AMBER SEXTON New York City 917-207-2375


Sunday, April 27, 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 04/27 at 07:20 PM
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Thursday, February 13, 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 02/13 at 09:10 PM
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Sunday, September 01, 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 09/01 at 06:22 PM
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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 04:24 PM
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Saturday, April 27, 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 04/27 at 06:51 PM
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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Make yourself a Knickerbocker!

image by Amber Sexton

So I’ve been reading Imbibe! by David Wondrich and I came across a drink for which I had most of the ingredients and was much earlier historically than other drinks I’ve made. I’m a huge fan of the book, and all Wondrich’s Esquire columns. Previously I’ve consulted his recipes when looking for multiple sources on drinks and his recipes are nearly always the best.

One of the things that will surprise you when reading this book, is in the 1800’s many drink recipes called for fresh fruit and berries. Certainly fancy people who could afford good booze and wine drank a lot straight, but there was a lot of bowls of punch, and even the individual drinks often called for berries, oranges, and even pineapple syrup. Drier drinks like the martini are so much later in booze history. What’s great to know is that the culture has come back around to these early drinks enough since his book was written in 07 that you can find many of the things he says are impossible to get now in most liquor stores. If I think about how things have changed since he wrote the book, the place near me with a loud plastic awning under the BQE, has Bols Genever, Old Tom Gin, 20 kinds of rye, at least 4 or 5 absinthes and even creme de violette.

Anyway, a Knickerbocker, such a NY or at least Northeast name, and it’s a drink with nothing hard to find in it at all. Though it calls for Santa Cruz rum I had Scarlet Ibis, which is Trinidadian, but it is pot-still distilled. This is the old method of distilling which Wondrich does recommend for all kinds of these older drinks. This drink calls for raspberry syrup, and I’ve made a lot of my own syrups but in this case, I felt that we don’t get a lot of good raspberries in this area, they often have mold, and they are really expensive. A pint was $5.75 and I bought a syrup that I’ve used in the past for raspberry frosting that was $11, I really recommend D’arbo Raspberry syrup which I got at the health food store.

Here’s Wondrich’s recipe, which calls for shaved ice, which for the life of me I can’t figure out how to reproduce from cubes at home, so I just smashed some wrapped in paper towels with a mallet. Yes I know that’s crushed ice, but I don’t know how I would get it in shaved form.

1/2 a lime or lemon (I used lime)
2 teaspoons of raspberry syrup (D’arbo)
2 oz Rum (recipe calls for Santa Cruz, but I used Scarlet Ibis)
1 oz Curaçao (Cointreau is my go to, he recommends Grand Marnier which you certainly couldn’t go wrong with)
Shake with shaved ice and garnish with berries, serve with the spent lime rind, but do not shake with the lime rind.

I didn’t really have an authentic glass for this really, it calles for a 6-8oz tumbler. My Atlantic City jelly glasses make me happy and I like them for drinks which you don’t strain and leave the ice in, they are the right size if the wrong period and formality. I also added pineapple and cantaloupe to my garnish, alternately, it seems like you can be free with your fruit garnish in a lot of these drinks. I used my new cocktail picks to spear them. I like having the picks because they let me sample the garnish as I’m drinking my drink instead of fishing them out of the bottom or eating them at the beginning. My friend Snapper gave me the picks as a gift and I really appreciate them.

Anyway this drink is scrumptious, festive and so summery I’m going to be having it all season. Enjoy.
image by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 04/14 at 05:48 PM
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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Motor City Death Party

image by Amber Sexton

Unlike most of my old friends, I didn’t go to Motor City when they made their great memories there years and years ago. For long time I wasn’t going out, didn’t drink and was in a relationship with someone who had vastly different taste than myself. I still don’t go that much because it’s a bit of a drag to get to and home from on a weeknight when a lot of my friends do go. But all that aside, when Jodi is your bartender it is awesome and I always have a great time when I do go. My dearest old pal Lynne was djing and I couldn’t not go to at least one of the parties for the end of this particular world. I got off the bus at the Williamsburg bridge and missed the first train to Manhattan.
image by Amber Sexton
When I got into the bar, Lynne Von Pang had just arrived dressed for the part, to the enth degree.
image by Amber Sexton
Lynne played so many amazing records, many that I knew first through her when I went to her apartment as a high school student, when she was in college. It was like she was taking psychic requests from my mind and just playing them for me. I would hear certain songs and say “This is being played for me” and then dance, even if I was the only one.
Alexandra AKA Mighty Aphrodite made these beautiful cupcakes, but the photo I took of her was too bad to use. Instead here’s a sort of compellingly bad pic of me and the awesome Marti Wilkerson, AKA Marti Domination

image by Amber Sexton

Then a whole lot of this happened, and I did tip the gorgeous Anna Copa Cabana
image by Amber Sexton
image by Amber Sexton
image by Amber Sexton

And then Jodi joined her on the bar.
image by Amber Sexton

image by Amber Sexton
I took a tremendous number of bad photos of my friends as I drank more which I will leave on facebook where they can un-tag themselves instead of perpetrating that here in public. But this pic of Lynne, David and Mary who call themselves Team Blackout is pretty funny.
image by Amber Sexton
I danced my ass off, and when my date arrived we made out like teenagers, before leaving my phone died and I missed my call to go to an appointment with a friend the next day. Anyway, as with so many other places that have closed in NYC there will be nothing to replace it and we will all have to be content with our memories. Motor City burned it up, and soon it will be gone.
image by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 03/10 at 12:09 AM
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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Aviation-a drink to make for folks who don’t know they love gin

image by Amber Sexton

My friend Julie Keane posted a picture of of an Aviation maybe a year ago and that began the major cocktail craze I’ve been on since then. Of course I’ve always made lovely drinks. And there is nothing more perfect than a gin and tonic in the summer. But I hadn’t been mixing drinks with gin at home. Bourbon, margaritas, mojitos, dark and stormy’s, and actually if I correct myself I was making some nice gin drinks with Aperol and grapefruit. But that picture of an Aviation and the ingredients set me off. And it wasn’t even blue! I bought some Luxardo maraschino liqueur and made one without the creme de violette, and it was delicious, but became determined to do it right. I haven’t let go of this thing since. It is perfect.

If you are unfamiliar with maraschino liqueur, you should get familiar with it because a lot of classic cocktails need it. It is made from both the pits and the flesh of the Marasca cherry, which is why it’s got a strong almond note to the taste. Creme de violette is just what it sounds like, a sweet liqueur made of violet flowers, possibly with other colorants added. There used to be none imported in the US, but now you can find the Rothman & Winter brand everywhere, though that’s about the only brand you can get in the US. Aviations are so popular I don’t even know why I’m posting this.

The original recipe for this drink sounds sour as hell, it’s got a lot of lemon, and very little maraschino or creme de violette to take the edge off that lemon. Here are the proportions I usually end up using, but this time I tried it with a meyer lemon and it was maybe a little sweet, I would back off on Luxardo and creme de violette. So this is how it went last night:

2oz Greenhook Gin (if you want a sweeter drink you can go 1.5oz)
1/2 oz lemon juice (in this case meyer, but that’s just a twist on it)
1/2 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
anywhere from 2 barspoons to 1/4 oz of Creme de Violette

The goal is enough of the violet stuff to get the drink blue, but not as purple as here and not gray which it will be if you use too little. I find when I’m making one drink, just under a 1/4 ounce works, or 3 barspoons. There is perhaps a little much in the drink shown here but it’s pretty.

The traditional garnish is a lemon peel. But you often see them with a beautiful red maraschino cherry in them. They look great that way and I love the way that a stem on cherry has a handle to take little bites. However those store bought cherries have a lot of cinnamon in them, and taste kind of like garbage. I actually bought Luxardo’s marasca cherries, which are delicious and black, but do not pretty up this drink. I think the solution will be to make my own stem on cocktail cherries when cherries are in season.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 02/23 at 02:18 PM
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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Brandy Crusta, a drink I’ve wanted to write about for a while

image by Amber Sexton

This drink is one I’ve had a few times, but none have been camera ready looking though they were tasty. If you do a google image search on this drink you will see a lot of variation on how to create and present the garnish. Mostly the drink itself is cognac or brandy where the other ingredients only slightly modify the flavor of the cognac.

I used the recipe from Imbibe magazine, and purchased Cointreau finally after trying to finish this cheap triple sec I bitterly repent buying two summers ago. I poured the last 1/2 inch in the bottle down the drain.

image by Amber Sexton

The main thing with this drink is preparing the garnish, which is done ahead of time, I got out the new really sharp peeling knife I bought and peeled a curl starting about 1/3 down the lemon. Denuding the center of the lemon till I got about to the same spot on the other half.  Then I got out the glass and used a lemon half to wet the lip and dipped it in castor sugar by rolling, concentrating on the outside. Then I chilled the glass in the freezer.

So the rest of the drink is super easy its:

2 oz Pierre Ferrand Ambre cognac
1 bar spoon Cointreau
1/2 bar spoon lemon juice
dash of Angostura bitters

I put these in the shaker, removed the glass from the freezer and inserted the lemon peel in the coupe glass hugging the inside of the glass. It was maybe too big and the curly end hung down into the glass which I’m OK with. Many pics show this garnish sticking out of the glass, some pictures have it so far out that you obviously have to push it in to drink it. Sticking up I think it’s supposed to be around your nose so the lemon peel fragrance is there with each sip. I could try a smaller glass with more upward styling of the lemon peel. I’ve tried this drink with Myer lemon, and the peel is just too soft and mushy and does not really have the kind of body to hold it’s shape in the glass, it just kind of falls in the middle of the drink.

So all my ingredients are in the shaker and my garnish is ready. I put in ice and just stirred it with the bar spoon rather than shaking and then strained into the glass. This coupe has some space so the sugar rim isn’t in contact with the drink and with each sip I use a different part of my sugared rim. The lemon under the sugar is good too. This is like sipping cognac mostly, but it’s chilled and citrusy while being mostly the brandy. Yummy, a dessert drink for sure.
image by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 02/10 at 01:35 AM
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Thursday, February 07, 2013

I just made a good rye cocktail

image by Amber Sexton
So a quick post, boring lighting. But I made a yummy rye cocktail, that is pretty much a smash, julep, fizz sort of variation and it’s DELICIOUS

2 pinches mint (not as much as for a mojito or julep)
healthy squirt of rich simple syrup
2 oz McKenzie Rye
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 bar spoon of orange flower water

I put the mint in the cocktail shaker, and just used the flat end of the handle of the bar spoon to lightly crush the leaves rather than do a full muddle and break the skin of the leaves giving that heavy green taste. Then added other ingredients with ice, shaken and strained in a frosty glass that was in the freezer. YUM.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 02/07 at 09:18 PM
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cocktails of NYC, Manhattan cocktail

image by Amber Sexton

When taking this photo I realized my table is slanted, but it’s the least of my problems in this apartment. Anyway I could have fixed it in photoshop but leaving it satisfies both a wee bit of authenticity and also laziness.

By now you might have guessed that when making each of these drinks named for a borough of NYC, I’m trying to use a spirit that was made in the city. For now I’ve failed to find a NYC made rye. The Shanty is making a rye, but it doesn’t appear to be ready. They are a few scant blocks from my house and I’ve yet to try out their gin, but I intend to soon. Kings County Distillery only makes a bourbon and moonshine, I’m interested to try the bourbon but it was a bit pricey, $22 for a small bottle at Eight and Driggs. Small enough to be behind the counter to prevent theft. Anyway to make a proper Manhattan, there’s no reason to rely on bourbon anymore now that rye is back in a big way.

Once you expand to NY State, which used to make a lot of rye in the heyday of the beverage you have a some choices. I really liked the Hudson 5 grain bourbon from Tuthilltown Spirits I was given for my birthday and I wanted to try their Manhattan rye. But again it’s a bit expensive at $30 for a small bottle. Then I saw McKenzie Rye, which I remembered reading a review of, and realized it was made in the Finger Lakes. I have soft spot for the Finger Lakes, and especially the Seneca Lake wine trail and knew I wanted to try what Finger Lakes Distilling was making. At $43 it wasn’t cheap, but it’s a reasonable price for a 750ml bottle. And I really do like it. They also seem to be using sustainable methods, grain that is grown locally and knowing the upstate economy I like that.

So…off to drinking. A Manhattan is quite simple to make it is:

2 oz Rye
1 oz Sweet vermouth
couple shakes of bitters. (I have Angostura, but the original way uses the once defunct Boker’s bitters, which is being made again but I haven’t tried any)

You may shake or stir this with ice, I stirred. Then I strained it in a chilled glass with a really fancy Luxardo cherry. It really is a delicious classic drink and totally lovely and flavorful with a smokey rye. I love bourbon but it’s a much sweeter spirit and it’s a different drink with it. I assume you all have had a Manhattan before, since it’s a classic and well known. But if you’ve not had rye, then do because it’s better and it’s what the drink is meant to be. Play around with different italian vermouths if you have them, I just have the standard Martini & Rossi myself but I plan to try Punt e Mes next. When I run out, which seems like it will be a year or two from now.

About the Luxardo cherry. It is the original maraschino cherry, from the producer who makes the best maraschino liqueur and the jar was so expensive I cough to wheeze out the price….$27…....ugh. On the other hand I knew I wanted to try them, I had one in a Rob Roy at a scotch tasting, and it was delicious. Everything about the electric neon bleached out supermarket cherry is not what you find in a Luxardo, which are very strongly cherry tasting, stemless and gothy black. One thing I like about the is the black color is that it takes the drink garnish from a slightly girly look to one that is very masculine and serious, besides the fact that it tastes fantastic. I’ve noticed that I’ve never seen a man order a drink which has a cherry garnish, I think this one can change all that. And certainly the cherry is a bit controversial in the Manhattan, as the olive is in the Martini. Both came later but I think it’s safe to say they are here to stay.

One drawback to the Luxardo cherry is there is no stem, and I have no cocktail skewers of any kind so it only something to look forward to at the end of a drink, rather than eating little morsels of along the way. Also they are breathtakingly expensive for what they are. But I plan to use them to add dark seriousness to other drinks that call for them, and maybe I will put them on a cupcake or two.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 01/23 at 04:05 PM
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Sunday, January 06, 2013

Cocktails of NYC, Bronx Cocktail

image by Amber Sexton
This cocktail is well known, though of recent vintage to me. I’ve made a bunch of these now, and I’ve settled on blood orange and very accurate measuring as the way it comes out best. I am using Greenhook Gin which is made in Brooklyn, and it’s much more juniper and floral than the citrusy Breuekelen. I really like it and can’t wait to go through many of my other gin drinks using it. So a Bronx is basically a martini with orange juice, or rather a “perfect martini” with orange juice (a ‘perfect martini’ is one with both types of vermouth.) This is a bigger drink than many of the smaller cocktails I’ve been making and I’m using my 4.5 oz glasses with it.

2 oz Greenhook Gin
1 oz fresh blood orange juice (it’s about a whole small blood orange)
1/2 oz dry vermouth (Noilly Prat)
1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Martini Rosso)

shaken with ice and strained in a chilled glass.

The Bronx is supposedly the first cocktail with orange juice, or the first juice cocktail, though I don’t fully understand when that is said because lemon and lime juice abound in recipes. And certainly there were sweeter drinks, and shrubbs and smashes prior. But it makes sense that it’s early because you really don’t get a profound orange flavor from the drink, it’s not gin and juice at all. In these proportions the drink is neither sour, nor sweet, not orangy, nor strongly tasting of the vermouths. What is great about this drink when I’ve made it right is that everything is in balance. You taste the gin, you taste the vermouth, and the orange but it’s all hanging together nicely.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 01/06 at 05:43 AM
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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cocktails of NYC, Queens cocktail

image by Amber Sexton
I recently learned that four boroughs of the city had classic drinks named after them. I mean not like stuff the bartender throws together and calls a “Staten Island Ferry.” But in the classic cocktail era of the Manhattan. The least well known of these that i had to google around for is the Queens. And it’s a derivative of the Bronx cocktail which once enjoyed popularity but fell out of fashion to the extent that I hadn’t heard of it either. But it seems like the Queens was never a big thing.

I’ve now made this drink three times, with slight variations, and I really enjoy it but am a bit surprised at how it tastes. Basically the Queens and the Bronx, are like martinis with fruit, Or more properly they are like the martinez, which is the ancestor of the martini. The Bronx calls for fresh squeezed orange and the Queens calls for muddled fresh pineapple.

So, leaving the Bronx for another day, I’m using Breuckelen Glorious Gin, which is made in Brooklyn, and I’ve enjoyed before, it’s a citrusy gin and I thought that would go, also works with the NYC theme. First I used this recipe from Gourmet which is:

1.5 oz gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
pineapple slice (recipe does not state the amount of pineapple, I settled on half of a round horizontal slice)

muddle the pineapple with gin in shaker or mixing glass, add vermouth and ice, shake (or stir) strain and serve in a chilled glass. It gets a bit frothy with shaking, which you may like but I wanted to see the color more so the next two attempts I stirred.

This is quite good, but surprisingly the pineapple is not super noticeable, it’s a balanced drink of flavors that is very yummy but you taste the vermouth for sure and the drink is not that sweet, obviously not dry at all but nor is it sweet in a pronounced way. It’s refreshing yet traditional tasting too.

I wanted to see if I could make it slightly more tangy, and more pinapplely while realizing this isn’t a tropical drink at all. So on my next try I substituted half the sweet vermouth for my home made lemon syrup. (Forgot to include the sweet vermouth in the photo)

image by Amber Sexton

Which was:
1/5 oz gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz home made lemon syrup

All in all it was a fun substitution, but not super tangy and I wonder if I’m just over thinking it and should add a squirt of lemon juice. Anyway, all the ways I’ve had it were quite refreshing, and fun. There are no garnish instructions for this drink but I wanted to amuse myself so I made a sort of a crown of pineapple. I would love to get a crown cocktail pick and use that with a regular wedge of pineapple.

So I don’t know why you have pineapple Queens cocktail, because I don’t think Queens is known for it’s tropical climes. But I’m having fun visiting with you. Also Merry Christmas, remember it was not that long ago that people enjoyed getting fruit as a Christmas gift, a pineapple isn’t an X-Box or anything, but Merry Christmas.
image by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 12/25 at 02:19 AM
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Monday, December 10, 2012

I made a Jack Rose for the first time

So I’ve been trying out pre-depression era cocktails because they seem to gibe with my interest in from scratch cooking. Also the drinks are all about tasting the spirits, the liqueurs and vermouths with the notes of bitters. It’s not about making drinks into kool-aid so you can scarf down gallons of booze. I had recently read this recipe on how to make your own grenadine and made the grenadine and it was so delicious I immediately made a bunch of eggless, creamless pink ladies and pomegranate gin rickeys. And really it is delicious to the point where you do almost find it to be as drinkable as Hi-C. But then I wanted to do something more traditional with it, pre-depression drinks are not as dry as many modern ‘traditional’ cocktails anyway, which I still like. Anyway I decided to get some applejack and try a Jack Rose, and the proportions I used are a bit more modern because the older proportions are either much more sweet or much more sweet and sour. Also there’s a debate whether to use lemon or lime. Since I did a lot of lime drinks lately and I had to open a lemon for something I was cooking, I went with lemon. So I went with:
2 oz. Laird’s Applejack
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz grenadine that I had made as per the Jeffrey Morgenthaler recipe above.

Shaken over ice and served in a small stemmed cocktail glass that I just got for $3.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 12/10 at 12:02 AM
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