New infused spirits – summer style!

Well hello there again my lovers of sugar and bitters,

Three times in one week? Someone sure is taking their B-vitamins!

I’m coming to the realization that I’ve been experimenting a LOT, and that I should probably share some of the fun I’ve been having.

So today, I’m going to share with you two of my infused spirits I’ve got going on at the lounge at Hotel Casa 425

They are both featured as key ingredients in my new summer cocktail menu.  The first is a jalapeño-cucumber infused tequila, the second is an orange-rosemary infused bourbon.  They are both fantastic products, and the cocktail recipes I use with them are perfect for the summer months.

I had recently purchased the largest size of the OXO Good grips POP storage container, which holds 5.5 quarts.  So I knew I could fit in at least four liters of spirit along with whatever I wanted to infuse to create a large batch or goodness.

To start the process of the jalapeño-cucumber tequila, I begin by chopping up 4 medium sized jalapeños (roughly 173 grams if you want to be specific)  I slice them into thin 1/4 inch discs keeping all the seeds on the board.

3 jalapeños all sliced up and ready to party!

These all go into the container and await their new friend, the sliced cucumber, also cut into 1/4 inch segments.

Jalapeños in, cucumbers getting sliced.

I used about 3/4 length of an English cucumber (for specifics, I did measure out 291 grams).

Happy shiny cucumbers ready to join the jalapeños for a tequila bath!

291 grams, on the dot!

Next up, I pour in four liters of El Jimador blanco tequila, a deliciously crisp and citrusy spirit from the lowlands region in Amatitlán, Jalisco.  El Jimador, or as I like to call it “Herradura jr.” is one of my favorite mixing tequilas because it is so versatile.

El Jimador, 100% de agave, and also 100% de awesomeness

Here we have the container and label showing what’s inside.

Experiment #425-T

I let that sit in my office for a couple of days to let the tequila extract the flavors and aromas from the jalapeños and cucumbers.  The result is a spicy yet balanced liquid that works amazingly well in my “Berry spicy margarita” that utilizes fresh farmers market berries from Pudwill Berry Farms.  More info on that in a later post…

For the infused bourbon, I must give credit to Jaymee Mandeville at Drago Centro in DTLA for inspiring me with a cocktail made with rosemary infused Bushmill’s back in January!  I had been tinkering with both the infusion and cocktail recipes since then, and only in the past month have I felt like I really had something good.  Hats off to you Jaymee!

I’ve found the infusion results are best with the whiskey when both the rosemary needles and the orange peels are dried first, and then added to the bourbon.  The drying out of the ingredients seems to trap the oils and essences inside. When they hit the liquid, they release their flavors like an explosion resulting in a fantastic product.

So what I do first is cut some fresh rosemary from our hotel property.

Clipping some rosemary from the hotel grounds

I rinse the rosemary off and then just place the sprigs out on a half-sheet to dry out.

The rosemary sprigs just chllin’

Once the rosemary dries out, just rub your index finger and your thumb together down the sprig to remove all the needles.

Next, I peel about 6-8 oranges, enough to fill up two half-sheets.  When I peel the oranges, I take away 4 peels to create a bit of a cross.

I peel these 4 sections first

Next, I peel the remaining four smaller sides to be able to get as much of the citrus as possible.

All peeled!

Then I lay out all the peels to be dried with the rind facing up.  My little office gets pretty warm, so I just place the sheets in there to dry out anything I need to.  If you want to try this at home, just throw the sheet in the oven, but DO NOT turn the oven on.

The orange peels laying out trying to catch some rays.

You know the peels are done when they curl up and are hard and brittle to the touch.  Here I have some already dried out peels and needles.

These guys are ready for some bourbon!

Now comes the fun part!  Measuring and pouring!

I’ve found that with four liters of bourbon, about 13 grams of rosemary needles and 40 grams of orange peels work best for a nice balance.

13 grams of rosemary needles

40 grams of dried orange peel, street value is probably somewhere in the high tens.

For infusing bourbon, I like using Evan Williams black label.  It’s what I have in my well for whiskey/bourbon, and is a great mixing spirit.

Lined up, ready to be emptied!

Here we have the rosemary floating on top of the whiskey with the orange peels starting to release their oils into the mixture.

The rosemary and orange peels look like they’re fighting now, but soon they will come together to make a love-baby.

And here we have a double portion of this magical mixture.  I had to double up production because this product and the cocktail it is made with is selling really, really well.

Double portions of the new infused bourbon. Aren’t they lovely?

The finished product is very citrusy on the nose and you get the dryness of the rosemary at the end of the palate.  I mix this product with lemon juice, simple syrup and basil to create my “Kentucky Rose” cocktail, but just like the previously stated margarita, more on that later…

Well, that’s about it for now.  Upcoming topics include the summer cocktails, carbonated bottled cocktails, house-made lemoncello, house-cured cherries as well as a sneak peek into what kind of infusions I have going on for the fall months.

Until then, happy cocktailing!

-W

Cheers!

Barrel aged items v2.0

Hi there, I know, it has not been long enough between posts, but hey, I found a little free time to get some pictures uploaded and typing done!

So after I had emptied the two barrels, I decided to age some whiskey based cocktails.  I let the barrels dry out after the first experimentation, so I needed to re-prep the barrels by loading them up with water

Saturating the barrels with water

I wanted to age two of my favorite whiskey cocktails, the Old Fashioned of course, and also a Manhattan.  I just started these on Thursday, so we’ll see how they turn out in a few weeks.

Here is the whole setup with both barrels and everything I’m planning to throw together.

The countertop showing all the different ingredients.

In the smaller barrel, I decided to age the Old Fashioned.

Here is what I added to the barrel including the quantities:

750ml Buffalo Trace boubron

One whole bottle of Buffalo Trace, poured into the barrel

150ml Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

Measuring out the Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

100ml Angostura bitters

The Angostura bitters, all measured out

6 dried orange peels chopped up into bits

Dried orange peels, chopped up for easy insertion (and eventual removal)

Dropping the bits of dry orange into the barrel

Label in place, let’s see how it tastes in a week!

I knew that this barrel aged version had to be different from the kind I can whip up behind the bar.  The buffalo trace would be fine in a barrel, after all it had already been in one for 9 years!  The Angostura bitters would be fine in the barrel as well, at 47.5% abv, there is little that could go wrong mixed with other ingredients in an air-tight barrel.  As for the other crucial items, I knew I could not use sugar, fresh oranges or cherries, for they would either rot or ferment, and I did not want that kind of mess on my hands.  So I opted to use the Luxardo Maraschino liqueur to replace both the sugar and cherry aspects of the original cocktail.  For the orange flavor, I decided to use some dried orange peels left over from my infused bourbon creation.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what comes out when I remove the contents in a week or two.  Hopefully, I will end up with a rich complex version of a classic cocktail.

In the large 5 liter barrel I decided to try my hand at an aged manhattan.  Using a 2:1 ratio of Whiskey to Vermouth, I knew I should use 3 liters of whiskey to 1.5 liters of vermouth.  This left 500ml of space for a crucial but oft forgotten ingredient to the Manhattan, Angostura bitters.

Here is what I added to the large barrel, including the quantities:

3 liters Maker’s Mark bourbon

3 liters of some fine Maker's Mark bourbon

It puts the Maker’s Mark in the basket! Errrrr, I mean, barrel!

1.5 liters of Carpano Antica

500 ml of Carpano Antica measured out, ready to be added.

Pouring a whole 1-liter bottle of Carpano Antica into the barrel

Last, but not least, 500ml of sweet, sweet Angostura bitters!

Measuring out the Angostura bitters

500ml of Angostura bitters, thats a lot of love from Trinidad & Tobago!

The big barrel all ready to be rested for two weeks!

Obviously, I’ll have to report back on how these turn out.

Until then, happy cocktailing!

-W

Barrel aged items v1.0

Hello my fellow lovers of sugar, bitters, and everything in between.

So…..my last post was about how I had purchased a few items to play with at the “Lab”.  Here I am now to report on how things turned out, as well as reveal what else I’ve been playing with lately.

I definitely want to get into what I’ve been doing with the Baby Barrels.  The first thing you’re supposed to do when you get the barrels, is to prep them for aging whatever you want to put inside.  Before and during shipment from the company, the staves of the barrels become dry from lack of moisture.  The dryness creates gaps between the staves and is obviously not conducive for holding any sort of liquid.  In order to prep the barrels (as well as clear out any loose charred bits), they must be filled with water continuously to swell the wood to create a tight seal.  This process takes anywhere from one to three days, depending on how dry the wood staves are.

Once the barrels were ready, I decided to follow what Jeffrey Morganthaler had done, and try my hand at a barrel aged negroni.  I only aged it for one-week, because on the seventh day, I found that the barrel was beginning to leak a bit.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the process. Sometimes (actually, quite a bit), I get excited and carried away with the fun, and forget to document what I’m doing.  The small barrel holds just over one liter of liquid, so what I did was measure out equal parts (about 340ml, if I remember correctly) of Gordon’s gin, Campari, and one of my favorite vermouths, Carpano Antica.

I was surprised at how smooth the result was after only one week.  When compared side-by-side with a “fresh-made” negroni, the barrel-aged version definitely has a sweet caramel nose and a rich lingering finish.  Because of the small size of the barrel, the liquid inside gets more surface area contact than that of a larger barrel.  Think of a small barrel as a way to “speed-up” the process of aging that normally takes months or even years.

In the larger 5-liter barrel, I decided to try aging some gin.  I have never heard or read of this being done, and I simply wanted to experiment to see what the result would be.  I only let it sit for a week, as I still wanted to have the faint qualities of oak mixed with the strength of the gin.

The resulting product is quite interesting, it smells and tastes exactly as you would imagine it to, lightly oaked gin.  The aging had cut a bit of the acidity in the taste, and the aroma has a light woody-nut smell.  I decided that one of the best applications of this new product would be in a Martinez cocktail.  The Martinez is argued as being the predecessor to both the Martini as well as the Manhattan.  Professor Jerry Thomas first wrote about it in his 1887 book, How to mix drinks: or The Bon Vivant’s companion

How about I show you my version?

What you will need:

1.5 oz. gin (I like using Gordon’s, its a great product to mix with)

1.5 oz. sweet vermouth (I like using Noilly Prat for this recipe)

1/4 oz. Maraschino liqueur (I prefer Luxardo Maraschino, well, because it’s the best)

2 dashes of Angostura bitters

1 regular lemon for garnish

1-2 measuring jiggers (1/4 oz.-1/2 oz. and a 3/4 oz.-1.5oz. are the two I like)

1 cocktail martini glass

1 pint glass with metal tin to create a boston shaker

1 hawthorne strainer (the one with the spring)

Ice

Peeler or knife

Method:

For this cocktail, I started with 1.5 ounces of the barrel-aged gin.

Measuring out part of the barrel-aged gin

Next I added the 1.5 ounces of sweet vermouth.

Measuring out some Noilly Prat sweet vermouth

Adding the vermouth to the mixing glass

Next, I added the two bar spoons of Maraschino liqueur.

Adding the Luxardo Maraschino to the mix

After the maraschino has been added, I left the bar spoon in, since Im going to stir the cocktail to mix it up.

The last ingredient is a few healthy dashes of Angostura bitters.

Shaking the Angostura bottle to release the goodness

Add a scoop of ice and we’re ready to stir!

Ice, ice, baby!

Round and round we go!

Use the infamous julep strainer that fits perfectly into a mixing glass and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The julep strainer, he wants to be your friend.

A perfect fit!

Nice and easy!

Perfect measurements make for a perfect pour!

Take the lemon and remove a bit of peel for garnish.

The peel from top to bottom

Express the lemon to release the oils over the glass to add the citrus aroma.

One-handed squeeze, don’t try this at home. Wait, yes, do try it!

Next, roll the peel up to create a little spiral, I rub this all along the edge of the glass and the underside of the glass as well.  The citrus oils stick to the glass and when a guest picks it up, the oils stick to their hand and hopefully make their way across their face, adding another element of citrus.  Everybody likes citrus, it makes you feel happy and elated.

Roll up a fatty!

Wiping the edge with the rind, this is for the taste.

Wiping the underside of the glass, this gets the light oils on the guests hands.

Place the lemon twist into the cocktail, and present it on a napkin while saying “cheers!”

The Martiinez cocktail, in all its glory!

I like the oaked-gin in this cocktail because it creates a nice complexity next to the sweetness of the vermouth and the maraschino. This is a great classic cocktail that is meant to be enjoyed slowly.  The general rule is that it should take you twice as long to drink it as it took you to make it.

Next up: barrel-aged cocktails version 2.0, don’t worry, I promise you wont have to wait so long in between posts!

Cheers!

-W

New purchases mean new projects…

I will definitely have details to follow once the items have been delivered, but I wanted to  give you a sneak peek into what I ordered online this morning:

I just bought 2 different sized barrels from Baby Barrels.
One is a small 1-Liter barrel, and the other is a larger 5-Liter barrel.  I’m not sure just what I will want to age in the barrels just yet, but an obvious option will be the trendy whiskey based aged cocktail. I also want to play around with aging a gin based cocktail, it just sounds like a fun challenge of balancing flavors.

My other purchase was from King Orchards cherries. I snagged a case of montmorency cherries so I can brandy/cure/age/intensify them for later use. I’ll most likely make 3-4 batches of different styles to see what turns out as the best result.

I’m having some fun, you should do the same!

Cheers!

Domaine de Canton!

Wooooo-hooooo!

I made it to the 2nd round of the Domaine de Canton bartender of the year cocktail contest!

I hope they like my technique in creating my “La Coquette” on May 29th.

I’m looking forward to meeting some other great cocktail creators and gain some new experience!

-Cheers!

La Coquette, the $10K (hopefully) cocktail, part 2

Alrighty, so I laid out the details on how I made my lavodka as well as my lemon bitters, two crucial ingredients in my La Coquette cocktail.  Now I will write about the special sugar rim.

After some trial and error, I finalized the composition of the cocktail itself, but I wanted to work on the presentation.  I wanted to serve the drink up in a cocktail martini glass, but I wanted to make sure it looked sexy and sophisticated.  I also wanted to showcase the lavender somehow in the drink besides just in the flavor.  I made several attempts to have a frond of lavender shooting out of the glass, but I could never find a method to create a consistent presentation.

What I came up with was a way to add color to the rim by blending fresh blackberries with sugar.  I go to the Claremont farmers market every Sunday morning with Amy to pick up fresh local produce for the week.  One of the stands we love is Pudwill Berry Farms. They specialize in all sorts of seasonal berries: fresh blueberries, white and red raspberries, and my favorite, blackberries. I bought a 3-pack of blackberries to play with at the bar. I sliced each berry in half lengthwise and placed them slice-side up on a half baking sheet.

I didn’t want to spend extra money on a dehydrator, so I just let the half-sheet of berries sit out in my office at work for about a week until the berries shrunk to about half of their original size.  I then ground the berries up with sugar in a molcajete to mash the berries and turn the sugar into a beautiful purple mixture.

It definitely takes some time to grind all the berries up, but the consistency is key here.  I didn’t want a mixture that was part dark purple and part light.  It probably took me a good 15-20 minutes of solid grinding away to create a consistent mixture.

At this point, the sugar mix still has a bit of moisture, so I dried it out again on another half-sheet overnight.

Once the sugar mix was dry, I threw it back in the molcajete to grind it into a finer blend.  There were still some blackberry seeds left in the mix, so I fine-strained the sugar mix to remove them and have a smooth consistent blackberry sugar mix.

So now I’ve got my three homemade creations finished, it’s time to make my La Coquette!

What you’ll need:

2 ounces Domaine de Canton

1 ounce lavodka

1 ounce fresh lemon juice

1 sugar cube

1/8 ounce lemon bitters

2 slices fresh ginger

Blackberry sugar

1 regular lemon for garnish

1 Cocktail martini glass

1 pint glass with metal tin to create a boston shaker

1 hawthorne strainer (the one with the spring)

1 fine mesh strainer

Ice

Citrus peeler or knife

Muddler

Method:

Start off by muddling the sugar and bitters (YES!) along with the 2 slices of fresh ginger.  You want to beat the ginger into a pulp, so that when you mix it, the fresh ginger incorporates with everything else.

Next add the 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice, the 1 ounce of lavodka, and the 2 ounces of Domaine de Canton liqueur.  As I’ve stated before, using a jigger will help with precise measurements.

Now before you add ice and dilute the cocktail, let’s prep the glass with the sugar.

For the presentation of this cocktail, I didn’t want the sugar granules to float around in with the cocktail once it’s been poured in the glass.  I felt that keeping the sugar on the outside of the glass made for a cleaner, sexier looking cocktail.  Take a slice of lemon and wipe it onto the rim of the cocktail glass, make sure to apply ample juice to the outside of the glass. To make sure the blackberry sugar stays only on the outside of the glass, flip the glass over and sprinkle the sugar where you wiped the lemon.

Now that the glass is ready, its time to chill and dilute our cocktail mixture.  Add some ice to the mixing glass, slap on the metal tin to secure it, flip it into your hand and give it a healthy shake for about 8 seconds.  This will make sure the drink gets chilled properly while breaking up the ice and adding a little dilution to the solution.

Slap the tin to break the seal of the mixing glass and then give the drink a little sample.  Make sure you like what you taste, I always do.  Throw the hawthorne strainer over the top of the tin, and then strain the liquid through the fine strainer into the cocktail glass.

(The picture above shows one of the trials with the lavender flower stem poking through a lemon peel.  Like I said, I couldn’t get a consistent result, but it sure does look pretty!)

I like to add a last aromatic touch by peeling the rind of half a lemon, then twisting and squeezing the oils out over the glass.  I like to wipe the lemon rind along the underside of the glass and the stem, so the guest gets the citrus oils on their hands.  Almost everyone likes the smell of citrus, so when it gets on their hands, it creates a total experience by engaging them with the cocktail.

Place the cocktail on a napkin, give a wink and say “cheers!”

You just created my La Coquette.  I hope you find the name fitting, for she truly is a seductress!

I really like the balance and subtleties of this creation.  I enjoy the way the fresh ginger gives it a little bite in the beginning, but then the Domaine de Canton mellows it out for a nice finish.  (I failed to mention earlier that the Domaine de Canton is a blend of baby Vietnamese ginger and V.S.O.P. Cognac, I think the Cognac definitely gives it the smoothness you would expect from a well cared for French brandy.)  The lavodka adds great flavor and depth without being too overpowering.  The fresh lemon juice works well to add the acidity and brightness.  While the lemon bitters adds aromatics and complexity, the blackberry sugar adds the necessary color and sweetness to compliment the perfect sip.

Hopefully, the Domaine de Canton judges will like it enough to allow me to mix it live for them during a round of judging.  If I even make it to the second round, I will consider it a great honor.  I will definitely post any new developments and keep you updated.

Cheers!

-W

La Coquette, the $10K (hopefully) cocktail, part 1

Hello there my friends, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything.  I’ve been in “laboratory mode” for about 2 months trying new things out and having fun experimenting.  Please allow me to share with you what I’ve been working on (you don’t really have a choice, I’m going to post it here anyways!)

Soooooo, in mid February, the Young’s Market rep tells me about this upcoming contest being put on by Domaine de Canton, a fantastic ginger liqueur.  The contest was simple, come up with an original cocktail using Domaine de Canton as the base ingredient in a cocktail.  The recipe needed to be uploaded to the Domaine de Canton website by the end of March, and after three rounds of judging, the overall winner would take home $10,000.  You can see now why I was quite interested in creating something new.

So I thought, what a great opportunity for me to try some new techniques and stretch my imagination a bit.  I wanted to come up with a cocktail that was simple, fun, and tasted well-balanced.  I had played with Domaine de Canton before, but this was a different challenge, because it had to be the BASE of a cocktail.  Which meant I had to work around the ginger liqueur rather than add it as a flavoring agent.

Luckily, I had already begun tinkering with some new ideas at Casa 425 after a great night out of research in DTLA.  In my travels, I experienced some infusions, herbs, spices, and home-made ingredients just to name a few.  When I got back to the “lab” at Casa, I wanted to see what I could come up with.  What follows is what I’ve experimented with, and successfully created as new additions to the bar experience at Casa 425.

The first thing I did upon my arrival to work was to start infusing spirits.  I picked vodka to work with first, since it is a neutral spirit and would take on any sort of flavoring added to it.  On the hotel property, there are bountiful amounts of fresh rosemary and lavender growing freely. I  instantly chose both as infusion elements, the latter being the favorite after some time.

Here you can see me holding some fresh lavender, freshly cut from the grounds.

The first thing I do is rinse off the plant of course, I only want the lavender to infuse with the vodka, not any bugs or excess dirt.  I then start shoving the lavender into a bottle of vodka, usually about 3 strands of foliage.  In this case, I used our well vodka, Smirnoff.  You don’t need to use the expensive stuff, as the point is to turn the flavorless vodka into something more delightful.

Once all the lavender is in the bottle, all you have to do is wait.  I give the bottle a good shake once or twice a day to make sure the vodka gets thoroughly mingled with the lavender.  I’ve found that between 2-3 days is enough to impart just the right amount of flavor and aroma.  Any less and the liquid is not distinct enough.  Any more and the lavender is just too powerful and overwhelms anything you add it to.  As I’ve experimented and poured it for guests, the demand increased, and so did my production.  I now infuse in a large 3-liter air-tight container and store excess in large pickling jars.

The only thing left to do is strain all the lavender and solid remnants from the liquid.  This can be done easily using a container and a fine mesh strainer.  Make sure you have a large enough container and space to work.

I affectionately call it “lavodka” which of course is a mix of the words, “lavender” and “vodka”.  I’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with the lavodka, especially with citrus.  The lavodka adds a nice aromatic and flavorful essence to a cocktail, but is still delicate enough to not be an herbal punch in the face.

My next fun experiment was making my own bitters.  I did a little research about ingredients and processes, and after much reading, I decided to just “wing-it” and create my own different batch.  After all, isn’t that how most things are made anyways?  Taking a process and improvising?  I didn’t want to just duplicate someone else’s work, I wanted mine to be original, no matter what the outcome.  Luckily (I think), I did a pretty good job for my first attempt and the results are quite interesting.  I also have enough left to last me a while, so I won’t be needing to repeat the process anytime soon.

First, I hopped on ol’ trusty Amazon.com and found that I could order four specific ingredients that I found to be in most bitters recipes I had come across.  Gentian root, Angelica root, Quassia wood chips and finally, wormwood herb (YES!)

Next, I visited my local markets to pick up some spices.  I snagged some allspice, caraway seeds, coriander, cloves and star anise.  I have to be honest when I say I didn’t measure each of them.  I used a pinch (or more?) of the top four and much less of the bottom five.  I made two batches, one with dried lemon peels, and the other with dried apple peels.  I covered both mixtures with an unoaked white whiskey that was 100 proof (50% abv).

This one above is the mixture with the apple peels.

And this one is the one with the lemon peels.

I let them both sit for 10 days to allow the peels and the rest of the herbs and spices to release their goodness into the liquid.  I gave each container a good swirl and shake to make sure all the elements were covered in the white whiskey.  I then filtered out any of the solids and kept the liquid in a separate container.  I placed the solids into a saucepan with some water (again, I should have measured, but I didn’t) and brought it to boil, then lowered the heat and let it simmer for about 3 minutes to let the solids break down more.  Then I strained the solids from the water and added the water to the alcohol base to cut it.  Then I just kept the finished bitters in airtight containers.

So that’s how I made my own lavender infused vodka and lemon bitters, two ingredients in my new cocktail called “La Coquette”.  I’ll cover my other housemade ingredient for the cocktail in my next post and finish the step by step instructions.

Cheers!

-W