Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | June 24, 2012

Corpse Reviver No. 2


Simon Ford demonstrates one of my favorite cocktails, for brunch or otherwise.

Corpse Reviver No. 2

0.75 oz Gin
0.75 oz Lillet Blanc
0.75 oz Cointreau
0.75 oz fresh lemon juice
Absinthe.

Rinse chilled cocktail glass with absinthe. Combine gin, Lillet, Cointreau & lemon juice in an ice filled shaker and shake it hard enough to wake the dead. Strain and serve.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | May 31, 2012

A Decent Frozen Margarita

It’s hot out. Well today it isn’t too bad, but the last week or so in DC has felt like…a summer in DC. The point is, it’s hot. When it’s hot out, really hot out, upper 80s and beyond with high humidity (that is, almost any day in DC between now and mid-October), there are really only three things I want to drink:

  1. Cheap, cold, light beer
  2. Gin Rickeys
  3. Pina Coladas

The problem with Pina Coladas, though, is that cream of coconut is so sweet and the consistency makes it a pain to work with. Straight from the can it’s an unmixed pool of syrup and solidified (but delicious) fats. Opening a can means you’re making a bunch and sometimes I just want one. There’s nothing wrong with an inconvenient ingredient, but it certainly makes me think twice about diving head first into making a frozen drink to cool off.

And then there’s America’s most popular cocktail, the Margarita.

I love Margaritas, though I basically only drink them on the rocks, never frozen. To me, a Frozen Margarita is the epitome of a bad cocktail. The tequila is almost always low quality junk. There’s never even a thought to using fresh lime juice – sour mix is a guarantee. The consistency is usually a mess, meaning after five minutes you have half a glass of slush and half a glass of a soon to be warm sour mix and cheap tequila slurry. And yet this is a variation that makes the Margarita the most popular cocktail in America. It’s enough to make one seriously question our national palate.

With all that as a preface, I decided over Memorial Day weekend that I needed to find another frozen cocktail to quench my thirst on hot days. The fact that most places can’t serve a good Frozen Margarita is really no more determinative than the fact that most bars can’t serve a decent Martini. This is a problem that could be solved.

I started doing research to find recipes from bartenders I trusted who might make a decent Frozen Margarita. Not shockingly, Dale DeGroff came through with a killer Frozen Margarita recipe. DeGroff’s book, The Craft of the Cocktail, is one of the canon in my bartending library. DeGroff is a phenomenally important American bartender who helped the craft of bartending well-balanced cocktails survive the dark years of the 80s and 90s. The Craft of the Cocktail both is a great resource for fairly standard, classic recipes for classic cocktails and contains many DeGroff originals which are interesting and worth knowing. But most important of all for me, in a space with numerous cocktail luminaries who’ve published numerous tomes of the same or similar recipes, I’ve always found that DeGroff’s recipes strike the right note for what I like and look for in cocktails, regardless of the recipe. I just see eye to eye with him a lot of the time, which makes his recipes a tremendous resource for me.

And so I turned to The Craft of the Cocktail and sure enough, DeGroff had a recipe for a Frozen Margarita that looked like it was worth trying. Here it is:

Frozen Margarita (DeGroff recipe)

2 oz tequila
1 oz triple sec
1 oz fresh lime juice
2 oz simple syrup
3/4 cup cracked ice.

Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Blend and pour into a large goblet rimmed with coarse salt.

Since quality ingredients make for quality cocktails, I used Cointreau in lieu of regular triple sec. And instead of cheap rail tequila, I used top shelf stuff – Partida Reposado, until that was gone, then Patron Silver. My simple syrup was a 1:1 formulation of water and sugar.

This is a killer Frozen Margarita. It’s light, crisp and you can enjoy the tequila in it. I could probably be fine with the simple syrup dialed back a touch, but I wasn’t so bothered by the sweetness as to change it in multiple batches. Best of all, this is a recipe that I can turn to on out summer days. Or, as noted above, most days from here on out in DC…

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | May 14, 2012

Wanker of the Day

Diageo:

BrewDog, a small craft brewery based in Scotland, was told it would receive an honor for Bar Operator of the Year, but things went awry when mega company Diageo, which happened to be the awards’ main sponsor, found out just before the ceremony and demanded it be given the award instead. Diageo operates several major global brands, including Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Captain Morgan, Bailey’s, Tanqueray and Red Stripe.

After its staff allegedly made a scene, Diageo was handed the award trophy with BrewDog’s name clearly engraved on it.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | May 7, 2012

Becherovka!

becherovkaThere are many benchmarks on the way to becoming a cocktail geek. Do you drink your Martinis with a 2:1 ratio or more? Do you have a favorite 19th century bar man? Do you own more than four types of bitters? Is the Negroni one of your Desert Island Cocktails? Appreciation of bitter spirits and bitter cocktails is a hurdle that truly shows you’re on your way being a certifiable cocktail enthusiast.

The appreciation of potable bitters opens up a world for creativity and experimentation. While I don’t spend nearly as much time as I used to coming up with my own original cocktails, one of the areas where I’ve never stopped playing is with Negroni and Americano variations. Every new bitter spirit which graces our shores allows me to try out new variations on the classic base/bitter/fortified wine formulation.

Best of all, once you appreciate potable bitters, you find that many, many countries have their own favorites. This brings me to the Czech Republic and Becherovka. Josef Becher first began producing liquor in 1794 and with an English Dr. Frobrig developed the basic recipe for Becherovka in 1805. Becher finished refining the recipe in 1807 and began selling it, like many other potable bitters, as a cure for stomach ailments. Skip ahead 200 years and while Becherovka can settle an upset stomach like most other digestifs, it’s much more fun to enjoy in its own right.

Becherovka is 38% abv and comes in a striking green, flask-shaped bottle. It is a golden, straw color. On its nose are clove, anise, allspice and honey. Sipped neat, I get clove, bitter quinine, allspice, cinnamon, honey and pepper. It’s delightfully unique, but warm and familiar to anyone who likes potable bitters.

I haven’t played around with Becherovka enough yet to have a preferred recipe where it’s used in a Negroni or Americano variation. But most of the time if I am drinking something bitter, it’s either with club soda or tonic water. Not shockingly, Becherovka is so good with tonic that it has its own name, the Beton:

Beton

2 oz Becherovka
Top with Tonic Water (I used Fentimans)

Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add Becherovka and tonic. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

This is a fantastic tall drink. It’s very light and refreshing, with calming herbal qualities. As we head into summer, this is a great drink to keep in mind for afternoons in the sun, by a pool or the grill. It will keep you cool and will also speak to your worldly character as an enlightened cocktail enthusiast.

Disclosure: This post was made possible because I received a free bottle of Becherovka for the purposes of sample and review.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | April 10, 2012

Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc 2011

I’ll hopefully be traveling to New Zealand at the end of this year or early next, so I’m trying to become more familiar with New Zealand wines. I recently tasted the Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc 2011. Stoneleigh is in the northern Marlborough region and has fairly good availability around the United States.

The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc is almost clear with light yellow hints. On the nose is strawberry, honey, hay and green apple.

The first impression is of tart apple, with a lot of minerality and touches of passion fruit. It finishes with a sweet tanginess and good mouthfeel.

The Sauvignon Blanc is crisp to the point of light effervescence. It’s a touch sour, but otherwise has good balance with interesting tropical notes.

Depending on where you are, this wine retails for $15-20. At this price point it’s a very good deal. It’s pretty much what I look for in a Sauvignon Blanc, with many layers and notes that you just can’t find in most wines that are at the lower end of its price range. I liked it so much that I’m actually going to be serving it at my wedding later this month, so if that doesn’t work as a positive review, I’m not sure what will.

Disclosure: This post was made possible because I received a free bottles of Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc for the purposes of sample and review.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | March 26, 2012

The Bon Vivants

A very cool mini-documentary on The Bon Vivants, a San Francisco based bartending, bitters-making, and bar consulting team. I met these guys a couple years ago when AGAINN opened in DC – they had set up the cocktail program there.

The documentary is a series on hipsters.  Obviously there’s a lot of the craft cocktail culture which is perceived as part of hipster-dom. I have a negative reaction to the term hipster and while there are certainly hipster bartenders, those I’ve encountered suck. Just because the cultural side of the craft cocktail movement looks similar to a lot of hipsters – tattoos, mustaches, rolled sleeves, etc – doesn’t mean that it lacks the authenticity that is usually associated with hipsters. But people will describe themselves as they see fit. Nothing in the film tells me why The Bon Vivants are hipsters, only that these guys love bartending and sharing good living with their customers and guests. But again, it’s just a question of what connotations the word hipster bring to your mind…

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | March 16, 2012

A High Brow St Patrick’s Day Cocktail

Originally posted at PRZman.com

Look we all know St Patrick’s Day is a day to be filled with Guinness and Irish Whiskey, perhaps with a few pints of Harp or Magner’s thrown in to lighten things up. If there was ever a holiday that had the standard drinks well set, it’s Saint Patty’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, the Irish make great beer and even better whiskey. But it’s my job to tell you things you don’t already know.

Last year I showcased the St. Columb’s Rill, a contemporary creation by Phillip Ward in NYC. This year I’m going to share another Irish whiskey based cocktail which has roots in the legendary Savoy Cocktail Book, but has been improved upon recently by Erik Ellestad of San Francisco. It’s a rich, powerful, smokey cocktail that doesn’t hide the whiskey.

Tipperary Cocktail No. 3

(by Erik Ellestad)

  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce Green Chartreuse
  • 1 oz Single Malt Irish whiskey
  • 1/4 oz Single Malt Scotch whisky

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Ellestad changed the Tipperary Cocktail No. 1 by increasing the amount of Irish whiskey and adding in a small amount of Scotch whisky to provide greater depth of flavor. The brands he used were Bushmill’s 10 Year Single Malt and Gordon & MacPhail Highland Park 8 Year. If you don’t have those handy, you can try with a strong, rich Irish single malt and a not too peat heavy Scotch single malt.

Or you can just stick your Guinness and Jameson!

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | March 12, 2012

Rube Goldberg Wine Pouring Machine


This is just delightful.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | February 28, 2012

PRZman: The Daiquiri

Originally posted at PRZman.com.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | February 26, 2012

Scofflaw’s Classes

Marshall and SeanMike of Scofflaw’s Den are two of the cocktail bloggers who inspired me to start A Jigger of Blog. They’re incredibly knowledgeable and are great guys to boot. It’s exciting to see that they are now offering both consulting services and classes. The classes are being held at Last Exit in Mount Pleasant. Here’s the description of upcoming classes:

Bitters

Have you noticed your bartender adding dashes and drops to that cocktail you ordered?  Ever wondered exactly what that stuff is?  The sheer number of cocktail bitters currently on the market can be intimidating for the home bartender or craft cocktail newcomer.  In this class, Marshall from Scofflaw’s Den will walk you through what bitters actually are, their history, their various uses and walk students through a tasting of various types of bitters.  We’ll discuss cocktails where a specific type of bitter is mandatory and some where the kind of bitter can vary depending on you or your guests individual tastes.

Basics of the Home Bar

In this class you will learn what basic tools you will need in your home bar.  We will go over the uses of each tool, why one tool is used over another and alternatives you can use in a pinch.  You will also receive hands-on instruction and practice using each tool, such as shaking, stirring and muddling, so you’ll look like a pro at your next event.  We will discuss basic spirits to stock and learn three recipes that utilize the tools and recommendations on where to purchase any of the tools used. Students will also receive a set of professional grade bartending tools to take home!

Drink Like Mad Men

Want to learn how to make and the history of the drinks that are flowing at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Advertising Agency? In this class you will learn what relaxes (or stokes the creative process) of Don Draper and colleagues, how the drinks are made, a history of the ingredients and cocktails themselves. Each student will receive recipe cards so they can recreate the cocktails at home while watching or hosting their own Mad Men party.

The schedule is:

March 4th: Basics of the Home Bar
March 11th: Basics of the Home Bar
March 25th: Drink Like Mad Men
April 15th: Bitters

Sign up for one (or more) of these classes here.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | February 24, 2012

DC Craft Bartenders Form LUPEC Chapter

Exciting news in the nation’s capital! Some of the District’s top female craft bartenders have united to form a DC chapter of Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails. They have a slick new website and will be doing events in the near future.

From the statement announcing their formation:

We aim to spotlight iconic drinks (as well as their variations) and the women who make them in our great city. Proceeds from our events will go towards benefiting breast cancer research, the Museum of the American Cocktail, and subsidizing education and advanced certifications for our ladies.

Our founding members are some of the most influential ladies in the D.C. cocktail scene. Lead by Chapter President, The Passenger’s Alexandra Bookless, and including Tabard Inn’s Chantal Tseng, Macchu Pisco’s Melanie Asher, Room 11’s Iris Ho, Mixtress Gina Chersevani, We Love D.C.’s Jenn Larsen, Columbia Room’s Katie Nelson, Jackie’s Sidebar’s Jungha Park (JP), Laughing Cocktail’s Angie Salame, The Passenger’s Jade Aldrighette, Jack Rose’s Rachel Sergi, Estadio’s Alexandra Nichols, Chef Geoff’s Elli Benchimol, and The Passenger’s Julia Hurst.

“I’m proud to be a founding member of an organization that includes some of the most innovative, groundbreaking, and creative cocktail minds in Washington D.C. and beyond. These ladies are pushing the boundaries of bartending, cocktail writing, and even distilling. They have all added something special to D.C. and I’m honored to be counted among them.” – Alexandra Bookless, LUPEC D.C. Chapter President.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | February 23, 2012

Classic New Orleans Cocktails for Mardi Gras

Originally posted at PRZman.com

New Orleans is one of America’s greatest cities for fine food and drink. Unfortunately Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras is not the best example of what NOLA has to offer. If you’ve grown past sickeningly sweet Hand Grenades but still want to enjoy a taste of New Orleans this Mardi Gras, check out the following classics. Happy Fat Tuesday!

Sazerac

The Sazerac is one of my favorite cocktails in the world and one of the oldest American cocktails, dating to the first half of the 19th century. If you’ve never had it, you owe it to yourself to give it a try, especially if you’re a fan of whiskey cocktails like an Old Fashioned.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 3 oz rye
  • 2 dashes absinthe

Directions

Fill a small rocks glass with ice and allow it to chill. Empty the ice into a second rocks glass. In the first glass, add the syrup, bitters and whiskey and stir. Pour the contents of the first glass into the ice filled second glass. Pour the absinthe into the first glass and twirl the glass (preferably in the air with great enthusiasm) to coat it well. Discard the remaining absinthe. Strain the contents of the second glass into the absinthe-rinsed first glass. Garnish with a lemon peel twisted over the top of the glass.

Vieux Carre

Another really great cocktail – a bit more complex than the Sazerac, at least as far as the ingredients go. It is native to New Orleans’ Monteleone Hotel, whose Carousel Lounge slowly revolves around the bar.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 oz rye
  • 3/4 oz brandy (I prefer with cognac)
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/8 oz Benedictine
  • Dash Peychaud’s bitters
  • Dash Angostura bitters

Directions

Build over ice in an old fashioned glass.

Cocktail a la Louisiane

The a la Louisane is a 20th Century New Orleans cocktail, though it clearly takes its cues from the Sazerac and has a lot in common with the Vieux Carre. Taken together, these three New Orleans drinks represent the very best of classic cocktails have to offer.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 oz. rye
  • 3/4 oz. Benedictine
  • 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 3 dashes absinthe
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Directions

Stir with cracked ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | February 21, 2012

Flame of Love Martini

On Valentine’s Day, I went to The Columbia Room’s special drink and dinner offering with my bride to be. It was a remarkable experience, as always, with both phenomenal cocktails being made by Derek Brown and a full meal prepared beside him behind the bar. If you haven’t yet been to The Columbia Room, I can’t recommend it more highly. It’s easily one of the best craft cocktail bars in the country and the experience is unlike any other American bar.

One of the cocktails Derek served was the Flame of Love Martini, a drink created at the request of Dean Martin. What strikes me as unique about it is that was the only vodka-based cocktail I could ever recall Derek serving (we realized afterwards that the original menu of The Passenger had a vodka drink called Tatanka).

Flame of Love Martini
2 1/4 oz. Vodka
1/2 tsp. Amontillado Sherry
2 orange peels

Shake and strain into chilled glass that has been sprayed with the zest of a flamed orange. Use second orange peel to flame zest on top of drink as well.

The double flaming makes this Martini variation unique. The small amount of Amontillado goes a surprisingly long way in the cocktail. It’s surprisingly rich and flavorful. Dare I say, it’s the first vodka Martini I’ve ever enjoyed. I’m not about to abandon my Fifty Fifty any time soon, but I think having an interesting vodka Martini in one’s repertoire is important, given how popular they are with the uninitiated.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | January 18, 2012

Sh*t Bartenders Say


Funny stuff, enjoy the lulz.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | January 12, 2012

Naked Cocktails

Dale DeGroff makes predictions for cocktail trends in 2012 and writes:

One trend I expect to gain traction is the celebration of simple and unadulterated classics, like the Daiquiri, Manhattan and Vieux Carré. (Williams & Graham, which just opened in Denver, features more than three dozen old standbys!) In the name of creativity, many bars now offer an endless number of twists on standards; as a result, it’s hard to find a naked drink. I venture to say that some bartenders relatively new to the profession are so wrapped up in creating variations that they may have neglected to master the originals.

Here’s to hoping DeGroff is right. While I enjoy the rampant creativity of the craft cocktail movement, the cocktails which have become classics maintain over the decades and centuries because of their functional perfection. Yes, I like trying new things and any visit to a cocktail bar will involve sampling drinks which are likely unavailable anywhere else. But after a bit of dabbling, I tend to return to the drinks that I know are great. For me, depending on the bar and what sort of mood I’m in, it will vary. But my standbys remain the Dry Martini, Manhattan, Mai Tai, Daiquiri, Hemingway Daiquiri, Negroni, Americano, Cocktail a la Louisiane, Old Fashioned, Margarita, Dark and Stormy, Sazerac, and perhaps in the summer a Painkiller or Pina Colada. If I’m out for brunch, a Bloody Mary with gin.

The same goes for when I drink at home. If it’s not beer, wine, or straight whisk(e)y, I’m probably drinking one of the cocktails listed above. Sure, I might play around with amari and do lots of Negroni or Americano variations, but nothing too wild. If I’m in a Tiki mood, I may explore Tiki cocktails which I’m unfamiliar with, but I rarely spend time crafting my own originals.

For my home bartending, I practice making a better Martini or a better Daiquiri than I can get elsewhere. If I’m in the mood to really test a bartender’s skills, I don’t look for their craziest creation, I see how well they can execute a classic. Creativity is a great thing, but timeless drinks are timeless for a reason. Across all the cocktail bars, speakeasies, and restaurants and hotels with legitimate bar programs, there might be tens of thousands of original cocktails created by contemporary mixologists. If there are ten original, contemporary cocktails of our era which are still being made in fifty or 100 years, it might be a lot. That’s because creating a timeless, classic cocktail is very hard. It must be unique, but simple. Approachable, yet complex. Popular, but alluring. There are certainly some contemporaries which have a good shot at surviving the tests of time (Audrey Saunders’ Gin-Gin Mule comes to mind).

This is not a knock on the creativity of American craft bartenders. Not in the slightest. Waves of creativity are required if our epoch is to produce a drink that achieves the timelessness of the Old Fashioned or Sazerac or the ubiquity of the Margarita. By all means bartenders should be creating. But I do think establishments can and should take cues from some of Japan’s best bartenders, as Derek Brown of The Columbia Room has done, and practice simplicity and perfection of craft over creativity. In this regard, I really hope DeGroff is right about a resurgence of naked, unmodified classic cocktails. I know that if I were to open my own bar, the menu would be almost entirely made up of classics, with a few modern contenders in the mix too. Partly that’s because that’s what I love and partly because I think that the best pathway to exposing the American public to the true grandeur of well-made cocktails.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | December 27, 2011

Glögg!

PRZman
Glögg!
By Matt Hamlin

The holiday season is a time for punch. But not your standard pirate’s fair of Caribbean fruit juices and rum. The cold weather of Christmas and New Years beg for something rich and luxurious. For many, that means Egg Nog. Egg Nog can be a delightful holiday drink (Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Portland, Oregon’s Clyde Common has mastered it). But most Egg Nog comes pasteurized, with no alcohol and a horribly chemical flavor. As with any craft cocktail, fresh ingredients are best.

An alternative to Egg Nog that will impress your guests is the Tom and Jerry. It’s a dairy-based hot punch made with dark rum and brandy, with the traditional holiday spices that will make it seem familiar and comforting even to people who have never had the pleasure. Unfortunately, it’s also an involved process to make, more akin to baking than most bartenders care to hazard.

A holiday punch alternative to Egg Nog that I’ve always liked is a very old Scandinavian mulled wine called Glögg. First, the name is great. Second, while the holidays offer a variety of mulled wine and cider drinks, Glögg is unique for it’s heavy does of cardamom and the inclusion of raisins and almonds. Lastly, wine-based holiday punches are accessible without carrying the risk of knocking your guests out with hidden alcohol.

My preferred Glögg recipe comes from punch master Dan Searing and his book, The Punch Bowl. His recipe includes:

Glögg
3 cardamom pods
2 750 mL bottles of red wine (cheap and dry is best)
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
3/4 cup demerara sugar
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup raisins

Instructions:
1. Using the flat side of a knife, smash the cardamom pods, reserving the shells and seeds.
2. In a large pot set over medium heat, mix the wine, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom pieces. Simmer 5 minutes, then turn off heat and let the mixtures steep for at least 2 hours. Strain, if desired.
3. Return pot to a low simmer, then slowly add the sugar, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and stir in the vodka.
4. To serve, put a scant tablespoon each of almonds and raisins into a mug, then pour 6 ounces of Glögg on top. Serve with a teaspoon so guests can eat the almonds and raisins as they drink.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | December 12, 2011

Hemingway’s Green Isaacs Special

Phil Greene of Museum of the American Cocktail is working on a new book about Papa Ernest Hemingway and the drinks that helped define his life. I got to talk to him at the DC Craft Bartenders Guild’s fourth annual Repeal Day Ball earlier this month and we spoke about one of my favorite Hemingway drinks:  the Green Isaacs Special.  Called a Tomini in Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream, it’s a brilliantly refreshing Caribbean take on a Tom Collins.

The following is from a post on Greene’s seminar on Hemingway cocktails:

From “Islands in the Stream,” guests enjoyed the Green Isaacs Special (named for the Isaacs Islands, just north of Bimini), and read from the novel:

“Where Thomas Hudson lay on the mattress his head was in the shade cast by the platform at the forward end of the flying bridge where the controls were and when Eddy came aft with the tall cold drink made of gin, lime juice, green coconut water, and chipped ice with just enough Angostura bitters to give it a rusty, rose color, he held the drink in the shadow so the ice would not melt while he looked out over the sea.”

Green Isaacs Special

2 oz Hendricks Gin
4 oz green coconut water (Vita Coco, available at Whole Foods)
1 oz lime juice
4 drops Angostura Bitters (or “just enough Angostura bitters to give it a rusty, rose color”)

Build in Collins glass.

I haven’t had this with Hendricks myself. I prefer my Green Isacs Special with a London dry gin like Beefeater.

Also, if you haven’t read Islands in the Stream, I highly recommend you give it a read. It’s semi-autobiographical, or at least very clearly inspired by Hemingway’s own life. The main character, Thomas Hudson, does some epic drinking of Papa Dobles at port in the book and spends time sport fishing on his beloved boat. It’s a great book, though somewhat heart-breaking. Definitely worth reading for Hemingway fans out there. And if you don’t like reading Hemingway, at least enjoy one of his cocktails.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | November 29, 2011

Poll: FAIL or WIN?

In the last year or so, I’ve started collecting wine. It’s a new dimension in my life as a connoisseur of fine drink, but something I’ve enjoyed. Generally speaking, I don’t spend a lot of money on wine. I look for good values in the $10-20 range primarily. When I’ve visited wineries or encountered things I know I like, I’ll go up to $30-35. This is certainly more than most people will spend on a bottle of wine at a liquor store, but the point is I’m not going out buying wines for collection or icon wines. That said, I have been given a couple bottles of wine which can age for a long time and have sale prices of around $100.

Tonight I accidentally opened one of them. I can’t decide if this is an EPIC FAIL or an EPIC WIN.

First, the wine: Santa Carolina Herencia Carmenere 2007 from Peumo, Chile. It’s Santa Carolina’s icon wine and it retails around or above $100. It was given to me by the Wines of Chile after I won their #TweetChile trip and blogged about it extensively. My fiance and I had been saving it for a special occasion.

How did the accidental opening happen? I came home after a truly exhausting day at work and an equally tiring workout at the gym. I was wiped out. I didn’t really feel like wine, but Lori, my fiance wanted a glass with our very casual and completely unremarkable dinner. Now, I’d recently received a big shipment of wine from Garagiste and our little wine fridge is completely full with wine that we can’t drink for at least a few months. Lori looked for a bottle to open, but told me, “I don’t think we have anything we can open.” I said, “Nonsense, why don’t we open this bottle of carmenere?” We’ve consumed a ton of Chilean carmenere over the last year and I honestly had forgotten that this was the one bottle we were saving for a nice occasion. I was tired and ready for a glass of wine. I wasn’t really thinking.

It wasn’t until we opened the bottle, realizing in the process that this was a large, substantial and clearly more expensive than usual glass container, that Lori says, “Hey was this the really expensive carmenere that we were saving?” Eep.

Now here’s the good news. This wine is fantastic – one of the best carmeneres I can ever recall drinking. It’s also in the prime of its drinking life, according to the experts.

Before I get to a review of the wine, here’s a quick poll. Was accidentally opening a very expensive wine a fail or a win?

Tasting Notes
Herencia is a deep, dark purple. On the nose there’s strong spice, dark cherry, and tobacco. The first taste hits of red pepper typical for good carmeneres, as well as bright vegetal and herb notes, with an earthy undertone. It has a tangy-sweet finish with some peppery spice and fairly bright tannins. The finish is long and the balance between sweet and savory notes is truly impressive. I’d initially marked this down as a 90-91 on my scale, but that was before it had really breathed at all (again, when we hadn’t realized what we were drinking). After letting it breath for an hour or so, I’m upping my rating to a 93-94. It’s a picture-perfect representation of what great Chilean carmenere is capable of achieving. This is a fantastic wine and definitely worthy of it’s icon status for Santa Carolina. While I can’t see myself buying another bottle simply because I don’t often spend this much on any spirit, I wouldn’t have been disappointed had I purchased this myself.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I’m having Thanksgiving with family and friends in New England and for simplicity’s sake, I’ve made one of my fiance’s and my favorite punches. Credit belongs to Gina Chersevani of PS7s, who created it and introduced us to it.

Bourbon Punch by Gina Chersevani
1 bottle of bourbon (I used Bulleit)
1/2 bottle of St. Germain
32 oz of fresh grapefruit juice
1/3 lb of 10x powdered sugar
16 oz of fresh squeezed lemon juice
10-15 dashes of the Angostura bitters
4 oz of mint
16 grapefruit peels or segments (garnish)
32 oz sparkling water

In a bowl, whisk grapefruit juice, lemon juice, and powders sugar together until sugar is dissolved, then add bourbon, St Germain, bitters, sparkling water and stir. Then garnish with peels and mint. Let stand with an ice block in it for about 10 minutes or serve over ice.

I actually find this recipe starts off a bit too tart and dry for my tastes, so I gradually increase the sweetness with extra sugar and St. Germain until it gets to where I want it.

Bourbon is a relatively modern American spirit, so it probably isn’t the perfect fit for this century’s old holiday. Thanksgiving cocktails would probably be best served with rum, but this punch is too good to pass up.

What are you drinking on Thanksgiving?

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | November 18, 2011

A cocktail that makes me say “WTF?”

There are times when you see something and, as a cocktail nerd, you think to yourself, “There is some serious WTFery going on here.” Such was the case when I saw on Twitter this morning from Frederic of Cocktail Virgin:

Hmm, a beautiful Pousse Cafe-style drink based around a Negroni with egg white foam and a raw egg yolk. There’s so much to both like and not like about this!

I wasn’t familiar with a Knickebein cocktail, but fortunately Frederic has a great post on the Knickebein from a past MxMo. Dating back to the late 1870s, the Knickebein is

His concoction was equal parts Curaçoa, Noyeau, and Maraschino (mixed) filling a port-wine glass two thirds of the way up. On top of that, he layered an unbroken egg yolk, and topped it with whipped egg whites sprinkled with drops of Angostura bitters.

Frederic also pulled out the detailed instructions for how it should be consumed:

1. Pass the glass under the Nostrils and Inhale the Flavour –- Pause.
2. Hold the glass perpendicularly, close under your mouth, open it wide, and suck the froth by drawing a Deep Breath. — Pause again.
3. Point the lips and take one-third of the liquid contents remaining in the glass without touching the yolk. — Pause once more.
4. Straighten the body, throw the head backward, swallow the contents remaining in the glass all at once, at the same time breaking the yolk in your mouth.

Well it certainly sounds like a pretty crazy drink.

When I encounter a cocktail like this, I immediately both want to try it and am completely and utterly repulsed by it. A raw egg yolk is no thing to underestimate, especially when you’re instructed to break the yolk in your mouth before swallowing. That said, I love the Negroni and am usually open to trying any Negroni variation. So while I haven’t tried this yet, I may in the future, but make no promises…

Update:
Frederic popped by the comments and pointed out the recipe for the Knickroni:

Knickroni

.5oz Campari
.5oz Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz gin
Egg yolk
Meringue
1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters

Mix Campari and Sweet Vermouth in a 2oz sherry glass. Layer egg yolk. Layer .5oz gin. Top with meringue and 1 dash of Regan’s orange bitters.

Thanks Frederic!

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