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The B-Line from Range SF

Winter is citrus season. Those willing to explore past their local grocer will be rewarded with exotic citrus that may not lend itself to the casual peel n’ eat but will provide a complex flavor experience for other tasks. I know few people who are more dedicated in finding exotic citrus for use in cocktails than Mr. Manhattan, who turned me onto the bergamot orange.

The bergamot’s claim to fame is that it’s the crucial ingredient in Earl Grey tea. It is the extracted essence of the peel that gives the tea its quintessential flavor. To smell a bergamot orange is to quickly comprehends its magic. Countless chefs have championed its flavors in dishes around the globe.

It’s no newcomer to the cocktail scene, either. Range in San Francisco modified their fantastic Third Rail cocktail to create the B-Line, incorporating bergamot with stunning success. Mr. Manhattan has written about the bergamot as well, and introduced his own concoction, the Calabria, which I find to be quite delightful.

The bergamot is quite sour and makes a better substitute for lemon than for traditional orange. Its breathtaking aroma and complex flavors, however, add a whole new dimension to cocktails. I looked to the classic Clover Club cocktail for inspiration to create my own bergamot twist and so far the reaction has been fantastic. So, have  a dinner party and impress your friends with this divine tipple using some homemade ingredients and exotic citrus.

Homemade Grenadine

To make this libation you’re going to need some grenadine. Please don’t go to your local mart and purchase some food coloring-ladened high-fructose corn syrup that gets passed off as grenadine. Homemade grenadine is so simple to make that you will never purchase the fake stuff again. You simply need some unsweetened pomegranate juice, (such as POM), and sugar. Take two cups of POM and bring it to a boil. Quickly reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer until the POM is reduced in half. Once it’s reduced, stir in the sugar until it’s fully dissolved. Remove from heat and you’re done. I’d recommend getting some nice sealable glass flasks, (container store has great ones), to store your grenadine. A plastic container will do, otherwise. Your creation should last in the fridge for up to a month. You can prolong its life by bottling it with  a splash of high proof vodka.

Earl of Clubs

Earl of Clubs

  • 1 ½ oz Gin (Brokers 94 proof)
  • 1 oz Bergamot Orange Juice
  • ½ oz Homemade Grenadine
  • 1 egg white (bring egg to room temperature first, if possible)

Separate the egg white from the yolk and drop into your shaker first, then pour in the rest of the ingredients. I’d recommend using a proper Boston Shaker as most 3-piece shakers don’t seal well enough for egg white drinks. Give the drink a dry shake first, (no ice), to foam up the egg white. If you’re using a 3-piece shaker and having trouble getting it to foam I recommend removing the spring from your hawthorne strainer and dry shaking with it inside your shaker. Then, add your ice and give it another vigorous shake as egg white drinks don’t do as well with a limp-wristed shake. Strain into a cocktail glass and you should be rewarded with a divine cocktail with a beautiful foam on top.

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Uptown Manhattan w/ homemade brandied cherries

Second only to the Martini, the Manhattan is one of the most iconic classic cocktails and one of my personal favorites. It’s a sophisticated cocktail named after the city of all cities and has been traced back to circa 1870. The exact history is often debated so I’ll let you read up on that yourself if you’re interested. The Manhattan doesn’t use many ingredients but has many complexities. Given that there are several popular varieties, it makes it a fun cocktail to experiment with. If you’re new to making cocktails it’s a great starter cocktail, for it has simple proportions with which you can experiment.

Before diving into the recipes everyone needs to know the #1 rule of making Manhattans. Contrary to Mr. Bond, (who was quite wrong, actually), cocktails made of any clear liquids should always be stirred, not shaken. If a drink contains a juice, or anything cloudy, then you shake… but a drink like the Manhattan needs to be stirred. By stirring the drink you are able to achieve the appropriate coldness without interrupting the clarity of the ingredients in the final presentation. Shaking is needed when you’re using ingredients that don’t combine well without a vigorous shake. How long you stir depends on your ice and how much dilution you like in your drink, the longer you stir the less strong the drink will taste. The key is to dilute it enough so the drink doesn’t seem harsh but don’t stir too long or it will be watered down. Experiment with stir times and see how it affects your cocktail.

These days Manhattans are often made with bourbon and sometimes Canadian whiskey but I recommend making it the classic way with straight rye whiskey. Canadian whiskey was often substituted as rye whiskey was hard to come by, but these days rye is making a healthy resurgence. They are often garnished with maraschino cherries but making your own brandied cherries makes them that much better.

Now onto the drinks. I will feature the Classic Manhattan, the Dry Manhattan, the Perfect Manhattan and lastly a newer creation, the Uptown Manhattan. I tend to favor the Perfect Manhattan, but being a huge amaro fan, the Uptown Manhattan definitely piques my interest, and the flamed orange zest always adds flare when making drinks for guests.

Manhattan

  • 1 ¾ oz Rye Whiskey
  • ¾ oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 dash Aromatic Bitters

Stir, garnish with a brandied cherry and serve up.

Dry Manhattan

  • 1 ¾ oz Rye Whiskey
  • ¾ oz Dry Vermouth
  • 1 dash Aromatic Bitters

Stir, garnish with a lemon twist and serve up.

Perfect Manhattan

  • 2 oz Rye Whiskey
  • ½ Sweet Vermouth
  • ½ Dry Vermouth
  • 1 dash Aromatic Bitters

Stir, garnish with a brandied cherry and serve up.

Uptown Manhattan

  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • ½ oz Amaro Nonino
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters
  • 1 barspoon Cherry Brandy from Brandied Cherries

Stir and strain into a cocktail glass. Flame the orange zest over the drink by squeezing the citrus zest into the drink while holding a lighter under it. Garnish with the orange zest and a brandied cherry.

The Uptown Manhattan is a signature drink of San Francisco bartender Marco Dionysos. You will find it on the menu at the Clock Bar. in the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco’s Union Square area.

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Brandied Cherries made in winter

Brandied cherries are one of those small simple things that make a big impact. I’ve never been satisfied with high fructose corn syrup-laden maraschino cherries that you can buy at supermarkets to garnish and muddle into my drinks. Brandied cherries, not only look classier over their neon red counterparts, but also taste a lot better. They are, however, pretty hard to find, so you generally need to make your own. But what to do in winter when cherries are unavailable?

My wife instantly thought of the morello cherries Trader Joe’s carry, could those be used to make a superior cocktail cherry? Doing some research I  found a recipe to make maraschino liqueur* flavored cherries at the Chanticleer Society, and their winter solution is to use the exact Trader Joe’s cherries we had to work with. I’ll probably make their recipe next time, but I just wanted to make plain brandied cherries this time around so I followed similar instructions but adapted it for my use.

Brandied cherries made in winter

  • 1 jar Trader Joe’s Morello Cherries in Light Syrup
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup brandy
  • some lemon juice

Strain the cherry syrup into a heavy cooking pan and stir in the sugar. Cook until the syrup has been reduced in half. Pour the liquid over the cherries, then add the brandy and a bit of lemon juice. The lemon juice is not required but I wanted to add some more tartness and flavor to the cherries, so add to taste or not at all. If all the liquid doesn’t quite fill the jar with the cherries in it, top off with more brandy, (ignore my photo, that’s just a test batch). The nice thing about these “ghetto” winter cherries is they are ready after 24 hours since the original source cherries are already preserved.

Also, note that you do not need to use expensive brandy for this, you can but it’s probably not necessary. I used a $10 bottle of french brandy I found while at Trader Joe’s but even something like E&J will work fine.

*Note: Don’t confuse maraschino liqueur with store bought maraschino cherries. Maraschino is a bittersweet liqueur made from marasca cherry pits which lend it an almond-like flavor. Maraschino is used in many classic cocktails and is a must for any home bar if you wish to make classic cocktails.

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Welcome to Adventures in Cocktails! :)

I originally started my wordpress.com hosted blog as an experiment, but as I found blogging about cocktails more and more compelling I’ve decided to do a more custom install of wordpress on my own servers with my own domain name. So I bring you the newly revamped blog aptly named Adventures in Cocktails.

I’d like to thank Magnus Jepson for the original wordpress theme I edited to make more cocktail oriented. Maybe when I get more time I will make a truly original wordpress theme, but for now I will continue to optimize this one.

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Peach Molettiere

I spend every New Years in snowy Lake Tahoe renting a big house with all my closet friends. My good friend Peter Molettiere brought a bottle of Leopold Bros. Georgia Peach Whiskey, which we found to taste delicious and have a sweet malty/syrupy feel.

Peter and I set on a mission to create a well balanced cocktail featuring the Georgia Peach Whiskey. We started out with Bourbon and Rye trying to make a peach flavored whiskey drink but it just wasn’t coming together. Then we switched gears and went to cognac and that’s where the magic started to happen. I believe we have it to a point where I feel comfortable posting it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we change it up after subsequent changes. If you do try it at home, please leave your tasting notes and feedback.

Peach Molettiere

  • 1 oz Cognac (Pierre Ferrand Ambre in our case)
  • ¾ oz Leopold Bros Georgia Peach Whiskey
  • ½ oz Lemon Juice (possibly more, still working on balance)
  • 1½ bar spoon Honey Lavender Syrup (add more or less depending to your taste)
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Shake and garnish.

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I’ve become a fan of Amari (plural of Amaro), having had several cocktails containing them I’ve grown fond of the herbal complexity they add to a drink. Amaro simply means bitter in Italian, and Amari are basically Italian bitter liqueurs, and there is quite a range of them all with their own complexities: Ramazzotti, Nonino, Averna, Abano and on the more bitter side Fernet. These of course are just a few examples of more common Amari, but there are quite a number of them.

Amer Picon is an Amaro that was popular in pre-prohibition cocktails, but is now considered a sort of holy grail by cocktails geeks as it is practically impossible to get stateside. It can still be purchased in France but having undergone a few re-formulations which lowered the proof and changed the taste has left mixologists still searching for the original.

I recently made a new friend Michael Lazar who hosted a wonderful cocktail night where he was serving a drink with an Amer Picon replica. He pointed me to mixologist master Jamie Boudreau’s blog for he had re-created what is considered the closest thing to the original, calling it Amer Boudreau. Jamie is a mixologist I highly respect and he has kindly shared the recipe for everyone on his blog.

So a few days before christmas I started on my adventure to make Amer Picon, which is a somewhat lengthy process. Before being able to make the final product first you need to make an Orange Tincture, a tincture is simply a high proof liqour that is used to extract the flavor out of something, in this case orange peels. I peeled 14 oranges and then let them dry for 5 days to start the tincture. To lower the 4-6 week infusion time of high proof vodka, I opted to use 151 proof everclear, which I will need to water down to bring the proof down to 100 to make the final Amer Picon. The tincture should be ready in mid-january.

I’ll keep you posted on the next phase of the project.

Orange Tincture