AMBER SEXTON New York City 917-207-2375


Monday, April 28, 2014

Lime shortage desperation: Mineola Tangelito

image by Amber Sexton

If you are fellow traveller in home mixology and live on the east coast, you are likely paying out the ass for the saddest looking limes, if you can get them. Conserving limes, thinking of alternatives, I thought I would use some of one of my fave citrus fruits, the sour sweet Mineola Tangelo in a mojito. And it’s a yummy thing if not the same as lime, because what really is. It’s not sweet like many other oranges, and very piquant so it can help replace the tang of your missing lime.

A mojito is a drink I don’t normally measure, and you can adjust to taste, but I did measure things here just to write out the recipe. Another note is I used to be a very vigorous muddler, and now I try to be gentler with the mint. Aggressive crushing of the mint brings out a lot of grassy taste from the leaves and it can be really more fragrant and nice without serious mashing, you can use more mint or decide what level of crushing you like.

For this I used:
3 oz Smith & Cross gold rum (so much molasses taste in this rum, if you like white rum which is more trad for a mojito do that)
1/2 a pathetic ping pong ball sized lime (omit if you have none ha ha ha)
1 healthy fat wedge of Mineola Tangelo
1 wedge of same for garnish
A couple sprigs of mint
1/2-3/4 oz of simple or gomme syrup, or superfine sugar to taste.
Seltzer to top off your glass
Crushed ice

Crush some ice via whatever method and place in the bottom of your glass, it will stand up your mint sprig real nice, add your wedge of orange garnish too. Squeeze whatever you can get out of your sad lime half, same for the nice chunk of tangelo into your shaker, muddle, then add mint leaves and lightly crush trying not to really mash the leaves. Add your sweetener and rum, and shake with whole ice cubes till chilled. Taste and adjust sweetener if needed. Once it’s how you like it, strain into your glass and top with soda.

Sip while dabbing your dewy brow in the heat, real or imagined.

image by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 04/28 at 02:20 AM

Friday, February 14, 2014

Go-Kart cocktail

image by Amber Sexton

So I’m back to making cocktail posts, I’ve actually been exploring a lot of new drinks but I’ve not been thrilled with the photographs. But it’s just become time to post another recipe. This is one I have worked on myself, and it’s really simple and not super special or anything but I made it. I am focusing on fruit based drinks, spirits, liqueurs this year for trying new things. That’s because I’ve limited funds and when I buy a couple of these bottles I have to find lots of ways to use them.

In the fall I made a huge batch of orgeat syrup. And I realized I have to find ways to use it other than in Mai Tai’s. Mai Tai’s are a favorite of mine and I couldn’t really do a more perfect post than this one. And it has a photo by my old friend Tony Cenicola. But I digress, I realized that I had a huge amount of orgeat (which btw I made with this recipe here.) And I knew orgeat is good in a Japanese cocktail, so it goes well in brandy and cognac. But I only had apple brandy and I knew I didn’t want a drink as sweet as the traditional Japanese cocktail. So I came up with this, which seemed like it was in the family of the Side Car, the Jack Rose and the Japanese cocktail so I called it the Go-Kart.

For this drink you need either an American apple brandy or Calvados, and it shouldn’t be an expensive Calvados, one made with apples only and no pears. I’ve made this drink with two kinds of the more alcoholic apple jack too. But it’s more got more of a fruity apple flavor with something like Laird’s 7-1/2 year brandy or Calvados. The Laird’s aged stuff is not always around but you can usually get all kinds of Calvados. I made this one with some Groult Pays d’Auge, which is 3 years old made of apples only and around $30-$35. It is nicer with an older apple brandy, but price can be an issue of course.

So the recipe is:
2 oz apple brandy of your choice
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz orgeat syrup
4-5 healthy shakes of Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters

Shake or stir with ice as desired, strain into a chilled glass.

I’ve tried numerous bitters, every one in the house, in this drink. All of them were good, but many overpowered the apple notes, which was surprisingly easy to do. The rhubarb bitters has an acidic cherry brightness going for it and it works so well with the apple, and the natural slightly cherry taste of the almonds that make up orgeat. I liked that there wasn’t a dominant spice taste, which stands up better in a whiskey drink.

image by Amber Sexton

I wish I had some stem-on cocktail cherries, I’ve vowed not to buy anymore of the artificially colored bastards. I meant to make my own last summer but laziness and busted brokeness took over. A Luxardo cherry is delicious in this but it’s kind of ugly. So this is lacking a garnish. An apple slice just seemed really cliche. Anyway this is tested on friends and paramours and gets a thumbs up.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 02/14 at 05:10 AM

Monday, September 02, 2013

Corpse Reviver #2

image by Amber Sexton

This drink is the most popular drink I’ve ever made, it’s possibly my favorite thing to drink at this point and I swear it should be a new brunch favorite. In honor of Labor Day, make what I consider the ultimate morning after drink, which you can then keep drinking all day. Apparently corpse revivers were a category of drink from around the turn of the century, as hair of the dog type drinks, and there were a number of them. Only the #1 and the #2 survive as recipes currently, and of those only #2 is really what we would think of as a morning, or brunch type drink. And brunchy it is in spades. It’s more alcoholic than the mimosa, but easily quaffed quickly unlike a bloody. It’s also not hard to make, or remember how to make, but the fact that it has one expensive ingredient makes it less accessible to serve at home unless you are serious about amateur mixology.

And that ingredient my friends is absinthe. Before I made my own corpse reviver #2, I ordered it at a bar which specializes in classic cocktails, to see if I wanted to spring for an expensive bottle of the green stuff. Since it was love from sip one, there was no question, plus owning absinthe opens a whole new world of drinks to make at home including the sazerac. There is no skimping on absinthe, do not use the aqua colored fake “Czech” stuff. It is going to run you between $40-$60 and will last forever unless you get into drinking it with sugar and water. You can use a non-absinthe pastis if you like such as Pernod. And since most of us are not going to be able to taste a bunch of pastis/absinthe, do what I did and go to The Wormwood Society‘s page on your smart phone when you are in the liquor store and buy one with a good rating, you would be surprised which ones get critical pans on that site. In my store the only one they had which didn’t have terrible reviews was an American absinthe from Philadelphia Distilling called Vieux Carré. The same people who bring you Bluecoat Gin.

image by Amber Sexton

The Corpse Reviver #2 requires an absinthe rinse on the glass, please do not think you can skip this step, it is simply not the same beverage without it. To really do a rinse you are going to have to dispense your absinthe into either an elegant dasher bottle if you can find one, or do the déclassé thing and use a small spray bottle like me. You don’t want to try pouring the tiny amount from a giant heavy bottle. I use the funnel for my flask to fill my sprayer bottle.

image by Amber Sexton

So now chill a glass as we assemble the other ingredients. Gin, Lillet (or a Kina Lillet simulacrum like Cocchi Americano or Kina L’Avion D’or if you can find them), lemons and your orange liqueur of choice.

image by Amber Sexton

The recipe is a simple 1:1:1:1 of these ingredients, plus an absinthe rinse on a chilled glass. Surely even with a splitting headache you can remember this. For a single cocktail mix:

3/4 oz Gin
3/4 oz Triple sec/Curacao of choice
3/4 oz Lillet Blanc
3/4 oz lemon juice

Place in a shaker with ice, shake till ice cold, prepare your glass with absinthe rinse (more on that below) and strain into it to serve. Viola.

For gin use anything that is mixable, here I have Greenhook, but you can go Plymouth, and the limited edition Tanqueray Malacca is really nice in this drink. I went with Senor Curacao curacao, but I usually use Cointreau, I can’t decide which I like better. Some people think the Cocchi is more authentic than Lillet Blanc because it’s got more cinchona bark like the original Kina Lillet is supposed to have had, some think it tastes too much like vermouth. I’ve not heard of many people who have tried the L’Avion D’or yet, I can never find either when I’m in the liquor store and therefore stick with Lillet. I strain my lemon juice prior to adding if I remember to, also if you have a Meyer lemon, this drink is divine when you use the Meyer for no more than half the lemon juice. I also learned the hard way not to use that halfway dried up half a lemon sitting in the fridge for this, as it flattens the drink out totally when you don’t have a fresh cut lemon.

Tips on applying the absinthe rinse. It’s supposed to coat the glass, which gives a small pop of anise of taste, and a lot of fragrance. However if you put too much, it will very quickly become a dominant taste. If you like an anise licorice taste the drink will still taste good but it will just not be right, a bit of extra absinthe and you will dwarf the other flavors in the drink significantly. It’s supposed to be hint that you almost can’t define. If you are not massively skilled at administering a few drops from a dasher bottle and rolling it around with a flourish, then pouring off the extra, you may be a spazz like me. Try a spray bottle, my friend Amy sold me on this, a lot of great bars and bartenders are using them for this because it really allows you to use less absinthe. You can buy a nice looking aluminum one if you can find it, it will look like a fancy bar tool, though you won’t be able to tell how much is in it. I have a thoroughly ordinary one from the drugstore designed as a travel toiletry bottle.

I do not spray from a distance like you would hair spray or an olive oil mist on a pan. I found doing that left me a lot of absinthe in the air and not enough coverage in the glass. Pictured below is my technique more or less.
image by Amber Sexton

If you use the same spray method each time, whatever it is, you can use each pump of spray as a consistent measure. Four sprays while turning a chilled glass from the freezer is how I like it, three is good too but I prefer four. It depends slightly on the glass but again, once you have your spray method, each pump from your specific bottle is consistent so it’s a very reliable measure. Find the amount that you like and you can get it the same each time on your choice of glass if you count the number of sprays that got you there.

This drink has a sour sweet, herby drinkability and goes over easy in a crowd. It’s like a sophisticated gummy bear in a booze form, but no artificial flavors or colors. I’m sure it’s crass to describe it like that. I’ve not found anyone that hates it. I waive off people who say they don’t like licorice, when they know there’s absinthe, because done right the absinthe is going to be undefinable, give a sweet finish, and botanical aroma and just contribute to the drink being deliciously good. The corpse reviver #2 should take brunch by storm, because it crushes a mimosa made with Tropicana and cheap bubbly like Godzilla. It’s very citrusy and refreshing. Get your relatives tanked at the beach house with it next summer and everyone will forget you are mooching a room for free.

As for garnish, one is not called for. Manhattan Inn puts a lovely curled orange peel on the edge. That’s great because it really adds something and signals you to taste the orangeiness of the drink, yet there’s no orange juice in it. Because of that you might not have an orange around, as I did not. Use your fanciest metal foiled glass to dress up the pale contents. Anyway, you won’t be sorry you got your corpse revived. Do it twice!

image by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 09/02 at 01:22 AM

Friday, July 05, 2013

Cocktails of NYC, Brooklyn Cocktail

image by Amber Sexton

The Brooklyn, the most elusive of the drinks named for the boroughs of my hometown. As a resident of Kings County for over 20 years, I had always planned to end on it. But it took quite a bit longer than I initially anticipated, and this is definitely the longest it’s ever taken me to plan and execute a cocktail, or cocktail post. I’ve approached all the drinks I blog about, to learn about cocktails from making ones from a classic period. And I try to get at least close to how there were originally made, I’m doing this to develop my own palate and skills, so I knew I would take on Brooklyn last of all the NYC cocktails. I wanted to build up my chops before hitting this one.

The Brooklyn relies on a french amara, Amer Picon, which you cannot get in the US. The other twist is if you do manage to acquire a bottle, they have changed the product somewhat since 1979. The original is 78 proof, and the current variety is 40 proof. If you go down an internet rabbit hole as I have, you will read all sorts of grumblings of other possible changes to the recipe, which seem to have less credibility, but booze bottles have no ingredient labels so you can go crazy imagining all this. Maybe all of this pondering clouded my brain enough that it didn’t occur to me to ask my family members to bring me one when they went to Paris a few months back. An error I still can’t stop kicking myself over.

Substitutions have been made all along in the history of cocktails, during prohibition the rest of the world couldn’t get the rye called for in this drink and had to go with Canadian Club, bourbon or some other whiskey. I did know going in that I was going to need to find a stand in, but I’m completely uneducated on the taste of amaras, and most bars I can think of couldn’t give me a taste tour either. They will have one if they have any. I had been fervently pouring through the eGullet cocktail forums, especially Erik Ellstad’s Stomping through the Savoy topic, (which he continued on his own blog, but the comments on the egullet thread are a gold mine of info) and found a post which mentioned that David Wondrich himself had tasted an older bottle of Picon against all the amaras in his collection and posted the result to eGullet. His verdict is Amaro CioCiaro. When I say rabbit hole, you can really go insane on reading about subs for Amer Picon, there are recipes to make your own. It is the kind of thing I do like to take on but I felt a bit out of my depth. Anyway, authenticity was part of my search, but I also just wanted a good drink I would like. I have been served a Brooklyn before in a bar, prior to doing this reading, and I did not like it especially. My hypothesis became that this was due to an inappropriate amara being used for the Picon. I guess I was determined to like a drink named after my home borough, and didn’t leave it there. (I never felt the same determination about the gem Amber, which I’m also not fond of, but there’s really no way to alter petrified tree resin to be more like how I think of myself)

If you are still following along with me, there was more bad news, sadly my delay didn’t end with the decision to use Amaro CioCiaro. It proved extremely difficult to acquire, though clearly not nigh impossible like the Picon. Here I was with the answer, and as a bonus, it’s one of the cheapest amaras you can buy at under $20, yet no one has it in any liquor store in my travels around town. I did not want to order it in the mail, and pay similar shipping. I found one store waaay far away from my apartment on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn that claimed to stock it on their website but I could not get over there, and I feared their website was lying anyway, perhaps they just occasionally stock it I’ve run into that before. If I lived near or ever was naturally in that neighborhood I would certainly check but I didn’t want to head out there and just be disappointed. My theory on why it is not carried is that customers for amaras are sophisticated and want the more expensive brands with deeper vegetal notes to sip. And I’m sure if a liquor store is going to stock something they barely sell, they want to make it worth their while for carrying it, and ring up $40 to $60 when someone bothers to buy this niche product. I just made that up, but I’m going with it.

I had started to move on to other drinks when my search for the amara became frustrating, I did go spontaneously into virtually any liquor store I was near for a while in a vain hope of finding it. In the meantime I picked up a wonderful rye made by a Brooklyn distillery (though it has Rosendale NY on the label), Widow Jane Rye. If you read my posts on the Bronx, the Queens and the pinnacle of them all the Manhattan, you know I tried to include spirits made in NYC. I did fudge it for NY State on the Manhattan, and this is sort of a fudge also, because it is perhaps made in the Catskills rather than Red Hook, but I really like it. It’s got spice, but it also finishes sweet, I have found that for many rye drinks which have other ingredients which are sweet, it’s nice to have the spicier notes counter those, so I don’t want to choose a rye which is super smooth. Widow Jane is also unfiltered which means you find little flakes of sediment in it sometimes, which I don’t mind.

image by Amber Sexton

Ultimately traveling to L.A. on vacation without a car brought an end to my search for Amaro CioCiaro. I spontaneously walked into a huge liquor store, as I had been doing futilely all over New York City. Boom! I saw it on the shelf, and not too much later it was in my luggage home. I then got in the door and poured a little taste. It is not especially bitter, it’s sweetish with bitter notes, it’s aromatic, it’s chocolaty, and definitely gives heat at the back of the throat, and I gather it’s not as citrusy as Amer Picon because it’s not particularly orange tasting.

So now all the players are in finally on the field. This left me to finally mix it up and try it. I looked up recipes for the Brooklyn cocktail and found this eGullet page which presented a whole new set of issues, but those I could resolve in my own apartment by consuming several alcoholic beverages. This is the kind of problem I enjoy. I tasted most of these and and came up with my own proportions as well, and I’ll share two recipes I like.

The recipe by Ted Haigh is:

2 oz rye (Widow Jane)
3/4 oz dry vermouth (Noilly Prat)
2 teaspoons Amer Picon (Amaro CioCiaro)
2 teaspoons maraschino liqueur (Luxardo)
(adding orange bitters is optional and a good idea because that is supposed to be how the CioCiaro falls short in similarity to Picon)
BTW when I measure 2 teaspoons it comes out to 1/4 oz so you can just measure that out if you have a trusty 1/4 ounce measure.

Shake or stir with ice (many folks stir vermouth drinks, I like the cloudiness and ice chips from shaking) and strain into a glass.

Once I tasted it I thought “This is very like a Manhattan, but a bit different.” And I like that. The drinks are truly sisters, similar but definitely individuals. If you include a Luxardo cherry in your Manhattan as I do, they become even more aligned. I like that the Bronx and Queens are smilar to each other as well. In these proportions I can really taste the vermouth, which you should in a drink in this family, yet many of the other notes pop out too, and it’s a bit sweeter than a Manhattan. However it was a bit disappointing to me that the maraschino is more strongly detected than the amara. This was possibly because I’m more accustomed to drinking cocktails that use it so it is easy for me to recognize. It was not disappointing because I disliked the drink, but because I went out of my mind to get the amara and it wasn’t the strongest note. And I felt I wanted to find a way to separate out the sisters from each other. I had the same issues in other words, as the participants in the egullet thread I linked above. However all the traditional recipes out there for the Brooklyn pair up the proportions of Picon and maraschino, they are greater or less, but they are equal to each other.

Here is my favorite variation, though I’ve gone between it and the one above numerous times and I like each for different reasons, in different moods. My variation ups the amaro and pairs it in proportion to the vermouth instead, though reducing the amount of vermouth and maraschino.

2 oz rye
1/2 oz dry vermouth (I actually tried 3/4 as on that egullet thread and didn’t like it as well)
1/2 oz Amaro CioCiaro
1/4 oz maraschino

This whole thing got me thinking about separating these two borough cocktails. After I took my picture, I decided that I might switch my cherry use and only put it in a Brooklyn, where it seems more natural to be since there is already maraschino liqueur. Neither drink originally called for the garnish, but a cherry has persisted in the Manhattan as it is usually served, but now I feel it might be more misplaced there. Or maybe when I want to feel the two cocktails are closely related I will dunk it in my Manhattan, and when I want the drinks to have very discrete tastes I will not. If anything has become clear to me, is a Brooklyn offers more options to play around with than the Manhattan, which I never vary, and I think I’m still playing with it. That’s definitely fun.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 07/05 at 11:24 PM
CocktailsNew YorkPermalink

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ward 8, Two Ways

image by Amber Sexton

So been on an extremely Wondrich-y kick, just finishing up “Imbibe!” getting to the appendixes which are very worth reading. Anyhow, when I first got the book, I looked up something with rye and grenadine and that’s how I learned of this one. Then my Boston friends said basically “Duh.” But really it’s one of the drinks which appears can certainly be credited to Boston, since so many cocktails are of hazy, conflicted and apocryphal origin, this is pretty firm I understand.

Anyway I had been making them according to book, which calls for mint, in fact the oldest citation calls for creme de menthe, when I looked at his Esquire blog post and saw it had none in that recipe. And I wondered…what sort of Wondrichery™ was going on here. Then it was clear, Imbibe! is presenting drinks in an original form, or showing you how to approximate that original form, the Esquire blog is showing you how to make drinks in a fairly modern context. You know for dudes, because it’s a men’s mag.

So, I decided to try and drink it both ways.  The most significant difference is that the modern recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of grenadine and has less rye, and the older adapted version calls for 1/2 ounce, more rye, and includes mint, lightly shaken with drink and as garnish. He also suggest adding seltzer and making it a cooler of sorts, serving with ice in.

Here’s the contemporary one
image by Amber Sexton

The recipe linked above as follows:
2 ounces rye whisky (I used Redemption Rye, which is 92 proof, and frankly is not my favorite thing I’ve picked up at the liquor store. Use Rittenhouse, Bulleit, or something else you like)
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce orange juice
1 teaspoon grenadine (home made)

Shake with ice, strain into chilled glass. Delish, but very much in the whiskey sour family. A whiskey not so sour. Lovely.

So in the book, the oldest citation of the recipe he gets from a book by G. Selmer Fougner, Along the Wine Trail. It’s too long for me to type out and you should buy Imbibe anyway. But it calls for bourbon, creme de menthe, orange bitters, sugar, grenadine, seltzer and garnishes of orange, pineapple and cherries. Then it goes on to suggest using fresh mint if in season, and juicing an orange instead of using the bitters. However Wondrich then clarifies that it’s supposed to be rye rather than bourbon. His adaptation follows which I used for my second version right here (this is verbatim from Imbibe, I’ll note where I deviated):

image by Amber Sexton

Juice of one lemon
Juice of 1/2 orange
1 barspoon superfine sugar (I omitted this, soo much grenadine was enough sweetness)
Stir until sugar dissolves and add:
3 oz Rye whiskey (same rye as above)
1 sprig of mint

Add ice, shake gently so as not to brutalize the mint and strain into a large goblet containing 1 or 2 large ice cubes, add grenadine to taste (a half-ounce should be plenty) and fill with chilled seltzer. Fruit as above. End quoted passage, my notes below.

Soooo. I shook this with the grenadine, rather than stir it in later after straining. This time I tried just rubbing the mint in the glass, and frankly I like it lightly tamped down and shaken with the drink better, which I’ve done before. Also I freaking dunked the whole thing into the glass without straining…sue me for saving ice. This is also a double because my lovely new #8 tumber is huge at 12oz. So after the picture was done, I plunked in a second fun metal straw and me and my pal Molly Weiss shared it. There was little room for seltzer because I misjudged, but I’ve made this quite a bit before in my smaller glasses spritzed it up to dilute it. Anyway YUMMEH…, much better way #2, ward #8.

(I took this one before I decided to garnish with an orange peel as well, which I do recommend)
image by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 04/28 at 01:51 AM
Page 1 of 3 pages  1 2 3 >