Mixology 101

Last night we took a “cocktail class” with a group of friends at Denmark, one of the high-end cocktail lounges in town.  Our friendly instructor walked us through the tools of the trade, some standard recipes and proportions that are the building blocks of many cocktails, and the basics of when to shake and when to stir — and then added that, of course, all rules are made to be broken, especially when it comes to cocktail creation.

We then proceeded to use our table of jiggers, bottles, bar spoons, strainers, and other implements to measure, shake, stir, strain, and pour three cocktails with autumnal themes.  I’m not a cocktail drinker, but I really liked two of them.  The first was a “Fall 75,” which was a variation on a French 75.  Here’s the recipe:

Fall 75

1.5 oz. apple cinnamon vodka

.75 oz. lemon juice

.75 oz. simple syrup

Add ice, shake well, then strain and pour into a coupe cocktail glass and top with champagne and grated nutmeg.  This cocktail had a nice balance of flavors, and the grated nutmeg gave a hint of the holiday flavors we’ll be enjoying in the not-too-distant future.

The second cocktail was a pear and rosemary mojito.  Here’s the recipe:

Pear & Rosemary Mojito

Add rosemary and mint to your cocktail shaker

1 oz. light rum

.5 oz. pear cordial

.5 oz. pear nectar

.25 oz. lemon juice

.75 simple syrup

Add ice, shake well, then strain and pour into a highball glass with ice, and top with club soda.  This cocktail was on the sweet side, but was very refreshing.

Cocktails are fun to make.  They’re also fun to drink.  That’s why I typically stick with wine.

A Well-Made Cocktail (IV)

IMG_6199Kish and I continued our occasional sampling of new cocktails Friday night during a visit to Curio.  This particular concoction is called a Salt and Pine.  I ordered it because the name made was so intriguing, and made it sound like the drink must taste the sweaty floor on a basketball court (not that I know what that would taste like, of course.)

Believe it or not, this cocktail was really very good.  Made with orange blossom water, vermouth, gin, lemon juice, lime juice, and salted honey syrup, finished with a lemon peel, and served in an icy, chilled glass, it had a light taste that was not too sweet.  Very refreshing, indeed!

I’m not really a spirits drinker, but I’ve been enjoying our periodic forays into the world of artisanal cocktails.  It’s fun to try something new.

A Well-Made Cocktail (III)

IMG_5651What do the idle rich do in the modern world?  Apparently, nothing.  That’s why they’re called the idle rich.

In the old days, though, the rich and titled did do worthwhile things . . . like invent cocktails.  Consider Count Negroni.  In 1919, this Italian nobleman decided that the recent end of World War I and the Spanish flu epidemic that was ravaging the world wasn’t going to keep him from experimenting with tasty combinations of different liquors and inventing a drink that he humbly named after himself.  At least, that’s the takeaway I got from a bar coaster at Curio that announced that last Saturday was part of Negroni Week — and if you can’t trust a bar coaster for accurate historical information, what has the world come to?

I figured that if a Negroni was so noteworthy that it has a week named after it, it was worth a taste.  For those of you, like me, who had never tried a Negroni, the basic concoction is made with gin, vermouth, and Campari, garnished with an orange peel.  It’s an interesting drink, with a complex taste (and aftertaste) that includes some bitterness.  It’s not a drink for everyone — but I can see where some people could grow to love it, and where the old Count might decide that he had come up with a winner.

A Well-Made Cocktail (II)

IMG_5601Last night Kish and I stopped for a drink at Curio, the excellent German Village cocktail lounge connected to Harvest Pizzeria.  Curio is a cozy joint with an interesting decor, a handful of private booths, and an extensive and interesting menu of concoctions, with servers and bartenders interested in providing a high-end cocktail lounge experience.

We decided to try something new, and after perusing the options we asked the server for a recommendation.  She suggested a Floradora — which is actually an old cocktail dating from the early 1900s that has fallen out of favor, but one that is new to us.  Happily, it’s also one of the drinks that are available for a reduced price during Happy hour.

Boy, did she steer us in the right direction!  Made with Old Tom gin, homemade raspberry juice, and some other ingredients, and topped with a fresh raspberry and a skewered piece of sugared ginger, the Curio version of the Floradora is a fantastic summer drink — light, fizzy, and flavorful.  How did it ever fall out of favor as a popular cocktail option?

A Well-Made Cocktail

Normally I’m a wine guy.  I shy away from distilled spirits because appalling incidents from my college days remain fresh in my memory.

But some nights, a cocktail sounds good.  Last night we visited the Society Lounge in Cleveland, which makes many fine cocktails and maintains a well-stocked bar.  When I learned that the barkeeps were locked in a Campari Cocktail Contest, with proceeds to benefit charity, I felt honor-bound to participate.  

Our bartender invented a drink called The Enemy Within, with gin, Campari, Cocchi, and blackberry, garnished with lemon peel.  It was excellent, looked good, and went down easy.  The fact that it was named after a Star Trek episode didn’t hurt, either.

The View From Our Hotel Window

IMG_3932We’re in Bermuda for meetings, staying at the Fairmont Southampton.  Bermuda is a quaint, charming island, surrounded by some beautiful water.  We have a pretty view from our hotel room window, too.

We’ve been here before with this group, so our trip has a nice element of familiarity to it.  Time for a Dark and Stormy!  (For those of you who question whether it is cocktail hour, remember that Bermuda is an hour ahead of Eastern time.)

Cocktail Hour Down South

IMG_3591Last night Kish and I visited the Patterson House because Kish wanted to try a bacon-infused Old Fashioned, pictured above.  The drink is made with Benton bacon-infused Four Roses bourbon, maple syrup, and pecan coffee bitters.  Kish said it was “delish!”

The Patterson House is an amazing place that shows you what a cocktail lounge could be like if people just worked at it.  It’s dark and quiet, with music playing in the background at just the right volume.  Access is controlled, so you don’t have a bunch of people crowding in at the bar, shouting their orders.  As a result, you actually can have a conversation, which isn’t possible at most bars I’ve been to recently.  The place offers some well-made, lighter fare food options, too, to balance the alcohol consumption.

The bartenders and waiters clearly take great pride in their appearance and their craft.  They work hard to make the perfect drink, and their list of drink options shows the kind of attention to detail that makes that goal feasible.  From the spherical ice cubes to the vigorous shaking to the careful placement of an orange peel, this is the place to come if you want to savor a well-made drink and some pleasant conversation.