Cocktails + Libations = Cocktations

If you are wondering what a cocktation is, yours is a valid question. Cocktation is in fact a made-up word that tumbled from my mouth one day when I was trying to say the word concoction. That nifty little neologism was the seed idea for this blog, and here we both are today.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Absinthe, For Your Entertainment

I just finished watching Adam Lambert's official video for his first single, For Your Entertainment. Regardless of what you think of Lambert, he is clearly a showman, and he works that angle fiercely in his first video. The song is a sly combination of enticing grooves paired with lyrics that insinuate that Lambert is both in complete control and at the same time simply here for our entertainment. The video's visuals are replete with symbolism, including a forbidden underworld along with snakes and apples at every turn evoking connotations of the Garden of Eden and partaking of forbidden fruit. At minute 2 in the video there is a brief shot of two nubile women drinking glasses of a green clear liquid, which appears to have been poured from the fountain shown at minute 2.30. And just what are these ladies drinking? Absinthe, of course.

As a Wormwood Society member and absinthe connoisseur (I've been drinking absinthe for over 3 years, have sampled over 40 absinthes, and am a member of the Wormwood Society's advisory board), I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on the myths and facts about absinthe. Given my passion about the subject of absinthe, whenever I see absinthe being misrepresented or abused, I feel an obligation to speak out. In the case of Adam Lambert's video, there is both good and bad in the way that absinthe is portrayed.

Let's start with the good...
No fire. I can't tell you how grateful I am and how glad my heart is that in this video no absinthe is set on fire. True absinthe that is properly distilled should never be flamed. Doing so is damaging to the delicate flavors of absinthe (Would you set an expensive Pinot Noir on fire before you drink it?), is dangerous (Absinthe is highly flammable; more so than most spirits which are distilled to a lower proof.), and only serves to perpetuate false notions that absinthe is a drug and tastes terrible (Czechsinthe tastes terrible, to be sure, but true absinthe is a wonderful beverage).

On the other hand...
The absinthe fountain is incorrectly filled with absinthe. The video depicts a proper absinthe fountain being used; however, the set-up is all wrong. Rather than filling the fountain itself with absinthe, the fountain should be filled with ice water. The spigots of the fountain are then used to slowly drip cold water over a sugar cube that is held over the absinthe glass by a slotted absinthe spoon. This process of diluting the absinthe in the glass and the resultant clouding of the absinthe and water mixture is called louching. In the video it appears that the fountain is being used as an absinthe dispenser. If this were the case, the resulting drink would be undiluted and therefore undrinkable. Absinthe should always be louched before drinking, if one is interested in enjoying the beverage, as opposed to just getting drunk and forgoing any pleasure that is to be had.

My assumption is that no one filming the video has ever used an absinthe fountain before. It's an easy mistake to make, if you don't know what the equipment is for; however, this is no excuse for the improper preparation displayed in the video.

In the future I'll be writing more about absinthe and sharing my knowledge and opinions in this blog. For now, let's wrap up with today's take-home messages:
1) Friends don't let friends burn absinthe.
2) Always louche to a ratio of 1 part absinthe to 3-5 parts cold water before you drink.
3) Just say no to Czechsinthe.

Cheers! ~Dr. Cocktation

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Post-Thanksgiving Ramos Gin Fizz

I'm having my second Ramos Gin Fizz of the evening, and I realized that this is one of the most healthy beverages anyone can have. What other cocktail provides you with protein (from egg whites), calcium (from half-and-half), and plenty of vitamins (from lime and lemon juices)? Indeed, this drink is more like a healthy breakfast than a cocktail. The recipe I use is that of New Orleans bartender, Chris McMillian, from the Ritz-Carlton's Library Lounge.

Ramos Gin Fizz
1.5 oz gin (G'vigne or Plymouth is my recommendation)
2 oz half-and-half
one very fresh egg white
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz lime juice
1/8 oz orange flower water
2-3 drops Vanilla extract
1 oz simple syrup

Shake all ingredients vigorously in a shaker tin with NO ice for 1-2 minutes. Then add ice and shake again until it's so cold your hands hurt. Strain into a tall glass with no ice and add about 3 oz of sparkling water and stir. The resultant beverage should taste like a frothy, creamy sip of heaven.

Cheers! ~Dr. Cocktation

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Highway 40/64 Grand Reopening Celebration Cocktail

Nearly every St. Louisan knows that for the past 2 years (or nearly that long) our beloved Highway 40 (or 64/40 as the powers that be are trying to get us to call it) has been closed for major repair and reconstruction. But on Monday, December 7th, 2009 the new highway will re-open. Thus, on the preceding Sunday, December 6th, there will be a grand celebration on the new stretch of highway, including a 5K race, and people will be permitted to walk and ride bikes on the highway before the ribbon cutting ceremony at 3pm.

For those planning to rise early next Sunday and brave the cold winter weather for the 5K, I believe a hot toddy is in order. Therefore, I have put my creative cocktail juices to work on a 40/64 toddy befitting of this chilly, yet momentous occasion. The following recipe lists ingredients and proportions for a single one-cup serving, but I recommend making it in larger batches and keeping it hot in a thermos. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my 40/64 toddy! [insert applause here]

Highway 40/64 Toddy
3 oz camomile tea
4 oz apple cider
Simmer both for a few minutes with a cinnamon stick, a few allspice berries, a few cloves, and one small piece of candied ginger. Then add...
1.5 oz Applejack
1 tsp honey
1/4 oz Marteau absinthe (you could also use Duplais, Pacifique, or Clandestine)
Serve in a mug with a touch of freshly grated nutmeg on top, or if necessary to stave off freezing temperatures, drink directly from a thermos.

If you see me next weekend at the 40/64 Grand Opening, I will neither confirm nor deny that this beverage is in my thermos.

Cheers! ~Dr. Cocktation

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Wines

With Thanksgiving a mere 3 days away, it's time to clean the house, finish up the grocery shopping, and put the finishing touches on your menu. At my house, wine is always in integral part of the Thanksgiving meal. This year, I will be serving 3 wines with dinner--a red, a white, and a rose.

First, a note about rose wine. Forget the white Zinfandel or sweet blush wines. Dry rose has made its comeback, so if you tend to turn up your nose when you see pink in someone's wine glass, you may want to familiarize yourself with what today's roses have to offer before passing judgment.

For the red wine, I'll be serving the Evesham Wood 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is a classic Thanksgiving pairing, and the Evesham Wood is a value-driven pinot that really delivers, and I expect it to match well with the turkey itself and the mushroom and wild rice casserole I'm making.

The Trimbach 2005 Pinot Blanc is a white wine from Alsace that packs a lot of fruit (think tree fruits like apricot, peach, and pear) with good weight and acidity that makes for a good food wine. For guests who like whites, but need to branch out beyond oak-heavy Chardonnay, the Trimbach Pinot Blanc is a great option that will keep them coming back for more.

Don't let the stelvin closure (eek, a screw cap) on the aptly-named Turkey Flat 2007 Rose fool you. There is some serious Barossa Valley juice inside this bottle. Flavors of fresh, juicy strawberry with a spicy backbone and good acidity mean that this wine is the perfect choice for those who can't decide between red or white with dinner. If the idea of serving and/or drinking a pink wine makes you apprehensive, I encourage you to take a risk this Thursday and make Turkey Flat the second turkey on your Thanksgiving day table.

Cheers! ~Dr, Cocktation

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Apple Brandy Old Fashioned & A Twist on the Caipirinha

I seem to enjoy making cocktails in twos, and tonight is no exception. First I created a variation on the Caipirinha, and decided to quickly name it...

Not Your Mama's Caipirhina
1/8th wedge of lemon, lime, and orange, muddled in a large shaker tin
1/2 oz Orgeat syrup
2 oz Leblon Cachaca
Fill shaker 1/2 full with ice
Shake and pour out all contents (fruit shells and ice) into a lowball glass

Using multiple citrus fruits, rather than just lime came from the Leblon room mixing lesson at 2009 Tales of the Cocktail. I also decided to substitute orgeat for the sugar, and found its flavors worked beautifully with the mix of citrus.

The Apple Brandy Old Fashioned is just a tweak of the Applejack Old Fashioned I discovered somewhere on the net last weekend. This Fall I have become enamored with Applejack, Calvados, and Apple Brandy and have been substituting with these spirits in a variety of whiskey and bourbon-based cocktails.

Apple Brandy Old Fashioned
1/8 wedge of orange muddled in a mixing glass
1 tsp of maple syrup
2 oz Clear Creek Eau de Vie de Pomme
3 dashes Fee Bros Old Fashioned Bitters
Stir with plenty of ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

The apple flavor of the brandy pairs very well with the maple, hint of orange, and spiciness of the bitters. To put it simply, to me, this cocktail tastes like Fall.

Cheers! ~Dr. Cocktation

Friday, November 20, 2009

Something Old and Something New

Tonight, as I embark on a glorious 9-day-stretch of freedom from my day-job, I am working on both an old standby and a new creation. The old standby is the Brandy Alexander, and tonight's new creation is the Purple Haze. Both are creamy cocktails utilizing half-and-half. Although I tend to eschew the use of such indulgent ingredients in my day-to-day drinks, there is something about entering into the Holiday Season that almost grants me permission to throw my usual fat-conscious cautions to the wind.

Let's begin with the time-tested favorite--The Brandy Alexander
1 oz of Camus Cognac
1 oz creme de cacao
1 oz half-and-half
2 dashes Fee's Chocolate Bitters
Freshly grated nutmeg
Shake all ingredients over ice, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with nutmeg.

Although I initially started with Robert Hess' recipe that calls for 1/2 oz more of brandy, I discovered that the equal balance ratio that I found in Harry and Wynn's Barflies and Cocktails: 300 Recipes(1927) more to my liking. The addition of the chocolate bitters happened just because I have them and thought, "What the heck." And you know what, it works.

Moving on to my new creation for this evening--The Purple Haze
1 oz Absolut Los Angeles vodka [Acai, Acerola, Pomegranate & Blueberry]
1 oz half-and-half
1/2 oz Chambord
2 dashes of Fee Bros Chocolate Bitters
3 dashes of Fee Bros Old Fashioned Bitters
1 coffee bean
Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a dark cherry.

The inspiration for this cocktail was a co-worker mentioning her love of cocktails made with Chambord. I initially started this cocktail using Stoli Blakberi vodka, which gave the drink an odd, metallic taste. I found the Absolut LA worked much better in the drink and echoed the smooth, rich dark berry fruit flavors of the Chambord. I added the bitters to spice things up (literally and figuratively) and to add another dimension to the drink. And the coffee bean? I threw one it (locally roasted Kaldi's coffee to be exact) because I wanted to add a bit of a coffee oil note to the whole shebang.

Cheers! ~Dr. Cocktation

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Simple Festive Holiday Drink (for those who aren't liquor snobs)

A good friend of mine recently asked for a simple cocktail suggestion that she could offer to family and friends for Thanksgiving to round out her holiday beverage offerings. Knowing that she lives in a state that has limited liquor available, and that she would like something that is simple (not a lot of cocktail shaking, lemon zesting, ice crushing etc), approachable (for guests who don't normally drink gin martinis and Sazeracs), and festive, I set aside my penchant for snobbery and complexity, and instead looked towards the simple option of mixing a flavored vodka with a sparkling juice.

I know that many classic cocktailers tend to turn up their noses at the word vodka, but in my individual opinion, well-made (i.e. Charbay, Square One, Hangar One) flavor infused vodkas can play a role in making a delicious yet simple drink that anyone can enjoy (if pretensions are laid aside).

Now that I've worked through my defensiveness, let's move on to the drink itself. For the sparkling juice, Trader Joe's sparkling Pomegranate, Blueberry, and Cranberry are great, flavorful, inexpensive options. When I first tested various flavor combinations I was surprised to find that like doesn't always mix well with like. For example, cranberry vodka mixed with cranberry sparkling juice is not delicious, but if you use pomegranate or blueberry juice, you've got a winner. I'm sure that some of the better sparkling apple ciders and grape juices would also work well with a well-made fruit vodka. Use your imagination, and don't forget the garnish. For those who aren't so adventurous, I'll recommend the following combination as an example:

1 oz Charbay Pomegranate vodka in a champagne flute
top with Trader Joe's sparkling Cranberry juice
drop a fresh cranberry in the glass

Cheers! ~Dr. Cocktation

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday Evening Shopping List

Tonight I found myself in Ellisville, MO (a suburb of St. Louis, for the non-locals), and I felt the draw of my favorite liquor shop--no, wait a second...hold up...this place is more accurately referred to as a supreme palace of booze--Lukas Liquor Superstore. I stopped in with my holiday shopping list in hand and picked up a few goodies to play with over the winter months. Some are old standbys, while others I've never tried before. The following is a partial list of some ingredients you are likely to see me using in upcoming week's cocktails.

Camus Cognac VS Elegance: I've never tried this Cognac, but it comes highly recommended by Tim Greco of Lukas. I'm excited to try a Sidecar and a Vieux Carre with it, as well as to expand my understanding and appreciation of Cognac by sipping a little of the Camus straight.

Clear Creek Eau de Vie de Pomme : This is the 8-year-oak-limousin-aged version. I was jazzed to find the Clear Creek available in a 375 ml bottle, which allows for "sampling" when you're not quite sure you want to buy a whole bottle. That said, this Oregon apple brandy that is said to rival some of the higher-quality Calvados, is probably something I'll want more of, eventually. I plan to try this out in a Widow's Kiss and Fallen Leaves cocktails.

Luxardo Bitter Liqueur: Luxardo is well-known to me for their Maraschino liqueur and very reliable Triplum (triple sec). Their Bitter Liqueur dates back to 1885 and is a Campari-esque (if I may use such a term) liqueur that is mainly comprised of sweet orange, bitter orange, rhubarb, mint, marjoram and thyme, along with some other highly secretive ingredients that makes it Luxardo's own unique combination. I'll probably start off trying this in a Venetian-style spritzer with a little sparkling water and a slice of lemon. Once I get to know this bitter a little better ;-), there's no telling what I might mix up with it.

Cheers! ~Dr. Cocktation

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Judy's Premium Baltimore Zoo

Back in my undergrad days at Truman State University (although then it was called Northeast Missouri State University) one of my favorite local bars was TP's Office. At TP's the specialty house drink was a Baltimore Zoo--a Long Island Iced Tea type of drink with a twist. Although these types of drinks are often high in alcohol and low in quality (designed to deliver maximum intoxication for minimum money, perfect for any college student wanting a budget buzz), I feel a certain nostalgia for this fruity, high-octane beverage. A few weeks ago my college roommate came over for dinner and she reminded me of the Baltimore Zoos we would consume with reckless abandon. This walk down memory lane prompted me to recreate this beverage with some premium ingredients designed to appeal to my more sophisticated adult palate. By using these higher quality liquors and mixers, the drink retains it's fun, fruity, racy appeal, yet avoids turning into a barely-palatable ticket to hangover city. I give you, Judy's Premium Baltimore Zoo...

Judy's Premium Baltimore Zoo
1 oz G'vigne gin
1 oz Mount Gay white rum
1 oz Lazaronni amaretto
1 oz Southern Comfort
1 oz Luxardo Triplum
1 oz any decent vodka
1 oz homemade sweet and sour (lemon, orange, lime juice with simple syrup)
1 oz Fee Bros grenadine
1 oz Bud Select

Shake everything minus the beer in a shaker with ice. Strain into tall glass over ice. Add beer and stir. Garnish with a lemon slice, cherry (preferably not those soulless bright red ones in a jar, but a frozen, pitted dark cherry from Trader Joe's would do nicely), and a colorful bendy straw.

Cheers! ~Dr. Cocktation

Abbazia Di Novacella 2008 Kerner Wine Review

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Brand New Cocktail for Friday the 13th

I'm back from a business trip to NOLA and was itching to play around with the booze tonight. I think this one is going to be a keeper, although I'd like to play more with different proportions, if I hadn't run out of Tuaca. Nevertheless, I offer for your drinking pleasure...

The Switzerland
1.5 oz calvados (Morin)
1 oz Tuaca
1 oz Berentzen's Apfelkorn
3 dashes Fee Bros bitters
Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass

I chose the name because the liquors/liqueurs that go into this drink represent France, Italy, and Germany--a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to the World Wars. Looking for something that represents a balance among these three countries in history, I hit upon the idea of Switzerland, being located in the middle of all three countries and decidedly neutral in both of the wars. If anyone plays around with ratios and finds a better balance (although I like this balance just fine, but then again I do have a bit of a sweet tooth) let me know!

Cheers, ~Dr. Cocktation

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Maita'i roa ae!

It is a beautiful STL evening in November, following a 70+ degree sunny Fall day. Last weekend I snagged my first bottle of Fee Bros Orgeat and so tonight I am celebrating the end of a gorgeous and productive day with a Mai Tai. I used Robert Hess' [aka Drinkboy's] recipe, but found I needed just a tad more sweetness present. My own recipe (a riff on Drinkboy's) follows.

1 oz Mount Gay Eclipse Rum
1 oz Appleton Estates Rum
1/2 oz key lime juice
1/2 oz Luxardo Triple Sec
3/4 oz Fee Bros Orgeat
1 cherry (frozen from Trader Joes, not a soulless maraschino cherry)
1 orange slice

Shake all liquid ingredients (including lime shells) over ice and strain into an iced low-ball glass. Garnish with cherry and orange slice. Ideally, add a sprig of enlivened (smack it between your palms) fresh mint (which I do have access to in my back yard, but am too lazy to go out and get).

Cheers! ~Dr. Cocktation

Friday, November 6, 2009

2 Cocktails in Honor of My Doggy--Chablis

Hello and welcome to Cocktations--my effort at documenting all of the cocktails, the good, the bad, and the ugly, that I make up on weekends after the 5pm whistle blows on Fridays. I'll also be documenting the creations of others that I try, tweak (or just leave as is), and enjoy (or not). I'm not a bartender, or a professional mixologist. I am a psychologist (no, I'm not interested in analyzing you), a wine dork, a foodie, a home do-it-yourself-er, and many other things. I am also a cocktail enthusiast who loves to experiment at home in the hopes of coming up with that perfect cocktail that is so much more than the sum of its parts--the holy grail of cocktails [insert angels singing and bright ethereal lights here].

To start things off, I though I would post the recipe for 2 cocktails that I made in August of 2009 (08.08.09 to be exact), in honor of my puppy, a 13-year-old Maltese named Chablis.

The Chablis
3 oz Lillet blanc
1 oz limoncello
squeeze of lemon
3 dashes Fee Bros cherry bitters
3 oz sparkling water
Build in a highball glass over ice.

The Collapsing Trachea
[So named for my doggy's condition. I figure when life gives you "lemons" make "lemonade."]
3 oz Lillet blanc
1 oz limoncello
1/2 oz kirschwasser
3 oz cream soda
squeeze of lemon
Build in a tall glass over ice. Garnish with lemon slice.

These two drinks are obviously variations on the same theme, with the use of Lillet (obviously a tip-of-the-hat to my puppy's French name), the limoncello, and a cherry element in each (due to my doggy's sweetness). Both were quite enjoyable in their own ways, and I hope if you try them you enjoy them as well.

~Dr. Cocktation