The Maple Mint Fizz

How did I never manage to invent the Maple Mint Fizz myself? Why did I have to move to Montreal to discover it?

The answer to the first question is: I did come close with the Martelorre (Maker's, lemon, mint, ginger beer). To answer my second question: Because Le LAB is where everything wonderful, like Maple Mint Fizzes, happens, and also because only in Canada would "our variation of the mojito" include maple syrup.

As a north-of-the-border mojito substitute, the Maple Mint Fizz (I love saying those three words together!) was rotated off LAB's menu with the onset of autumn. But as a south-of-the-border expat, I find fall to be the perfect time to indulge in maple-flavored treats, even if they also call for summertime-y limes and mint leaves.

The lime, in fact, is what makes this cocktail for me, imparting a great, sourtastic, unexpected twist of je-ne-say-wha? If I had ever thought to invent this drink, I'm not sure I would've come up with the lime part. Damn it, LAB, you've done it again.

The Maple Mint Fizz

(Adapted from Le LAB)

2 ounces Maker's Mark bourbon

7-Up

A small handful of mint leaves

A splash or two of lime juice

A splash or two of maple syrup

Take several mint leaves, tear once, and drop into the bottom of a Collins glass. Pour splash of lime juice on top, then cover the whole thing with just-enough maple syrup. Muddle. Fill glass with ice, add Maker's Mark and fill with 7-Up.

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The Hot Cha!

In Montreal, Halloween's a very big deal. Like NO-SCHOOL-THE-DAY-AFTER! big (candy hangover NOMMMMM...).

We'll be spending tonight seated in front of our duplex with one of our upstairs neighbors, treats at the ready. (Smarties, the world's greatest candy, am I right?) He informed us that this is tradition around here, because it prevents us all from going crazy hearing our doorbells go off 300 times in one night. I swear to you, in my 15 1/2 years of postcollegiate adulthood, spent in 13 previous apartments, I have never had a single Halloween customer come to my door! I'm so excited!

Yes it is cold here in Canada on the day before November -- although, jeez, nothing like y'all are getting in the NYC <--> DC Eastern corridor; say hello to balmy Quebec! -- so after telling myself I must wear my Under Armour tonight, the second thing I told myself was to concoct a hot cocktail, something sippable from a Thermos.

When I worked at Redbook ages ago, I once edited a piece on healthy winter snacks. (Ask your Grandma if you're not sure what Redbook is.) One of them was to heat up a glass of cranberry juice in the microwave and sprinkle some cinnamon in it. It's actually quite good and for some reason I've always remembered that, so that's what came to mind for the Hot Cha! The rest pretty much wrote itself, almost as if I were possessed... by ghosts... OOOOoooooOOOOO!

The Hot Cha!

1 1/4 ounces Busnel Fine Calvados

3/4 ounces The Arran Malt Single Malt Scotch Whiskey

4 ounces cranberry juice

1/2 ounce honey lemon water

3 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters

1 cinnamon stick

1 orange peel

Heat the cranberry juice, orange peel and cinnamon stick in the microwave together for a minute-ish. While that's nuking, mix the Scotch, Calvados, bitters and honey lemon water in a separate vessel and stir vigorously without ice. Combine the two in a Thermos, or a baby bottle if you want to go as a drunk baby this Halloween.

Tasting Notes

We're fans of the Arran Scotch around here; we also don't keep many other Scotches in the house. Sean recommends Dewar's as a great pick for this recipe because of its bite.

To make honey lemon water, just stir honey, water and a couple lemon slices in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it's cooked down to a consistency somewhere between the honey and the water. I use two parts water to one part honey.

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The Green Rhum Thumb

Do not attempt this at home. This is the work of a mad genius. Do you have absolutely nothing to do for the next month and want to devote every minute of your days to concocting ONE DRINK TO RULE THEM ALL??!?

The previous sentences are ones I've brainstormed over the past few weeks, trying to figure out how the hell I'm gonna blog about Tony Galdes' entry in last month's Montreal Bar vs Chef. I'm still not sure how to explain to you what I'm about to explain to you.

Tony was bartending at LAB over the summer. Stopped to go back to school. He is 21 years old. I REPEAT: He is 21 years old. He was born in 1990. I will give you all a moment to collectively sigh, go inspect your gray hairs in the bathroom mirror, and wonder if you've ever accomplished anything as massive and brilliant as Tony's Green Rhum Thumb.

The only thing I find 21-years-old about Tony, who is really outgoing and funny, is that he chose to infuse his cocktail's contest-mandated one ounce of Appleton Estate Reserve rum with weed. Is this illegal? I mean, probably, but in Quebec it's also illegal to infuse alcohol with, like, a fucking lemon peel, so fuck it. (Contestants were allowed to infuse anything they wanted for their recipes, as these drinks were not being sold to the public.)

The only thing I can think of to reference the Green Rhum Thumb's degree of multilayered difficulty (perhaps even its Rube Goldberg-ishness? A quality I'd tried to avoid in my Bar vs. Chef cocktail and yes I do feel a little sheepish about that now) is the St. Louis Arch, which was architecturally so unheard-of in its day that it couldn't be built until new types of construction equipment were first invented to make its construction possible. In order to make a Green Rhum Thumb, you first have to make all five ingredients that go into making a Green Rhum Thumb.

Oh yeah, you also need a CO2 cartridge, which you're gonna load into your Perlini shaker, which is designed to instantly carbonate beverages. This is a shaker that didn't even exist until this past summer and costs $100 -- just for the shaker. It's $200 for the deluxe start-up kit that comes with a bunch of cartridges, a pressurizer that allows you to reuse the cartridges, and for fuck's sake, a flash drive. I have no idea what the flash drive is for.

The Green Rhum Thumb

1 ounce orange-infused Appleton Reserve Rum

1 ounce weed-infused Appleton Reserve Rum

1/4 ounce Allspice gastric

1/2 ounce caramelized banana syrup

2 barspoons Blue Mountain Coffee bitters

Pour all ingredients in a Perlini Shaker, add ice, close the shaker, put in CO2 cartridge, shake, let rest for 30 seconds then pour into a champagne flute. Garnish with a slice of banana and a weed leaf.

Tasting Notes

Sounds simple, the above does, n'est-ce pas? You can read up on orange infusions here. I am not going to tell you how to infuse rum with weed because my mom reads this blog sometimes. As for the final three ingredients...

Allspice gastric:

1 1/4 cup lemon juice

1 1/4 cup water

2 1/2 cups cane sugar

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup allspice

1 cup pink grapefruit juice

Melt the sugar on medium temperature with the water and lemon juice. Once melted, add the vinegar and allspice and gradually put in the grapefruit juice. Keep heat on until most of the bubbles disappear. Chill and filter twice, once with a regular strainer to take out the big chunks, and then with a Brita filter to keep the small particles out.

Caramelized banana syrup :

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

6 bananas, sliced

1 cup cane sugar

1 cup water

Put the butter and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a pan until it starts caramelizing. Add the bananas until they get a nice roast, then add the rest of the sugar along with the water. Let simmer until the bananas start to fall apart, then chill. Once cold, strain through a cheesecloth to get a nice clear syrup. (Says Tony: "You can keep the rest of the bananas to put on your toasts in the morning!")

Blue Mountain Coffee Bitters:

1 750ml bottle Appleton Estate V/X

3 teaspoons white cardamom

3 teaspoons coriander seeds

2 teaspoons angelic leaves

1 cinnamon stick, crushed

2 cloves, crushed

1 nutmeg, crushed

1 star anise, crushed

1 wormwood stick

1 Tonka bean, crushed

3 teaspoons Allspice

6 teaspoons Blue Mountain Coffee, crushed

6 teaspoons Blue Mountain Coffee, uncrushed

Dried peels from one Mandarin, one orange, one lemon, one lime

3/4 cup simple syrup, made with equal parts sugar and water

Dry the peels of the citrus for 4-5 days in the sun then put it with the rest of the dry ingredients in a Mason jar with the Appleton Estate V/X. Shake at least once a day for 10-15 seconds and keep at room temperature in a dark place (or put black tape around the Mason jar). After 3 weeks, add the simple syrup then refrigerate for a week, always shaking at least once a day.

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The Derby

If this blog betters your drinking in but one, minute way, I hope it provides you with a plethora of ideas for mixing easy, whiskey-based cocktails. Sometimes I picture you -- yes, you -- lumbering through the door of your recession-era, DIY-chic digs, on the edge of weary after a long day slogging through your paper-pushing profession of choice (or, in keeping with the recession theme, necessity), and of course nine times out of ten you're going to reach for the bourbon. Neat or straight-on-the-rocks will always do, but don't you deserve a bit more of a to-do? Just something uncomplicated that can add a little brightness, a little aroma, a soupcon of civility to your drink and your day? That's what I'm here for.

Le Chien Fumant was recommended to me by guest blogger Dan Saltzstein, who had visited our new hometown of Montreal this summer. It's a short walk from our own DIY-chic digs, so before dining there we'd already cased the joint out on dog walks. It's very British-inn cozy, and since the bar is just a counter separating the open kitchen from the dining area, without room for storage, the liquor bottles are suspended from the ceiling by bungee cords. Dangling booze!!

Our bartender was James Bond cocky/cool and assured us that, should we not fancy any of the specialty cocktails on the printed menu, he could fashion us "any of the standard, classic cocktails..." [saunters away towards a drink ticket, then suddenly remembers something important and leans back towards us to say] "... except Cosmopolitans." But the cocktail menu was quite intriguing, lined with a number of just the kind of bourbon cocktails I'm always looking  for: those with a short list of easily accessible, often-on-hand ingredients, but ingredients I never would've thought to put together myself.

The Derby I ordered contained bourbon, sweet vermouth, Cointreau and lime juice. It was pleasant and way too easy for a drunk pro like me to finish. They used more lime juice than I would; in fact, tasting it prompted me to utter the term "juice-forward" for the first time in my life.

I recreated it at home using much less lime, and added some Luxardo to provide a sour/bitter note at the end. I suppose I could've just used bitters, but you guys deserve something a little bit more, n'est-ce pas?

The Derby

(Adapted from Le Chien Fumant)

1 1/4 ounces Jim Beam Black bourbon

1/2 ounce Cinzano sweet vermouth

1/2 ounce triple sec

1/2 ounce Luxardo

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for half a minute and strain into a cocktail glass.

Tasting Notes

I used Jim Beam Black and no-name triple sec (instead of Cointreau) simply because booze in Quebec is expensive and hard to come by. I like Jim Beam Black and it works quite nicely here, but I suppose if I had my druthers I'd opt for a higher-end, also-non-wheated bourbon like a Michter's small-batch.

Didn't bother with a garnish this time around; maybe an orange peel to pick up on the triple sec? Other suggestions?

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The Antithesis (L'antithese)

I've been trying to recall a good example of how much of a goody-two-shoes I was during my grade-school days. Kids called me "the A girl," in second grade I wrote a short story about a botanist, and once during a 7th-grade-wide trivia competition, I avoided elimination by successfully (and accurately, ahem) convincing the MC (my math teacher, I believe) that a peanut is, in fact, a legume. Take that, coolness!

Try as I might, though, I can't think of anything nerdy enough to compare to the eight-page dossier presented by my friend and Le LAB bartender Gabrielle to the panel of judges at Montreal Bar vs. Chef, her completely unrequired, written dissertation for the cocktail that, as it turned out, took first place. (Eight pages = first place. Must remember that for next time.)

In the weeks before the competition, Gabrielle told me she was considering a cocktail on the theme of Quebec ingredients. I'd actually toyed with the idea, too, until it became apparent that, beyond maple syrup and certain fruits (Quebec strawberries NOM), I didn't know enough to put them to best use. Really, anything I could've come up with would've been put to shame by Gabrielle's creation.

I think it's clear that Gab won because her cocktail was elegantly simple in presentation yet wildly complex in taste, with an impressively reasoned philosophy behind each ingredient:

Appleton Reserve Rum: Because they were sponsoring the contest, a-doy.

Gin Ungava: Made near Montreal in the touristy Eastern Townships using local herbs, "it brings to my cocktail that which the rum cannot: freshness, herbaceousness, acidity. Complementing the rum, it cannot offer a more beautiful contrast."

San Perrino Vermouth, a red-apple vermouth made just outside the city at la Maison des Futailles: "This aperitif is soft on the palate with a beautiful acidity and depth... It brings a balance between my spirits."

Labrador tea, aka Hudson's Bay or Indian tea, another Canadian specialty: "I wanted to reinforce the astringency of my recipe, and at the same time, balance it out."

Maple water: "To sweeten my recipe, I chose to use maple. I made a maple water (much less sweet than the syrup). I wanted to create a relatively dry cocktail, while maintaining a subtle maple flavor."

Lemon juice: "To achieve the perfect balance."

Homemade apple bitters: "I chose Angostura bitters as a base because I appreciate the character and depth it brings to the rum."

Clearly, Gab gets an A++ (or a check-plus-plus, remember those?) -- I mean, she had different ingredients going on down to the quarter-ounce. And, save the Angostura, she really did manage to keep all of her ingredients, alcoholic ou non, local.

In actuality, Gab gets a trip for two to Jamaica, which was the first-place prize. And, of course, when the A++ girl throws off the curve for the rest of us underachievers, what we get is homework. So pay attention, class! This recipe's involved. You may have to stay late.

The Antithesis

1 ounce Appleton Reserve Rum

1/2 ounce Gin Ungava

1/4 ounce San Perrino vermouth

1/2 ounce Labrador tea

1/4 ounce maple water

1 dash freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 dashes homemade apple bitters

Apple slices, to garnish

Put all ingredients in a chilled mixing glass, add ice and stir thoroughly. Serve in a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a pair of apple slices.

Tasting Notes

To make the homemade apple bitters, I'm gonna give it to you straight from the future Jamaican tourist's mouth, which came out of said mouth in the form of milliliters. (Convert to ounces here.): Mix together 100 ml Angostura bitters, 45 ml apple brandy (she used Michel Jodoin), 30 ml Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters, 30 ml Absinthe 55 and 15 ml smoked bitters. Cut up three-quarters of a Granny Smith apple into small cubes and add to the mixture. Gently mash apples with a pestle. Let steep for three weeks in a dark place. Filter before using.

Making maple water: You're basically making a maple simple syrup by boiling down equal parts water and pure, granulated maple sugar. Gab told me she also steeped some juniper berries while this mixture cooked down. Because she is an extra credit-bogarting geek. Just kidding.

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