Groundhog Day

earthen

Here we are again, Groundhog Day. By tradition, this is the day when a significant portion of the U.S. population believes in the long-range weather forecasting powers of omnivorous rodents. In 2017, Groundhog Day has the added attraction of our representatives in Washington, D.C., actively working to deny the forecasts of actual climate scientists from around the globe.

The last 24 hours have seen numerous reasons to reach for the liquor cabinet, from presidential phone calls pissing off the Australians and threatening an invasion to deal with bad hombres south of the border to presidential defense of the free speech of Nazis and threatening UC Berkeley over the violent protest that broke because of it. (For the record, I am in the pro Nazi punching camp.)

But today we saw Rex Tillerson begin his term as Secretary of State; an oilman with close ties to Russia who headed the oil company that worked to cover up research on the existence and danger of climate change in the name of profits.

In Congress, meanwhile, the Senate voted to remove the Stream Protection Rule opening the door to a return of coal mining pollution. New EPA chief nominee Scott Pruitt received committee approval for the post despite regularly suing the agency. And of course, scientists are being told not to release information on climate change.

Under these conditions, the drink for tonight is the Earthen Infusion. Despite the name, it has nothing to do with tracking runoff. Pulled from Kindred Cocktails, the drink is equal parts (.75 oz in this case) of Salers Gentiane, Campari, Cynar and Fernet-Branca.

The drink is herbaceous and bitter. It is not a strong drink, but what it lacks in alcohol it makes up for in bitterness. Just like the Earth is feeling now. This is a drink for the adventurous, those who know they like bitter drinks. Well worth it though. Just put the ingredients on ice, stir and strain.

Cheers!

Refresh and Restart

gintonic

A brief scan of the headlines or just a few minutes of TV news is all it takes these days to leave you feeling like you could use a drink. I’ll try to help with that.

The world is a different place than it was the last time I posted. As the band Firewater says, These are Dark Days Indeed. So I began rethinking my approach to this blog and what I wanted to write about.

As I came to the conclusion that nearly every day there were events practically crying out for the cocktail that would help make the day easier to swallow, someone at Quartz had a similar idea. On Inauguration day itself, Anne Quito wrote “Death in the Gulf Stream” to tell us Ernest Hemingway has a cocktail recipe for days when you’ve had just enough of the world.

Anne notes the drink, Death in the Gulf Stream, is strong and bitter as it is essentially gin, lime juice and Angostura bitters on ice. Hemingway called it his salve for the dark year of 1937, when he was a war correspondent in Spain.

The choice of 1937 to pull a drink from was appropriate, not simply because it was an even 80 years ago, but because Hemingway gave a speech that year that resonates with the events of the past couple of weeks. In his book To Have and Have Another, Philip Greene tells us Hemingway said: “There is only one form of government that cannot produce good writers, and that system is fascism. For fascism is a lie told by bullies. A writer who will not lie cannot live or work under fascism.”

Greene was making the point in talking about Hemingway’s short story “The Denunciation.” It is a very good, and often overlooked, story about responsibility set in Civil War Madrid, at Chicote’s bar (it is still there and on my list to visit should I ever get to Madrid). It is well worth the read, and timely as we are all being tested on our responsibilities to each other and ourselves.

Like Greene, I’ll turn my focus to the drink in the story, a gin and tonic. For Hemingway, it was Gordon’s gin and Schweppes tonic, and there is the suggestion that some Angostura may have been involved. For Hemingway, in besieged Madrid, it was a marvel. Today, however, Spain is the epicenter of amazing creativity in gin and tonic, or gintonic as it’s called.

Typically made in a copa de balón, Spanish G&T’s are known for a wide variety of garnishes. This could be fruits, veggies, spices, herbs or a combination. The end result is always refreshing, and refreshing is something we could all use right about now.

I made mine tonight with 2 oz of Opihr gin, Fever Tree tonic, juniper berries, and lime. You can find more recipes here and here.

Cheers!

 

Underrated Cocktails

Pegu Club Cocktail

A new article out from Liquor.com lists the 16 most underrated cocktails according to a collection of bartenders from around the country. It is not a bad list.

I was happy to see my go-to cocktail, the Negroni, was listed, though I think it is getting a lot more attention than it used to get. The inclusion of both the Vieux Carré and Sazerac is something I am in complete agreement with, particularly in the case of Vieux Carré.

In further proof of how underrated it is, the Martinez did not make the list. With the right marketing, the Martinez could easily be the most sought after classic cocktail. But since I recently wrote about it, I’ll add another; The Pegu Club.

It’s not just the current heat wave that has me thinking about this very refreshing drink, but it doesn’t hurt. This is a simple and under appreciated cocktail that easily should have made the list. I typically work off the recipe from Brad Thomas Parson’s Bitters book:

2 oz London dry gin, usually Plymouth, sometimes Bombay Sapphire (as pictured above)

.75 oz orange Curaçao

.5 oz fresh squeezed lime juice

1 dash Angostura (or Orinoco Bitters)

1 dash orange bitters

Shake, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

And, of course, if you’re in New York, it’s always worth having a Pegu Club Cocktail at the Pegu Club.

Cheers!

My Tale Begins with the Martinez

Martinez 2016

The Martinez

As I prepare for my first Tales of the Cocktail I began thinking about what’s putting me on that airplane to New Orleans. It’s actually easy to pinpoint where this journey began.

Although I worked in retail liquor stores for several years during and after college, and had a very brief stint as an editor at Cheers, Beverage Dynamics and Stateways magazines, it was an article in the Atlantic that really got things going. Wayne Curtis’ April 2009 piece “Cocktails of the Past” that highlighted Haus Alpenz lit the fuse. Looking back on it now I realize it was probably the first time I had heard of TOTC.

Most critically, the description of Hayman’s Old Tom Gin intrigued me enough to seek out a spirit I had not tried since a bad high school experience many years…OK, decades earlier. There are now 10 different gins in my liquor cabinet today, down a few that haven’t yet been replaced.

On the Hayman’s bottle was a recipe for the Martinez, which I discovered was about as classic a cocktail as there is. Ever the history buff, that’s where the experiments would begin. Outside of the Hayman’s, it is scary to recall the ingredients today…how old and how cheap was that vermouth? And what is maraschino liqueur? Surely the juices from the jar of bright red maraschino cherries would work.

I continued to improve my ingredients over time, quickly moving on to actual maraschino liqueur from the family run Italian distillery Luxardo (and I also dumped the store brand maraschino cherries for those from Luxardo). I had also been improving my vermouth selections. When Brad Thomas Parsons’ book “Bitters” came out I got the final pieces to a really great cocktail.

While I stuck with Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, and not the Ransom Old Tom that Thomas calls for, I added the Carpano Antica (a vermouth in the Fratelli Branca stable of products) and most importantly Boker’s Bitters. Adam Elmegirab reformulated the 19th Century Boker’s Bitters formula and it really makes the Martinez an exceptional cocktail. Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s business continues to grow (expanding in both geographical distribution and in the product line with new beard oils on the market) and any—or all—of the bitters will improve your bar.

The Martinez recipe as listed in Parsons’ “Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All”:

1 ounce Old Tom Gin

2 ounces sweet vermouth, preferably Carpano Antica

1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur

2 dashes Boker’s Bitters (or Angostura Bitters)

Garnish: lemon twist

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir until chilled and strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

Tasty Brexit bargains recover nicely

Negroni

Negroni at  Harry’s Cafe NYC

A couple of weeks ago I shared a link from CNBC in which Mario Gabelli, Chairman and CEO of Gamco Investors, mentioned several buying opportunities in the wake of Brexit, including Diageo (DEO) and Davide Campari Milano (DVDCY). So far, both have recovered quite well from their Brexit dip.

Diageo is up nearly 9% from its June 27 low, closing at $112.80 on Friday. Since the UK referendum, Diageo has invested in the British non-alcoholic spirits distiller Seedlip. It is reported to be the first time Diageo—which is typically invested in 8-10 businesses according to the Financial Times—has taken a stake in a non-alcoholic beverage company. In a world of consumers growing ever more health conscious and drinking less, with UK alcohol consumption down 26% 2002-2012, it seems to be a pretty logical extension of their business. Seedlip had a nice write-up at Tales Of the Cocktail last October, and worth a read here. That announcement was made at the beginning of last week and, after a slight initial decline, by the end of the week Diageo was trading at levels last seen in mid December.

Campari finished last week at $4.80, up 6.4% from the June 27 Brexit low. Gabelli noted they had recently added Wild Turkey and were buying Grand Marnier, details of which hit around the same time. Campari stock jumped in early March and has maintained a steady range between $4.75 and $4.90 since. While the current level is about 4% off the early June peak, it remains 25% above the end of February level.

In the US, the aperitif Campari has seen growing popularity, moving from a long-standing case volume of around 50,000 to 100,000 cases the past five years, according to Fortune Magazine. No better example of this heightened interest that with the Negroni – the go to cocktail at Gin & Bitters. Negroni Week itself provides some evidence as the June week-long charity event keeps getting bigger. Started in 2013, Negroni Week last year raised $321,000 from 3,500 venues. The amount raised last month has yet to be announced, but the number of venues alone was up 71% to 6,000 in 61 countries and 47 states.

Once again, market turmoil provided some very good buying opportunities, and in this case also brought the ingredients to toast your success.

Cheers!