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.

Dry Fly is characterized as a New American style gin, a loosely defined category in which an array of other botanical notes tend to sit center stage relative to the typically more identifiable juniper-led profiles of London Dry style gins.  Perhaps the most common and well known brand of the class is Hendricks, a gin with prominent notes of rose petal and cucumber leading the way with the customary juniper lingering in the background.  While similar in style, Dry Fly has its own distinct notes of green apple, pepper, nectarine, lime peel, honey and the faintest hint of pine on the clean, dry finish. 

My first approach will be a straight-forward single substitution for green Chartreuse in The Last Word.  As Chartreuse is clearly a distinguishing component of the cocktail, I'm hoping that subbing for this will quickly identify the drink as having a distinction all its own.  At the same time (and in contrast to The Final Word spin on the original), removal could also just as easily spell disaster given it's harmony with the other ingredients.  What the hell, I've got to start somewhere.

In contemplating which spirit to swap for Chartreuse, I could have easily gone with the 'second generation', saffron-tinged yellow version, adapted some 70 years after the green (1838 vs. 1764, tho it should be noted that the original recipe dates back to Carthusian monks in 1605).  Yes, there is a noticeable difference other than the color between these two...with the yellow representing a mellower, sweeter, and less potent version of the green (40% vs. 55% ABV)...yet I wanted to make it a bit more distinct.  Well, that, and I didn't want to spend $60 on the yellow quite yet.  So, after some digging (and tasting), I discovered Liquore Strega (Strega), an Italian herbal liqueur distilled in Campania since 1860.  Although its yellow color is also primarily derived from saffron, any other similarities to Chartreuse end there.  It has a mild sweetness, with strong herbal notes of pine, anise, and hints of mint...a profile I considered to have potential when paired with a less juniper-heavy, New American style gin like Dry Fly.

The fun begins tomorrow..