Thirsty Thursday: Not “Kyle’s After Pork” Digestif

We’ve been eating out a lot for the last week. Thursday at The Bristol, Friday at Parson’s, Saturday ordering Dante’s, Sunday at Frontier, and finally Monday at Publican. Beautiful food, rich food, beer, cocktails … we ate it all and loved it but by the time we reached the final stretch at Publican … we’d just finished eating a huge plate of porchetta, so when the dessert menu came and I saw, under Liquid Dessert, something called “kyle’s after pork” digestif, I needed to know what it was. Our server said it has Cynar, Green Chartreuse, rum and mint. That sounds weird, I thought. I’ll have that, I said.

It was delightful. And I wanted to always have it, so with the taste fresh in my mouth, I set about trying to recreate it at home. Now, what I came up with is not nearly as beautifully balanced as what I had at Publican, and we didn’t have mint on hand, so I let go of that. But I still think this is pretty nice.

I didn’t now what kind of rum or what proportions. I used Appleton since we had it on hand, and I think it works to make a a little post-dinner tipple inspired by the Publican’s digestif.

Not “Kyle’s After Pork” Digestif

  • 3/4 oz Cynar
  • 1/4 oz Green Chartreuse
  • 1/3 oz Rum

Stir ice & strain into a large shot glass/small rocks glass/whatever the proper name is for something that holds 3-4 oz.

It’s better than a cigarette for finishing a fine, rich meal. And I highly recommend getting a meal at Publican if you possibly can.



Thirsty Thursday: Straits Sling

I am trying to make every cocktail in Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. This Thirsty Thursday is another episode in that project.

I am a bit of an I-word by nature. And by I-word, I mean introvert. And also a little bit of a hermit. I like being at home. A week of work (plus sundry dinners with friends, cards after work, etc.) requires a large amount of the social energy I possess. So I like to spend a lot of my weekend lounging around my house. I’ve lately been hosting hardcore, all-day Veronica Mars marathons. And by hosting, I mean me and the furry roommates I tend.

Anyway … we finally had beautiful weather this weekend and we happened to run out of gin. So I thwarted my hermit-y, interovert nature and headed out for a nice walk to get another bottle. And I finally added a bottle of Cherry Heering to the bar. The Straits Sling calls for kirschwasser, but that’s something I’ve not been able to find a bottle I like, so I went with the Cherry Heering. It also calls for the juice of half a lemon. That’s a measurement I’m never comfortable with – are we talking about half a pre-Prohibition lemon, or are we talking about a modern Godzilla-sized lemon? I think I ended up with about 3/4 oz. of lemon juice in mine.

This is a drink I’d like to welcome the first nice days of the year with every year. It’s got nice cherry flavor without being especially fruity, nor particularly sweet; but it is cherry, herbal, sparkly, drinkable in multiples. (The second one is for Dan.)


Thirsty Thursday: At the Pawnshop

“Maraschino and mezcal? Yeah, OK. I want to know what that tastes like.”

And that is how At the Pawnshop made it into our cocktail rotation and a bottle of mezcal graced our bar. I know next to nothing about agave spirits – so we haven’t collected the array of bottles like we have for gin, whiskey and rum. I don’t know what I like or how to use it.

This I can handle. I love this drink. It has the same basic structure as an Old-Fashioned. But it’s smoky, unexpected and a little bit shady. Like a pawnshop.

Recipe here. I make it the same way except I just use the Appleton rum we have on hand instead of the Plantation they recommend.


Thirsty Thursday: Martinez

Inexplicably, some people hate gin. I am not one of them. At last count, we had 8 bottles of it on the bar (5 from local distillers). One is a recent acquisition.

Dan took me to dinner at Parson’s last week (the butter beans are my favorite, and you’d do yourself a favor to order a Negroni slushie, too) and then down the street to Scofflaw for a drink. Despite its proximity to our home, I haven’t been to Scofflaw since shortly after it opened. But I’ve been wanting to go and taste their gin ever since I found out they’d made an Old Tom with one of my favorite distillers over a year ago.

We tasted. It’s fantastic. Sweet. Lots of juniper and citrus and spice, a little bit floral.

So, we bought a bottle and brought it home and when it came time for a cocktail, I naturally thought of the Martinez. Forerunner of the Martini. It’s a drink I had for the first time while lingering around a table after a dinner party. The host – a chef – asked if I’d ever had one and proceeded to mix up a delightful Martinez that I sipped while we chatted with a few remaining guests.

I added a bottle of Ransom Old Tom to the bar after that.

As much as I love the drink with the Ransom, I have to say I might prefer it with the Scofflaw Old Tom. Sadly, unless you live in Chicago, you are out of luck – it’s so far only available for purchase at Scofflaw. But it’s a great souvenir to take home with you if you’re ever traveling through.

Proportions vary recipe to recipe, but this is what I’m liking these days:

  • 1.5 oz Old Tom gin
  • .75 oz sweet vermouth
  • .25 maraschino liqueur
  • 2 dashes of Boker’s bitters*

Combine in a mixing glass with ice & stir to chill. Strain into a glass & garnish with an orange peel.

*I think most recipes call for orange bitters – I assume since Boker’s was put out of business by Prohibition. But another maker reconstructed the recipe & is producing a new version of Boker’sThe PDT Cocktail Book calls for Boker’s which I thought was interesting, so I tried it out. Sold.

Thirsty Thursday: Grandberry

A few years ago, Dan and I started “Cocktail of the Month”: we never seemed to have the ingredients for a cocktail picked out of a book on a whim, so we thought this would be a fun way to learn how to make different cocktails, try new ones and always have ingredients for one good cocktail on hand. Old-Fashioneds, Sidecars, Collinses (Collinsi?), Torontos, Brown Derbys … I learned a lot about making drinks.

We slowly built our bar this way for a year and a half, and eventually we had a bar well-stocked enough to make a cocktail picked out of a book on a whim, and Cocktail of the Month slowly petered out.

But we recently decided to start working on our cocktail recipe skills (I have pretty close to zero). So now, Cocktail of the Month begins with 1 ingredient, and each of us tries to come up with a cocktail using that ingredient. April is our inaugural month, and we chose elderberry jelly as our ingredient.

Image accompanies an elderberry jelly recipe from the internet – not my mother-in-law’s recipe (at least not as far as I know). Click the pic to see it.

My cocktail involved rum, elderberry syrup, peaches and allspice dram. It’s OK, but pretty forgettable. I chose Dan’s as the better of the two. So did he. So did our neighbor in a blind taste test.

So I asked Dan to write a guest post about his cocktail creation for this week’s Thirsty Thursday. I’m a sarcastic control-freak so I’ve added commentary in parentheses. And shortened it because he is kind of a wordy fella. And I’m a control-freak.

* * *

… Once upon a time my dad happened across an elderberry bush, thought it should be made into something, and brought it home. With the job done, he handed it over to my mom to actually think of something to do with it.  Thus, the tradition of my mom making massive amounts of elderberry jelly is born. (this habit of doing something on a whim and leaving the mess for someone else to clean up unfortunately did not skip a generation)

So. The thing about elderberry – if you were to happen upon a bush like my father did, and threw [an elderberry] into your mouth, I’m sure you would recoil in horror as there is *no* sugar in these berries. You’d think this was some horrible joke pulled on you by mother nature. (maybe it is?)  I’ve done this – the last time was probably about 30 years ago and I still remember the awful, muddy, but berry-ish taste.  If you can imagine a blackberry that tastes awful and bitter… that’s an elderberry.

Turns out, if you add tons of sugar to this thing – it actually tastes not just good…. but interesting.   Elderberry has an earthier, plum-ier, darker, denser sort of taste.

My mom has made many, many jars of elderberry jelly.  Supply has outstripped demand and she has handed this out to myself and others. (I found 3 jars in our cabinets.) Making a *lot* of something is about the same amount of work as making a little bit and sharing is the way to show love.  I accept this love.  However, it’s not frequently that I toast up some bread and smear jelly on it – of any kind.  It’s just not something that’s become a habit… and it’s a shame, because my mom’s elderberry jelly is top-notch. (Truth.)

To me, elderberry jelly is basically love itself.  It comes directly from my mother… it has shamefully sat on a shelf for months (years actually; one jar is labeled 2011 … it’s stared accusingly at me every time I opened the cabinet for 3 years), but is delicious, unique, and amazing.  So, the first step is to turn elderberry jelly into something that can be poured for a cocktail.  (I didn’t make a great cocktail, but I did make the syrup)

  • 1 c. elderberry jelly
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 c. frozen peach slices (or fresh would be better probably, but they’re not in season here)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a few allspice berries and/or peppercorns
Simmer together until the jelly melts. Mash the peach slices a little. Cover & let it steep as it cools for an hour. Strain into a clean bottle & store in the fridge for a week or two.

With elderberry syrup in hand… I decided I needed to balance the sweetness.  Since I had been making Gristmills (using a recipe Amy got from a bartender at the Whistler), I had become rather enamored with Amaro Montenegro (Dan has certain things that if you put them in cocktails he will order it, no matter what else is in it; Amaro Montenegro & allspice dram are at the top of the list).

I tried this drink with bourbon… maybe rye.. I dunno – I was probably drunk.

I do know that if you take 2 parts bourbon, 1 part Amaro Montenegro, and 1 part elderberry syrup… you’ll get my first attempt at an elderberry drink that just tastes like mud. There was a lot going on, but it just didn’t taste good. It was sweet enough, it was bitter enough… but the flavors were just… muddy. It didn’t taste like there was any joy going on here.A spicy rye was just not what was going to make this drink work.  The elderberry has enough going on all by itself and just need something to bring out the sweetness. So, brandy it is.

Then – it needed to be brightened up… a nice acid punch to make it salute on the tip of your tongue.  Turned into a winner.

Then a name.  Elder reminds me of my Grandfather. So Grand replaces Elder, and so I’ve dubbed this the “Grandberry”.  All of the flavors just work to accentuate the elderberry.  It’s bright, unique, and the special ingredient really shines. It makes me happy.

It will make you happy.

for 2 drinks:

  • 3 oz. brandy
  • 1.5 oz. Amaro Montenegro
  • 1.5 oz. elderberry syrup
  • .75 oz. lemon juice

(Dan also serves these in the sherbet glasses he inherited from his grandparents.)

Thirsty Thursday: High West Campfire

There are some whiskeys that make me clap my hands together and giggle like a schoolgirl. And there are some whiskeys that just make me pause, smile, sigh and sit back like I’m in a whiskey commercial (but not the ones with Mila Kunis being all “I’m just like the dudes and I wear a jumpsuit and have a brand with my name on it so I can claim my own barrel and shit” because seriously, ladies: we can drink better whiskey than that).

I giggle like a schoolgirl when I find High West Campfire on a shelf and do my whiskey commercial shtick when I drink it. It has all the things I like in one whiskey: whiskey, whiskey and whisky. Or, more specifically: bourbon, rye and scotch. Bourbon. Rye. Scotch. Yes, yes and yes.

You get a nice gentle whiff of fruit and smoke when you inhale; and when you sip, a little bit of peaty chewiness (rather than the intense wallop you get from scotch on its own), some nice vanilla & butterscotch flavors from the bourbon and a little snap and spice from the rye.

It’s all the things I like about each one but kinder, gentler and TOGETHER. It’s balanced very nicely so you aren’t overwhelmed by any type of whiskey’s character but still taste all of them. Which is why I like it prepared very simply in a hot toddy or – even better – just pouring a two fingers in a (wee robot) glass.

Nuanced reviews here and here.

Thirsty Thursday: Whiskey Skin

Doesn’t that sound gross? I call them hot toddies when I make them, but as David Wondrich has pointed out, it’s not really – it’s a Whiskey Skin (read his Imbibe! – it’s good stuff). *shudder*  Although, it makes a certain amount of sense, the principal difference being the presence or absence of lemon peel (lemon “skin”). Since I like a little lemon peel in mine, gimme some skin.

Whatever you want to call it, I’ve been sick the last few days and this is an effective and delicious “it’s time for bed and we’re out of Nyquil” cocktail and generally a nice cold-weather cozy thing to drink. We’re finally seeing signs that winter may be departing but it’s still chilly and having spent several days in pajamas on my couch with nothing but bad daytime cable television to comfort me; and having just returned from Park City, home of High West Distillery, maker of Campfire Whiskey, which I can never find locally … I’ve had a lot of good reasons to put water on to boil.

This also made the third in the trifecta of cocktails we mixed up on vacation – the other two being the Milk Punch and the Old-Fashioned^3

Still working on my skills with a channel knife …

  • 1 strip of lemon peel
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 2 oz. scotch or other full-bodied spirit (I like the chewy, smoky flavor of scotch in a hot drink; High West Campfire has that nice, rich smoky taste I want)

Put some water on to boil and then combine the ingredients above in a heated mug.* Lightly muddle to break up the sugar cube and express the oil in the lemon peel.

  • 4-5 oz. boiling water

Pour into mug, stir, sip.

Still working on my photography skills, too – those I can try to hide with a photo effect …

* I like to fill the mug with water and put it in the microwave for a minute. You could run it under hot tap water, too, or just fill it with hot tap water and let it sit for a few minutes. Microwaving just gets it the warmest the fastest.

Thirsty Thursday: Unicorn Sour

Running behind this week so Thirsty Thursday is happening on Friday …

I hunted for Marie Brizard Apry for quite a few months before finally having two bottles special ordered for me. It’s not really expensive – it’s just tough to find. When I got home with them, we immediately began thumbing through cocktail books and deciding what we wanted to try with our new acquisition.

A few drinks into the evening, we decided to try the Rainbow Sour from Dale DeGroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail, blithely ignoring our lack of pineau des charentes. And also ignoring that none of us had any idea what pineau des charentes tastes like. In the cocktail description, DeGroff explains that it’s a combination of raw grape juice and cognac. So I thought, let’s just substitute cognac. I still have not tasted pineau des charentes but I did some lazy internet researching, and it sounds like it’s sweet and more like an apertif wine than straight cognac.

But we like it with cognac and we’re sticking with it and since 1) I’ve been on a serious unicorn kick lately; 2) nothing goes better with rainbows than unicorns; and 3) Apry is the one-horned elusive, mythical ingredient in the cocktail … I’m calling it a Unicorn Sour.

1 oz. cognac
1 oz Marie Brizard Apry*
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/3 oz. simple syrup*

Shake all ingredients with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass. Unicorns don’t need garnish.

* Other apricot liqueurs will work, but Apry is our favorite and what the original Rainbow Sour recipe calls for. I find the drink a bit sweet with the Apry + original amount of simple syrup, so I’ve reduced it. We find the Rothman & Winter we have at our house sweeter than the Apry, and I’d use even a little less simple syrup if using that. I tend to prefer my drinks a little on the drier said, though, so YMMV and all that … adjust to taste.

Thirsty Thursday : Old-Fashioned ^ 3

I learned to make an Old-Fashioned early on, and I’m very snobby about my Old-Fashioneds. I have rules.

  • No smashed up fruit. You can put a cherry in at the end to garnish if you want. But don’t muddle it, mash it or squish it in any way. Don’t put an orange slice in there either.
  • No fizzy stuff. No club soda. No 7-Up.
  • If you smash up fruit & put brandy in it, call it by it’s proper name: Wisconsin Old-Fashioned.
  • Use a pretty good whiskey.

It’s not too hard, really. Plenty of people will break these rules and serve it to you in a glass … so it goes. I’m pretty careful about where I order an Old-Fashioned these days.

1/4 oz. simple syrup
2 dashes bitters

Put ’em in a glass & mix it a bit. Then add a great big ice cube and mix it a bit more.

2 oz. bourbon or rye

Add it to the glass, give it a stir and wait a minute. Maybe toss in a pretty bourbon cherry. Don’t smash it.

And this is delightful and simple and what I like to drink when I want to pretend I’m a classy lady. But last year, I found Jamie Boudreau’s recipe for an Old-Fashioned “Cubed” … an Old-Fashioned within an Old-Fashioned. The Inception of Old-Fashioneds. I won’t reprint it here – you can find the recipe in detail here. Click it. Make it. Drink it.

It’s all the same ingredients, plus two more boozes, two more bitter … bitterses. And 3 times the awesome. It is also Pip-approved.

Thirsty Thursday: Milk Punch

I’ve been trying to make every cocktail in Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails (see the cocktails I’ve already made here) – partly because it’s an unusually well-curated cocktail book, and partly because it’s written so well, with a little history of each cocktail and notes on the recipe. I’ve actually read it cover to cover.

When Girl Scout cookies come around every year, I order shortbreads. Always. 2 boxes. I love those damn shortbreads. So it seemed like a good time to try out Milk Punch – Milk Punch and cookies.

Generally speaking, the idea of milk or cream cocktails sounds really gross to me. I could blame my lack of naturally-occurring lactase for that, but I felt that way before my body quit making lactase, too.

But this milk cocktail is surprisingly tasty. Milk, dark rum, brandy, simple syrup, a touch of nutmeg … it’s one of the few things brightening the last bleak, frigid days of winter.

The Milk Punch recipe in Haigh’s book is heavy on the milk – 4 ounces. I also own The PDT Cocktail Book, and Jim Meehan’s recipe calls for just 1.5 ounces, and bumps up the rum & simple syrup a bit. I like Haigh’s addition of a few drops of vanilla, and the lighter milk portion and higher rum content of Meehan’s. Haigh calls for serving over crushed ice; Meehan over one large cube.

Since the two couldn’t quite agree, I pieced the two recipes together and came up with this compromise that doesn’t taste like a compromise:

2 oz. whole milk
1 oz. brandy
1 oz. dark rum
3/4 oz. simple syrup
a few drops of vanilla extract

Shake well with ice. Strain into glass with one ice cube. Sprinkle a little nutmeg on top. Enjoy with a few* Girl Scout cookies.


* They package them in the sleeves because that is one serving, right?