wine barrel: Spanish vermouth. Having never seen, or even heard of, Spanish vermouth I immediately asked the clerk about the product. He told me the vermouth, Vermouth Perucchi, had recently become available in the U.S. What amazed me was the exceptional price of $20 a bottle. I told the clerk I would definitely be back to pick up a bottle on my way out of the city the next day.
From here I decided to head over to Soho and indulge in some shopping, since my wardrobe at home is a little outdated. I decided to go to both H&M stores on Broadway. On a side note, I cannot clothes shop to save my life, so I had to rely on advice via text from my friend Deb. After much indecision and several hard-earned dollars later, I had finally put together a decent outfit to wear out in the city that evening. I decided that I would head over to the Blue Ribbon Bakery in the West Village for a glass of wine. On the way I passed by yet another small wine shop and decided to continue the trend by poking my head in the door. Inside I noticed the shelves behind the counter were mostly empty with the exception of a few bottles of craft spirits. When I asked the owner about the small quantity of spirits, he told me that he was trying to add unique, non-mainstream spirits but was still unfamiliar with many of the products available out there. Enter cocktail-geek mode. I spoke to him at length about the many spirits I had worked with and made several recommendations, and he quickly jotted down the names on a slip of register tape.
I arrived at the Blue Ribbon Bakery and upon walking thru the door was inundated with the smell of fresh baking bread. Looking over the small list of wines by the glass I asked for a crisp white and was given exactly what I wanted. After making small talk with a fellow patron at the bar, I went to use the restroom in the basement and passed by an impressive open kitchen that housed the bakery. I stood for a minute and watched in awe as the bakers worked diligently to prepare the various breads. I returned to the bar and settled my tab. In hindsight I wish I had grabbed a bite to eat here; next time I will.
On my walk back to the nearest subway stop I had a craving for something sinful – hello Five Guys Burgers & Fries. I had a quick bacon cheeseburger that landed in my stomach like a brick; it was exactly what I was looking for. With my phone almost dead I decided to head back to the hostel to recharge my phone (and myself with a nap). Upon waking up a couple hours later, I felt a little groggy and grabbed a double espresso at Café Orwell to drink while I got ready for yet another night out in the city. It was then back to the East Village for my fist stop: Death + Co.
I arrived Death + Co. to be greeted by a doorman standing in front of a large wooden door with a clipboard. When I asked him how to get in, he responded by saying they let people in if there’s space and by how good they‘re dressed. I responded by saying “Well, if I have the proper attire I’d like to grab a cocktail at the bar”. He was able to accommodate. I was let into a dark, funeral parlor looking bar that glowed with dim candles strewn about the room. I grabbed the first available seat at the bar and ordered a rum-based cocktail called Flor de Jerez, named this due to the use of Amontillado Sherry in the beverage. After slowly enjoying the drink and talking at length with the mixologist who made the drink, I ordered a drink using Pimms, with the condition that it could not be a Pimms Cup. She delivered me a delicious cocktail that I could probably never replicate, mainly because the ingredients used in it have escaped me. A short time later, the other gentleman working the bar with her approached with three shots of dark spirit which I could probably identify a yard away just from the aroma alone: Fernet Branca. He plopped the shots down on the bar and said he “knew how much us Boston bartenders are obsessed with Fernet”. I responded by saying that I’m a Worcester bartender, but still obsessed with Fernet none the less. After some more shop talk, I paid my tab and headed back out into the streets of New York to my next destination which would take me to one of the best bars I have ever been to.
While on my way to the nearest subway stop, with plans to catch a train to the West Village to check out a cocktail bar, the cocktails, shots of Fernet, and three glasses of water caught up with me. I made a mad dash for the closest place I could find that could accommodate my “need”, which was a night club that had just opened for the evening. Embarrassed to simply ask to use the restroom, I approached the bar and asked the bartender for a Stoli & Soda. Taking care of my business I returned to the bar and asked to pay my tab using my debit card since I had only a few dollars in my pocket. At this point I found out it was a $30 minimum to use a card and I was only at $10. The only solution to this problem was two shots; one for me and one for her. I opted for Fernet and she chose Jameson saying she couldn’t believe how people drank “that stuff”, referring to the Fernet of course. We got to talking, with me mentioning it was my birthday and my love of cocktail bars. She borrowed one of my blank business cards, wrote down the name of bar in Tribeca called Ward III and said to ask for Abdul when I got there. Though my tab was only $27 she said I was all set to settle up. Upon returning with my card she brought two more shots on the house and said she hoped I enjoy my birthday. Thank you Hulya.
Intrigued and excited by this new prospect I opted to change my plans and make a beeline for Tribeca (with a quick stop at McDonalds to once again use the facilities). Approaching the door a homeless man asked me to buy him a burger. Brushing it off as simply another vagrant wanting money for booze or drugs, I said no. Then once inside I realized that he didn’t ask for money; he asked for food. On my way out I took out the few dollars I had in my pocket, handed it to him, and told him to buy a couple of burgers. Moving on.
I arrived in the Tribeca area and, thanks to the wonderful technology that is GPS, I soon found myself standing outside Ward III. I walked through the door into a chic, urban bar with high ceilings and dim lighting. As I approached the bar, I was greeted by the scent of fresh spices, citrus fruit, and unhindered spirits; like entering a mixologist’s Shangri-La. I grabbed a seat at the bar and asked the bartender for Abdul, which turned out to be him. I presented my business card that Hulya had written my instructions on. The bar espoused Bespoke Cocktails in which they present a list of options that included Spirit, Texture, Spice, Flavor, and Fruit. I told Abdul I was in the mood for a brown spirit; he suggested Bourbon and I, never shying from Bourbon, gave my approval. The cocktail which I could not name, most likely because it may now have been named after me, was elegant and intense with flavor that covered every taste bud in my mouth and brought sensation to the pallet. Being the conversationalist that I am, I immediately started talking to Abdul about cocktails, the bar, what I did, etc. At one point he gave me his card and I noticed under his name was “Proprietor”; I thought that was pretty cool. After several savory and delicious cocktails later, I made my way back to Brooklyn with one stop for a Chimichanga, which, had I been perfectly sober, most likely would not have eaten.
Upon returning to Brooklyn, I decided that since it was my last night there I would check out the nearest bar on Flushing Ave that Yelp would take me to. I ended up at the Wreck Room and grabbed a seat at the bar next to a cute young lady named Stephanie. I asked her what was good to drink and she pointed the small chalkboard that listed a Tecate & shot of Tequila for around $5. I of course ordered this and me, not being a shy person, started conversing with Stephanie. Several Tecate & Tequilas later we decided to grab a quick bite to eat before heading to a nearby cocktail bar she had told me about. It was at this point that I found out I do not like Falafel, at all. We left there and headed over to The Narrows, a great little cocktail bar also on Flushing Ave. After a couple drinks here it was time to call it a night, or morning, since it was almost four. Believing that chivalry is not dead, I walked Stephanie home, said goodbye, and took a cab back to the hostel.
Waking up the next morning slightly later than planned, and with a slight hang over, I packed my belongings, checked out, and placed them in the day storage which the hostel offered. I headed off, with yet another stop at Café Orwell, to Aldea on West 17th Street for lunch with my friend, Maria Stevens, the JM Fonseca-Faustino US Brand Ambassador. I arrived a few minutes early and grabbed a table while I waited for Maria to arrive. She arrived with a bottle of 1982 Faustino I Gran Reserva, bottled in my birth year, as a gift. Thank you very much Maria. At this point I also had the pleasure of meeting Chef George Mendes, truly a gifted chef. I opted for the three-course menu, as did she. The first course was a wonderfully prepared Arugula & Pickled Apple Salad with Sao Jorge cheese & hazelnuts. This was followed by an Organic Chicken Breast with baby bok choy, mushrooms, & coconut curry. For desert I opted for the Banana Caramel Bread Pudding with crème fraiche sorbet. Of course this was accompanied by a bottle of fresh, crisp white wine. Upon leaving lunch I headed back down to Tinto Fino and bought a bottle of the Spanish vermouth that had caught my eye, opting for the blanco version.
I went back to the hostel and collected my belongings. I spent the next hour sitting in Café Orwell, reminiscing over the past few days’ events with a sadness to be leaving, but we all have to return to reality at some point. I left Café Orwell and jumped on the subway to the transit authority and several hours later I arrived back in Worcester. Upon returning to my humble apartment, weary from travel, I unpacked. After tasting my purchase at Tinto Fino I decided to craft a cocktail. I dubbed it Manhattan Affair 82. Cheers.
Hey everyone. We got an awesome tasting event down at The Citizen’s Speakeasy this Thursday, the 21st of October. We’re showcasing all levels from the one of a kind line of Grand Marnier. So, if you can join us, superb. But if not, let me take some time to tell you about this old and classic liqueur that is hand crafted, and as delicious by itself as it is in your favorite cocktail.
First, let us talk about the history behind this ‘fine, pal o mine’. Grand Marnier is a liqueur created in 1880 by Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle. He learned how to distill from his father who was a wine and spirit merchant. By combining hand crafted and hand selected cognacs to be distilled with a variety of tropical oranges’ essence, Monsieur Marnier-Lapostolle was able to create a very distinct liqueur, we know today to be ‘Cordon Rouge’, or ‘Red Ribbon’. The subtle roundness from the slow aging done in French oak casks make Cordon Rouge a winner, every time.
Citrus Bigaradia is one of the orange varietals that find its way into the production of Grand Marnier. This type of orange is known for its fragrance, rather than its sweet juices. They are hand selected, and hand picked while the peel is still green to preserve the most fragrant properties of the fruit. In order to secure the highest level of aromas from the fruit, they are left to age, in the open air for as many as three weeks. Then the peels are distilled to produce the orange essence that becomes the most notable characteristic of Grand Marnier.
But before all that can take place, they have to make the cognac. Cognac is an aged brandy that can only come from the Cognac region of France, which is about 280 miles southwest of Paris. Much like Champagne, Cognac is heavily regulated by the French government. So the Brandy produced there must come from grapes grown there. Grand Marnier uses a common grape varietal in the region, called Ugni Blanc to produce their cognacs. These grapes come from the five best regions in Cognac for growing, Grande and Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, and Bons Bois.
The amount of detail that goes into both aspects of Grand Marnier are what makes this liqueur unlike any other.
Spain may be known for its fantastic wine but little known is the equally fantastic Spanish cider or “Sidra” produced in northern Spain. Cider, which is fermented from apples, was widely drank by American colonists and production dates back to the ancient Byzantine and Egyptian empires. Cider in Spain was made mainly for personal consumption until 1629 when apple trees from America were brought to Spain. Production of cider increased until the Spanish Civil War when Franco prohibited the production and consumption of this delicious beverage. Post-Franco production got back on track and today you can enjoy cider poured directly from large chestnut barrels known as “kupelas” between January and April, which is when they bottle the cider. During the summer, cider is drank widely at Spanish cider bars called “Sideria”. The Asturia, Galicia, and Basques regions are ideal for apple growing where the summers are mild and wet, with a mild winter.
The process of drinking “sidra” is almost as cool as the product itself. So look for the “Sideria” sign, grab a seat, and order a “sidra”. Cider is typically served by the bottle as it oxidizes much faster than wine. It should be served cool but not ice cold. A small amount of cider should be poured into a narrow glass from at least 3 feet in the air. This pouring technique, known as “throwing” the cider, aerates the cider and exemplifies the natural carbonation and aromatics. Many ciders are unfiltered and contain dregs which can be consumed or dumped on the floor, depending on your preference. Some “Siderias” have special pouring stations were your bottle of cider is kept while you imbibe or it is left on your table in a bucket. A simple and subtle nod towards an empty glass expresses your desire for a refill.
Look forward to this unique and authentic offering appearing at Bocado in the coming months. Drink up and enjoy!
At The Citizen, we are blessed with a wide variety of spirits, liqueurs, fruits, syrups, and fresh juices to use in cocktails. We have innovative bartenders who enjoy mixing up all kinds of drinks. But more importantly, we have a fun, daring, and experimental clientele that allows us to play and create drinks that suit each and every person.
If you are one of those people who lets your bartender make a unique cocktail for you, then there is a good chance you have tasted St. Germain. It is personally one of my favorite liqueurs, and I use it frequently in all different kinds of drinks.
St. Germain is made in France, created from Elderflowers hand-picked at the base of the Alps mountain range. It is quite unique because there are only about forty to fifty men who take in this harvest of blossoms, and then according to St. Germain lore, delivered by bicycle. I doubt there are more than a handful of companies that can claim their employees hand-pick the ingredients for their products. Since it is a small staff and there are a limited amount of elderflowers per season, St. Germain is made in limited quantities. When you see the bottle, you can almost picture the story – a very classic, unique bottle, coming from a small town in France, being made by a small company whose employees still ride bicycles around the village.
The story seems classic and timeless, much like the taste of St. Germain. The base is an eau de vie, which translates to “water of life.” It is a fruit brandy, made mainly of peaches, pears, apples, and plums. Commonly, eau de vie is served as a digestif, but in the case with St. Germain, it is used as a base, which the elderflower blossoms are then added to create this delicate liqueur. Both the scent and taste are subtle, yet incredibly rich, full of floral notes as well as a blend of delicious fruits. You can add St. Germain to practically any base spirit, and it can compliment and add a whole new dimension to a cocktail.
Two of my favorite drinks with St. Germain, which I serve frequently here at The Citizen, are the Cherub’s Cup cocktail, as well as my own personal twist on the St. Germain Cocktail, which I call Lisa’s Fizzle. Both include champagne or dry sparkling wine, which I happen to think works amazingly well with this liqueur. In fact, some of the most popular drinks made with St. Germain include citrus and sparkling wine. Here are the recipes and pictures for each of the two previously mentioned cocktails:
1 oz. St. Germain
2 oz. Vodka
¾ oz. Lemon juice
¼ oz. Simple syrup
1 muddled strawberry
Sparkling wine (I use Poema Cava)
Muddle strawberry with simple syrup; add St. Germain, vodka, and lemon juice; shake over ice and double strain over ice in large wine glass; top with Cava, and add strawberry slices for garnish.
This cocktail is fruity and refreshing, and never fails to impress any guest who wants something light, flirty, and delicious.
¾ oz. St. Germain
¾ oz. Veev Acai Liqueur
Splash lemon juice
Sparkling wine (Poema Cava)
1 sugar cube
Combine St. Germain, Veev Acai, and lemon juice; shake over ice and strain into cocktail glass or champagne flute; top with champagne; add sugar cube (for a little sweetness and the visual effects are pretty cool); long lemon twist for garnish.
For someone looking for a light, airy, and fizzy cocktail filled with bubbles and flavor, this drink works like a charm. I named it after my friend Lisa, because despite the fact that her boyfriend is one of our bartenders, she still requests that I make her the cocktail every time, because no one does it like me!
Enjoy St. Germain, and come down and ask us to mix up one of these drinks, or to create a whole new one just for you, according to what you like and what you don’t. It’s an amazing liqueur, and adds curious depth and an abundance of flavors to so many other spirits.
3 words that bring music to my ears…. We are talking serious cocktails here kiddies!!
For those of you who are not familiar, Mixology Monday is a monthly online cocktail party. The process is quite simple: each month, a host, working with the moderator, selects a theme for the upcoming event; past themes have included Rum, Winter Warmers, Fizz, and Aperitifs. The event is announced on various blogs, and on or before the event date (a Monday — hence the name), participating bloggers join the party by posting a drink recipe or other post related to the theme. Each participant notifies the host that they’ve joined in, and soon after the event, the host posts a roundup, listing each participant.
This will be the Citizens first post for a Mixology Monday event but definitely not our last!
With a theme of Brown, Bitter, and Stirred, I took off to the drawing board. I have a strong affinity for Rye Whiskey in cocktails and this was the perfect chance to use the beautiful brown spirit. Now for the Bitter? There are so many avenues you can go here, and I wanted to try and express them all. Picking up a bottle of Bonal Gentiane-Quina recently, I really wanted wanted to work it into the cocktail. It had a unique complexity that played really well the the Rye Whiskey. The drink felt a little thin though. Enter my old friend, Punt e Mes. Perfect for giving the drink a little more body with a touch of sweetness. Since this is a bitter drink I went ahead and added a dash each of both Angostura Bitters and Peychauds Bitters. I was a little nervous at this point that the drink may be too bitter but it really came together nicely. It was however lacking a little dimension. I decided to work in a little smoke by way of a Laphroig 10 year glass rinse. PERFECT!! A small spritz of orange oil over the top and the drink was done…. It was brown, it was definitely bitter, and it was stirred!!!!
“I’ve Seen Bitter Days”
1.5 oz Old Overholt Rye Whiskey
.5 oz. Bonal Gentiane-Quina
.5 oz. Punt e Mes
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 Dash Peychauds Bitters
Garnish: Orange Oil
Add all ingredients except Laphroig into mixing glass. Add ice, stir for 20-30 seconds and strain into Pre-chilled, Laphroig rinsed cocktail glass. Spritz with oil from orange peel and garnish with peel.