Rock & Rye

A Drink On The Rocks…..


August 2010

MxMo: Brown Bitter and Stirred (or Shaken)

MxMo has been on hiatus for the last couple on months, but this month we are back at it. This month’s theme, chosen by Lindsey Johnson, is Brown, Bitter and Stirred. Although I liked the idea of using a dark spirit, they always remind me that autumn is here, and not far after winter will be appearing, so I chose rum as my spirit of choice, because there is always room for rum no matter what the season. Yes, I do still have rum in my bar, although it does seem like the rum is always gone.

Recently I have noticed how much my palate is becoming accustomed to the bitter side of life, and so this month’s theme was great to mix something new that contains a bitter element, as my summertime imbibing has been anything but. I briefly thought about doing the angostura fizz, but thought that might have been taking it a little too far. For my cocktail, I chose to use both a blackstrap rum as well as a dark jamaican rum. To balance it out, some falernum and a healthy dose of angostura bitters. I had been talking with friends about going to Disneyland with them in the new year, and since I was playing around with rum and falernum, I could not get the pirate theme out of my head, so without further ado, the Barbossa’s Blood.

Barbossa’s Blood
1 oz Blackstrap Rum
1 oz Dark Jamaican Rum
1 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Falernum
15 dashes Angostura Bitters


Balsamic Fizz Aperitif

While reading through some articles on aperitifs and digestifs I came across an article in which the author was posed the question of what to serve for the imbiber that does not want an alcoholic beverage. This was an excellent question, as unfortunately many restaurants only focus on alcoholic beverages for their before, during, and after dinner drinks.

In most cases, the role of wine is that of an essentially savory sauce in highly liquid form that is pleasant to drink and offers complex taste sensations that complement the meal served. As soon as you start thinking about beverages that way, your own ideas and taste combinations may begin coming to mind.

Several ideas present themselves immediately, unfiltered pomegranite juice, persimmon “beer”, herbal infusions, etc. The one I took the most interest in was the balsamic vinegar spritzer. What is balsamic vinegar and how could it make a good beverage? Let’s take a look.

The original traditional product, made from a reduction of cooked white Trebbiano grape juice and not a vinegar in the usual sense, has been made in Modena and Reggio Emilia since the Middle Ages: the production of the balsamic vinegar is mentioned in a document dated 1046. The names Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena) and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia) are protected by both the Italian Denominazione di Origine Protetta and the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Aceto Balsamico di Modena), an inexpensive modern imitation of the traditional product, is today widely available and much better known. This is the kind commonly used for salad dressing together with oil.

Traditional balsamic vinegar is produced from the juice of just-harvested white grapes, usually the Trebbiano varietal, boiled down to approximately 30% of the original volume to create a concentrate or must, which is then fermented with a slow aging process which concentrates the flavours. The flavour intensifies over the years, with the vinegar being stored in wooden casks, becoming sweet, viscous and very concentrated. During this period, a proportion evaporates, similar to the aging of fine spirits. None of the product may be withdrawn until the end of the minimum aging period of 12 years. At the end of the aging period, 12 or more years, a small proportion is drawn from the smallest cask and each cask is then topped up with the contents of the preceding cask. Freshly reduced cooked must is added to the largest cask and in every subsequent year the drawing and topping up process is repeated. This process where the product is distributed from the oldest cask and then refilled from the next oldest vintage cask is called solera or in perpetuum. Consortium-sealed Tradizionale balsamic vinegar 100 ml bottles can cost between $150 and $400 each. Lower cost balsamic vinegars are made by a variety of methods, which may include the traditional way but aged less than 12 years, aged longer but by non consortium producers, or made of wine vinegar with the addition of caramel color and thickening. Other than Tradizionale balsamics there are no official standards for aging, packaging, or quality.

So let’s move on to the drink. I only had a little balsamic left in the cupboard, and I have no idea of the cost or quality of it, but I went for it anyways. Simply mix in a few drops of balsamic with sparkling water. I started with a few drops, tasted, added more, until it reached a flavor that I felt was strong enough without being overly acidic.

Balsamic Fizz
4oz Sparkling water
1/8-1/4oz Balsamic Vinegar

The flavor is obviously what you would expect of balsamic, but the sparkling water adds some brightness, and accentuates the sweetness of the vinegar. I was not expecting to like it at all, but it was surprisingly good and I ended up having a second glass. This drink does serve as an excellent aperitif, and paired excellently with my rum glazed chicken, and raspberry vinaigrette salad. Try it and let me know what you think.

Spirit Reviews: New Amsterdam Gin

As with the evolution of anything, the longer things are around the more they stray from their traditional forms, and such is the case for many of the gins on the market today, New Amsterdam Straight Gin falling smack into the middle of that category.  Packaged in an attractive, geometrically shaped, diamond glass bottle, featuring the Empire State building on the inside, this gin exudes the confidence of a gin in a much higher price point.

As you twist the cap off the bottle, you get that familiar whiff of your traditional London Dry gin, but that is where the similarities end.  If you are looking for a gin with a big bold flavor, then this is not the one for you.  Rather, this is a gin for those who are looking for a softer gin.

Winner of a double gold medal at the 2010 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, New Amsterdam gin is incredibly smooth, and opens with a sweet, citrus and floral aroma. The palate is smooth and tangy, with more citrus notes than juniper. The finish is thick, filled with citrus and considerably dry.
  The promotional materials claim you can enjoy this straight or over ice, and while that isn’t my personal style, I will say that yes you can.  Where this gin really shines is mixed into a great cocktail.  New Amsterdam, makes a great G&T, Collins, Clover Club, or any other cocktail that contains citrus or fruit.   Unlike other non-traditional gins, such as Dry Fly, or Hendricks, the New Amsterdam will fit into any role that a  London Dry would traditionally fill, albeit with less of a juniper kick.

Priced around $14 for a 750ml bottle, New Amsterdam is a great gin at an excellent price point, and would make a good addition to any bar. It has a place in mine. Cheers!


** The New Amsterdam Straight Gin reviewed was provided to me by DeVries Public Relations. For my policies on reviews and product samples, click here.

Love me some Eggs

I love a good drink with an egg in it. This seems odd to some. Really, raw eggs in your drink? That seems gross. However, in William Grimes’s book, Straight Up or on the Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail, he notes that using eggs in beverages is a practice that dates back to the late 1690’s. The flip, a weird combination of eggs, sugar, beer and rum, was the drink that introduced the egg as a vital component to a well crafted beverage. This practice remained a mainstay up until the prohibition era, but seemingly disappears afterwards. Why is this? Let’s take a look at some of the facts about eggs.   First some of the health benefits.

  1. Eggs are great for the eyes. According to one study, an egg a day may prevent macular degeneraton due to the carotenoid content, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin. Both nutrients are more readily available to our bodies from eggs than from other sources.
  2. In another study, researchers found that people who eat eggs every day lower their risk of developing cataracts, also because of the lutein and zeaxanthin in eggs.
  3. One egg contains 6 grams of high-quality protein and all 9 essential amino acids.
  4. According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, there is no significant link between egg consumption and heart disease. In fact, according to one study, regular consumption of eggs may help prevent blood clots, stroke, and heart attacks.
  5. They are a good source of choline. One egg yolk has about 300 micrograms of choline. Choline is an important nutrient that helps regulate the brain, nervous system, and cardiovascular system.
  6. They contain the right kind of fat. One egg contains just 5 grams of fat and only 1.5 grams of that is saturated fat.
  7. Eggs are one of the only foods that contain naturally occurring vitamin D.

Now many people have an unfounded fear of eggs due to the risk of Salmonella.  However, this is a fairly unfounded fear.  In fact, you have a better chance at dying due to drowning, slipping, choking, or being caught in a storm.  Some facts about Salmonella and eggs.

  1. Salmonella can only be present on the outer shell of an egg.
  2. The FDA states that the frequency of Salmonella on an egg is one in twenty thousand.
  3. It takes 3-5 weeks for the Salmonella bacteria to develop on the outer shell of an egg.
  4. Salmonella targets sick, pregnant, very old, and very young people.
  5. Eggs have a lower incidence of Salmonella than lettuce or tomatoes, yet we eat both of those raw on a regular basis.
  6. An alcohol concentration of over 17.5% will kill the Salmonella bacterium.

So I think we can say that eggs are not the evil some say they are, and with proper storage and handling may be used as an integral ingredient in the barkeepers repertoire.   So why would we want to include eggs in our beverages anyways?  Well, an egg white added to a well made sour, can enhance the other flavors, as well as add texture in the form of a nice frothy foam.  If you have every enjoyed a Ramos Gin Fizz, you have experienced that great ropy texture that only an egg can provide.  Try making one without the egg, and you may as well be drinking milk spiked with gin and some citrus juice, it just doesn’t compare.  I urge you to try a whiskey sour or a gin fizz with an egg and without, and then let me know which you like better.  Cheers.

Hottest Summer Drink 2010

Thanks to all who voted Lucy’s Temptation as the hottest summer drink of 2010 via the Lexiophiles blog! You can find the winning post announcement as well as view all the other submitted drinks here.

Lucy’s Temptation

1 1/2 oz Light Rum (Mount Gay Eclipse)
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
4-5 Strawberries cut into slices
Shake with ice, pour entire contents into glass and top with soda water.

Vintage Cocktails #32: The La Floridita Daquiri

While Ernest Hemingway was a writer, most of what I know of him comes from my bar books, where his favorite drinks are listed alongside the bars that he drank those drinks in. Along with La Bodeguita, the La Floridita bar in Havana Cuba was one of Hemingway’s favorites, and the one where, in 1934, the then head bartender and later owner Constantino Ribalaigua would mix up this iconic drink.

La Floridita served several variations of the classic daquiri, including the Hemingway Daquiri and the Papa Doble. Vintage Spirits specifies that this drink should be made with cuban rum, which I agree, and blended. While it is great blended, almost like an adult snow cone, it is also excellent served shaken and strained, or frappe style over crushed ice.

La Floridita Daquiri
2 oz Cuban light rum
juice of half a lime
1 tsp maraschino liqueur
1 tsp simple syrup

If no Cuban rum is available use a good quality dominican rum instead. Also, if your lime is small, use the whole thing. Adding some grapefruit juice makes this a Hemingway Daquiri, and doubling the rum and removing the sugar makes a Papa Doble.

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