Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blueberry booze, part I

Quite some time ago I was in my kitchen, wondering what to do with the mound of blueberries sitting in front of me on the counter (compliments of my mother-in-law).  Aside from eating them by the handful...blueberry crumb bars, lemon cornmeal cake with blueberry sauce, and blueberry pancakes were about all I could muster from the culinary side.  So as with other suitable surpluses of the past (lemons = lemoncello, almonds = orgeat, etc), I decided to steer this one towards the cocktail world, a blueberry liqueur would be the result of these little morsels being steeped in ethanol.  After scouring the internet for a suitable reference to a recipe, I came across a number of them and created this straightforward hybrid.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Among other reasons for establishing the 'The Venture Mixologist', I wanted a blog in which to reference cocktails that I might submit for participation in 'Mixology Monday'.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, Mixology Monday was established back in '06 by the well regarded, Seattle-based cocktail enthusiast Paul Clarke, and is essentially an online, themed cocktail event hosted monthly by different sponsors.  Various writers, readers, mixologists, enthusiasts, etc. participate by submitting cocktail creations (often, but not always original) based on the corresponding theme chosen by the host.  My goal was to begin with a first contribution this year, and that time is now upon me.  The theme for this month is 'Local Color', hosted by Lindsay of Alcohol Alchemy, and for my inaugural submission I've decided to go with the use of a locally crafted botanical spirit...hum.

hum (no caps here) is a 70 proof spirit produced by cold tea maceration of four very distinct botanicals - hibiscus, ginger, cardamom, and kaffir lime - in pot still, cane sugar rhum.  Founded and developed by Chicago mixologist Adam Seger (formerly of Nacional 27, Tru, and The French Laundry), hum is reminiscent of Italian-style amari, possessing a slightly bitter, yet sweet profile with tons of depth and herbaceous complexity.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A variation, but of what?

Following up on my first derivations of The Last Word, with all the changes I made, I had to ask myself...upon what cocktail is this actually a variation?  In reality, it doesn't particularly matter, but after altering the ratio of gin relative to the other components, I began to consider that this new drink might even be viewed as a spin on the gin sour.  To be sure, there might well be more of a correlation between the two than a relation to the Last Word.

A Sour is drink category commonly referred to when describing a ratio of 2 parts spirit, 1 part sweet, and 1 part sour.  I would note, however, that while classic cocktails have withstood the test of time for good reason (ie. they're damn tasty), many a ratio has been tweaked all so subtly to conform to any number of palates.  And in such respect, cocktails with a slightly altered sweet to sour ratio may, and often are, categorized as sour variations all the same. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Finally, the booze arrives

Although Chicago has a fairly decent selection of liqueurs and spirits, some are just too difficult (or impossible) to find, so I went with the on-line route for a handful of things I needed (no, not want...NEED).  The most relevant ones at this point in time are, of course, Dry Fly gin and Strega...tho I've got a number of other spirits from which to choose if this first attempt is a little unpalatable, or perhaps even disastrous. 

So the first shot at this would be equal proportions (double strained and served up in a chilled cocktail glass, of course), tho smaller 1/2 oz volumes for each, along with a bit shorter time in the shaker to avoid over-dilution (all adaptations in red).  I had a feeling this first one will be a touch on the sweet side...

Run no. 1
1/2 oz Dry Fly gin
1/2 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz Strega
1/2 oz lime lemon juice

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Challenge

Although an admittedly difficult task, in an effort to win tickets to the Northwest Food and Wine Festival this November, I will be submitting one or more original cocktails to be evaluated and potentially selected by a panel of professional bartenders.  The competition, sponsored by Portland Craft Cocktails, requires that recipes include at least one of the spirits from the following Northwest distilleries:

The offerings from these distillers are rather diverse, and range from (un)flavored vodkas and rums, a variety of whiskeys (white, single malt, etc), as well as a number of brandies, and other specialty liqueurs.  Given my prior thoughts and commentary, I will be limiting myself to working with only a handful, if that, of these spirits.  First up, Dry Fly gin.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

And so it begins...with The Last Word

The Last Word...a pungent, vibrantly herbaceous, complex cocktail with a touch of sweetness and cloudy green hue.  Calling for equal parts of gin, maraschino liqueur, green Chartreuse, and lime juice, this drink was thankfully revived by famed Seattle mixologist Murray Stenson during his days at the Zig Zag Cafe.  Stenson came across The Last Word while sifting through Ted Saucier's "Bottoms Up!", a 1951 bartender's guide which featured this prohibition-era cocktail, originally conceived at the Detroit Athletic Club by Frank Fogarty in the late 1920s/early 1930s.

While The Last Word is a perfectly well-balanced concoction in itself, a number of variations have made their rounds since the original re-surfaced in 2004.  Perhaps my favorite was developed by New York's Philip Ward, of Pegu Club, Death & Co., and Mayhuel.  He calls for substitutions of rye whiskey and lemon juice in place of the gin and lime, all else, and proportions, remain the same.  It is certainly a different animal, perhaps a bit softer given the lack of an upfront punch of lime, and without a doubt less colorful in the glass, yet it is still a tasty sip in its own right.