Monday, March 19, 2012

Smoke & Mirrors

Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen is one of my favorite restaurants in Memphis or any other city for that matter. The chefs are uber-talented, the staff is top notch & everyone is so incredibly nice! Nick Talarico, the manager, has been bitten by the cocktail bug. I love going in there & discussing drinks with him because we are both on the same page. He's making tinctures, experimenting with bitters, has a japanese ice mold & god knows what else up his sleeve. While dining at AMIK last Saturday he brought us out his latest cocktail creation. A gin martini made with lemonade & bitters. Sounds pretty simple right? Not at all in fact. He smoked the lemons low & slow which imparted this foxy smokiness that contrasted against the botanics in the gin & the sweetness in the lemonade. It was lovely & very unique. Next time you are at AMIK don't worry about making decisions on drinks. Just give Nick or one of the bartenders free reign & I assure you they will concoct something delicious.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


I know I have been adamant about taking that extra step when crafting a cocktail. One important component is garnish. I've already discussed how to create good cocktail cherries here.
I gave some to my very good friend Justin who promptly ate some & used them for whiskey drinks. Anyone who knows Justin understands his obsession with all things whisky. Justin is one of the most amazing people & I love the guy dearly. He's an incredibly talented artist as witness to the beautiful photo below that he sent me.
What he has here is a play off a manhattan with Rye whiskey, a bit of the elixir from my cherries & garnished with the cherries themselves.
Delicious no?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fee Brothers Bitters Arrives

Yes I am obsessed. But that isn't the point of this post. I'm here to tell you that one of the best bitters producers in the world (Fee Brothers) is now available in Memphis! From what I know they will begin stocking the Orange Bitters at Lit Restaurant Supply as of this Wednesday. While they may only have the Orange bitters stocked they might be open to stocking more different Fee Brothers bitters if they see demand. So go down there, call, write, whatever, & tell them you want the full lineup! Buy up the Orange bitters & ask for more such as the Rhubarb, Celery, etc.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Blood Orange Bitters Begins

It's blood orange season!!
Of course that means a whole new set of cocktail ideas. Since I am a firm believer in bitters as a vital component in drinks I decided to start an infusion for blood orange bitters.
Start with a clean glass container & some blood oranges.
Choose a spirit to infuse the oranges into. I chose to use a little bit of silver tequila (for spice, herbaceousness & vegetal characteristics) & vodka (for neutrality so as not to get in the way of the blood orange flavor).
Slice off the peel (but little to no white pith if possible) of two oranges with a vegetable peeler & add that to the container.
Fill 1/4 of the container with silver tequila (I used El Ultimo Agave Blanco). Add the juice of one blood orange & top the container off with vodka (I used Svedka). Screw the lid on tight, shake it up & label it. Wait at least 2 weeks & then we will get to blending with the bitter agent.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bitter is Better

We just got home from a nice quiet little dinner. It was time for a nightcap so I went into our bar to see what would inspire. I saw Chartreuse (from our friends Petya & Kyle), Salerno Blood Orange Liqueur (from our friend Tara) & some 209 gin. I coated & washed 2 glasses with the Chartreuse & set those aside. In a shaker I added 2 oz of Punt e Mes vermouth, 3 oz of 209 gin, 2 dashes of Fee Brothers Grapefruit bitters, 2 dashes of Regan's Orange bitters & 1 oz of Salerno Blood Orange. I shook that up, poured it into the iced down, Chartreuse washed glasses & garnished that with a flamed lemon peel. Bitter, sweet, pungent & refreshing.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Poached in Booze

There is no excuse to use those HIDEOUS "maraschino" cherries that are nuclear red & soaking in corn syrup. It's incredibly easy to make uniquely delicious cocktail garnishes with very little effort. I've been experimenting with garnishes for awhile now. My first foray into it was comprised of dried cherries soaked in brandy. It worked pretty well & they were quite delicious. However, it wasn't enough for me so I continued to experiment. More recently I had some more successful garnishes. In the summer when cherries were fresh Kelly & I bought a whole hell of a lot. I poached them in Buffalo Trace Bourbon & Rothman & Winter's Cherry Liqueur. They turned out perfect! The fresh snap of fruit with the sweet heat potency of the elixir was so delightful in a manhattan & in some gin based drinks too.
When cherry season was over I turned to organic frozen cherries. I poached them in a mixture of Benchmark Bourbon & Luxardo Maraschino liqueur. Absolutely delightful.
One garnish that I am very proud of are the blueberries I recently made. In a pan I warmed Don Q silver rum & the zest of one meyer lemon. As soon as it came to a simmer I turned it off & dropped in the blueberries. They cured in the warm rum & zest & leached out some nice purple color from the skins. Once it cooled I dropped them in jars & set them in the fridge. I gave a jar to my friend Dustin last weekend when we stopped by for brunch at his house....ok we stayed for hours drinking mimosas. After a few mimosas it was time for a proper cocktail. I wanted to do something with the blueberries of course. In the bottom of a rocks glasses I added 3 blueberries, a teaspoon of the elixir, a slice of orange & Angostura bitters. After muddling that all together I topped it with Gentleman Jack, crushed ice & a splash of club soda.
What I came up with was a slight twist on an Old Fashioned & it was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Throw those disgusting "maraschino" cherries away & add something delicious to your drink!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Important Ingredients

Making great cocktails is much like cooking a delicious dish in that it is all about quality ingredients. One overlooked ingredient is vermouth. The integral component to a true martini can add so much to most any drink. My favorite inexpensive vermouth is Dolin. This french vermouth producer makes a Rouge, Dry & Blanc. At $12.99 there is absolutely no excuse not to have them in your home bar. Whenever I sample a spirit to consider for the store (or for my own cocktail consulting) I always taste them straight so as not to mask any imperfections. These vermouths can without a doubt stand alone but they also add so much character to a Boulevardier, Manhattan, Negroni or Death in the Afternoon. Go out & buy some now.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Rose in December

I bought myself a jar of rose petal jam at Williams-Sonoma recently and I have been dying to create something with it. We had our friends Sheri & Mark over for a little pre-New Year's Eve dinner drink so I used that as an opportunity to experiment. Here is my latest creation.
A Rose in December
Bar spoon of Rose Petal Jam
2 oz Zuidam Genever (if you can't find Zuidam or genever in general then just use a very botanical gin
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 oz Cocchi Americano
2 dashes Fee Brothers Grapefruit bitters
2 dashes Regan's Orange bitters
Innocent Bystander Rose Moscato
Put all ingredients (except for the moscato) in a shaker & stir vigorously to "melt" the jam into the other ingredients. Add ice & shake. Pour into a rocks glass with, ideally, one large cube. Garnish with a flamed lemon peel & top with the rose moscato. Enjoy!