Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rise and shine

Another month seems to have flown by and along with that comes a new theme for Mixology Monday.  This month's MxMo is graciously hosted by the group over at Cocktail Enthusiast, spearheaded by Kevin Gray.  As the description goes...

'The theme is “morning drinks.” Breakfast cocktails were the norm in the nineteenth century, when cocktails were a common beginning to one’s day. The drink’s purpose was to help the imbiber recover from the past night’s indiscretions and to steel their resolve for the coming day.

We’re all familiar with bloody marys, mimosas and bellinis, but what else constitutes a breakfast drink? We’re looking for corpse revivers, eye openers and hair of the dog – drinks that jump start your morning, absolve the prior night’s sins or just taste really good with eggs and bacon.

Maybe you like to fortify breakfast smoothies with gin. Or perhaps you’ve concocted an alcoholic sangrita that pairs nicely with migas. Regardless, let’s see some morning cocktails.'

Saturday, October 22, 2011

XXQC - Pisco Sour

Many are likely to have at least heard of pisco, and a number of these may also be familiar with the spirit's origins as a brandy produced in South America.  If only it's proclaimed affiliations were as uncontroversial.  Not to insinuate that there is a formidable venture in understanding the basics of pisco, but rather the divisive claims bestowed upon the production of this brandy, as well as the famed cocktail which has helped to widen the spirit's adoption here in the northern hemisphere.  As the hotly debated 'national spirit' of two neighboring countries on the western coast of South America, the battle between Peru and Chile to lay claim to the spirit continues to this day.  Regardless of the appeals for truth from both sides and all its associated rhetoric, a nice bottle of pisco is the best way to be introduced to the Pisco Sour, yet another of the XXQC.

As pisco has gained in popularity over recent years, the debates surrounding its origins has garnered more attention as well.  One might be surprised to learn of such bickering over the ties and methods for the proper distillation and production of this grape brandy, but both countries take their arguments very seriously.  That being said, since the uncertainty won't find resolution with the faint insight of an American cocktail enthusiast, I'll spend my time more wisely with some brief highlights of what primarily distinguishes these rival versions of pisco.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

XXQC - The Margarita

Since my last XXQC post finished up with a tequila/mezcal version of an Old Fashioned, I felt compelled to take a closer look at these oft confused spirits...and with tequila, it invariably paved the way to another of the XXQC, the Margarita. But first, as reference, a bit more on the distinction between tequila and mezcal.

Tequila and mezcal share a similar affiliation, both with origins from the pinas (hearts) of the agave plant. It is true, and widely appreciated, that to be distinguished as a tequila, the spirit must be made within five states of Mexico (Jalisco - wherein the town of Tequila is found, Michoacan, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, and Guanajuato), and is best produced from 100% blue agave. Mezcals, on the other hand, are made in the region of Oaxaca to the south, and are made from one, or a blend, of 28 other agave varieties. While these geographic and varietal differences both affect the profiles of the respective spirits, nothing is more influential in their distinction than the manner in which the pinas are prepared prior to fermentation.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

20 Quintessential Cocktails (XXQC) - The Old Fashioned

While researching and reading about the plethora of cocktails that have been devised over the last 200+ years, I came to appreciate the enormous diversity within the realm of mixology.  Yet at the same time, I also began to realize that the lineages of a number of them could often be traced back to classics, or corresponding variations on a respective theme.  Clearly there are many drinks in existence today which are novel creations, often times a bit more complex than earlier-dated cocktails which might display subtle hints of their origin.  The vast array of commercially available spirits, liqueurs, and bitters, combined with the unknown number of craft and housemade infused spirits, syrups, and sweeteners are seemingly limited only by the imagination.  In my recent inaugural efforts to create original cocktails, I started with ingredients and ratios with which I had the most experience, and began my venture from there.  Although the resulting concoctions were not offensive to myself or the immediately available guinea pigs at my disposal, the world of mixology can be a rather personal one...with slightly altered proportions, different classes of spirits, or distinct ingredients altogether resulting in the thumbs up or down from fellow imbibers.  That being said, in a humble effort to sift through and simplify what is an incredibly profound universe of cocktail recipes, I have decided to take a look at how some of the most common and well-known were originated, evolved, and/or remained the same over time.  Lacking a more innovative approach myself, I decided to model this project on reference material ('The Classic 25 Drinks Every Bartender Should Know') used during my BarSmarts certification.  With the minds of Dale DeGroff, Doug Frost, Steve Olson, F. Paul Pacult, Andy Seymour and David Wondrich at the helm of such an educational effort, I figured I certainly couldn't go wrong, let alone come up with a better approach.  So with that, I'll take a look at the first of my 20 quintessential cocktails (XXQC)...the Old Fashioned.