Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Silence of the Auctions

To suggest it has been quite some time since I have formally gathered my collective thought for a post would be as much an understatement as 'things can get busy as a first-time parent'.  Yes, time for contemplative insights on spirits and cocktails has taken a backseat over the last several months to bigger things in life...most notably, the design/development process related to our new home, and custom lower-level bar!  Tho in all seriousness, life has picked up quite a bit with my family recently taking on the requisite steps to wrestle the balance of power from myself to the female contingent...  As I am now outnumbered, I've in all likelihood seen my last days on the throne (or tho I shall portray).  All that said, among the laundry list of things on which to focus in the new year...getting back into the swing of routine posts.  And since there is no better time than the present, consider this one a warm-up.

Some time ago, my brother-in-law reached out to request my participation in his company's annual charity silent auction.  The item up for bid?  Me, sort of...or at least those cognitive parts of mine which function (at times) to develop personal tastes/preferences into custom-tailored libations...preferably those more suitable to the cocktail-loving palate than the neighborhood cat on a Jagermeister bender.

If there was a profile for which I could easily identify, it was that which fit the winner of this auction.  A lover of spirit-forward, classic cocktails (let's call him Steven)...Steven was interested in expanding his palate a bit beyond it's already well conditioned repertoire.  He didn't mind bitter that wasn't overpowering, preferred brown spirits, and wanted to stay away from rum, tequila, and anything too sweet (ie. no apple pie liqueur).  In consideration of this, I thought of introducing a component of which I am a big fan, the shrub.  An extremely customizable and versatile ingredient, shrubs work well in many applications, but really seem to excel in a context such as Steven's.  Perhaps most importantly, the varieties are endless, and a basic recipe can be altered by swapping different types of vinegars, sugars, fruits, spices, etc...truly a cocktail ingredient that keeps on giving.

Given the winter months here in Chicago, I focused on those spirits and flavor profiles which tend to fit the mood.  Baking spices, fruit, and high proof are what come to mind.  A combination of two bottled-in-bond spirits, Rittenhouse rye and Laird's apple brandy, served as the spirit-forward base, while a pear-allspice shrub and Cynar lent the bitter, sweet, and sour notes.  A few dashes of Angostura and lemon zest were the finishing touches to this custom-tailored cocktail.

Pear Allspice shrub*
2 c ripe Anjou pears, medium dice (about 1 medium)
1 c turbinado sugar
1 c white (refined) sugar
1 3/4 c apple cider vinegar

1/4 c balsamic vinegar
15-20 allspice berries, dry toasted, lightly cracked

5-7 peppercorns, dry toasted, lightly cracked

Add diced pear and sugar to mixing bowl, lightly muddle to incorporate sugar throughout the mixture, cover, and let macerate in the fridge for 24-48 hours. Add the freshly cracked allspice and peppercorns along with the vinegars, mix, and return to fridge for another 5-7 days, stirring once daily. Strain the mixture thru a collander and then thru cheesecloth to remove most of the solids. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

To The Unspoken
1 1/2 oz Rittenhouse rye
3/4 oz Laird's apple brandy
3/4 oz pear-allspice shrub*
1/2 oz Cynar
3 dashes Angostura bitters 

lemon zest

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with plenty of fresh ice. Stir until very will chilled. Cut a wide swath of lemon zest and express the oils into a pre-chilled cocktail coupe and drop the zest into the glass. Strain the cocktail over the zest and enjoy.

To the Unspoken

So here's to a nice finish to the year and cheers to 'Steven', may it suit your taste...


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