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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You Call It! #1

Ah, Fridays at five. If ever a quittin’ time cried out for a cocktail of its very own, you are said time. Regrettably, once another endless week wends its way to you, rarely am I of sober-enough mind to do you justice.

Yours should be the crowning achievement of my five days’ labor -- I, Charlotte! My magnum opus, thee! Alas, by the time your sweet siren of surrender sounds... yeah, see, I haven’t even got enough of the witty wordplay left in me to finish my lede, let alone actually, like, name you.

So here’s how we'll roll on Fridays. I’ll offer up one of my cocktail creations as per yoozh, but as far as what to call it -- as Otis once sang, I’m depending on you, dear blog followers. (Some of you aren’t my relatives, right?) In other words, I’d like you to name that drink. Title that tipple! Christen that cocktail! Whatever the opposite of Alcohols Anonymous would be! (Again, bad wordplay.)

Our inaugural intoxicant is a recipe I jotted down at least a couple years ago; I’m guessing it dates back to my days working at The Royale. I’ve always thought of it as tasting like the color brown, in a good way. I recently came up with the ground ginger part, which adds some nice dimension and, coupled with the apple, lets you believe at least a teeny bit that you’re doing something healthful for yourself. Perhaps this goes without saying, but it’s best to save the apple for the end so that a) it soaks up the potion's flavor, and b) you don’t look like a no-manners nincompoop picking your garnish straight out of your drink.

Please take a read and leave behind (in the comments below) your ideas for what to call it. Until this blog starts raking in five two figures, your reward will simply be your name in lights HTML -- and, natch, my undying admiration.

You Call It #1

2 ounces Bulleit

1 ounce Licor 43

½ ounce Patron XO Cafe

Round apple slice and ground ginger, to garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in all liquid ingredients. Cap, shake vigorously and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish by cutting a round apple slice, sprinkling liberally with ground ginger and dropping into drink.

(P.S. My first go at making this for the photo shoot, my shaker exploded. Fridays are definitely rough around here.)

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The Autumn in New York (aka Harley's Harvest)

Contrary to 100% of this blog’s content heretofore, there are plenty of things I’m up for discussing besides weddings. For example, Calvados, which I was lucky enough to try for the first time on its home turf about 13 years ago at an inn in Normandy. I remember a dining room resplendent with golden amber tones, although that may have just been the view down my nose into the bottom of my snifter. In fact, considering I can’t remember much else about that night, let’s go with that.

So anyway, back to weddings. One of my most favorite things to do, as perhaps you’ve already gleaned, is write a cocktail recipe. I love it so much that I’ll even craft a cocktail I have little interest in drinking. Last fall, my friend Harley asked me to write an appletini recipe for her brother’s nuptials. (Google docs is suggesting I correct “appletini.” First choice: Appleton. I hear ya, Google docs.)

What the bride and groom wanted was an appletini bearing autumnal colors, rather than the Jolly Rancher/Marvin the Martian’s helmet tinge of Sour Apple Pucker Schnapps. Now, if it weren’t for this guy I went to high school with, I’d know even less than the next-to-nothing I do know about appletinis. And I don’t mean to come off as cocktail-snobby by saying that. Were I a few years younger and/or born a few years later, I could see how an appletini would’ve made it into my repertoire. Like back in the mid-late 90s, when I would rock a SoCo and 7 and pretend I was the Second Coming of Janis Joplin. I could see that girl fancying one.

Burnishing the appletini, in color and content, couldn’t entail much more than just futzing with apple-flavored vodka and Mott's, right? Right -- so I wrote a recipe that was probably way too involved for the unsuspecting bartenders at Harley’s brother’s wedding. (Hired help aside, Harley claims the drink fared well with the crowd in attendance, as well as the color scheme of the reception.)

Fall came 'round again and I found myself craving a cocktail to embrace the season, a drink in which you smell the curbside piles of leaves and hear the crunch of woolen fibers as you gather your sweater closer to you. That's when I remembered my old acquaintance, Calvados, and reimagined my appletini recipe to suit its richer body and more fiery belly.

The Autumn in New York (aka Harley’s Harvest)

2 ounces Busnel Fine Calvados

2 ounces Martinelli’s Gold Medal Sparkling Cider

½ ounce Licor 43

½ ounce cranberry juice cocktail

A dash or two of Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters

Brown sugar and cinnamon, for the rim

To make the rim:

I make my own brown sugar by combining granulated sugar and molasses. Usually I start with ¼ cup of sugar and a tablespoon of molasses in a small mixing bowl, kneading it with a fork until it’s well distributed and adding more molasses until it’s at the depth of color I like.

Even though you’re starting with molasses, your brown sugar shouldn’t wind up sticky; keep kneading if it’s still got that tar-like tackiness to it. You don’t want big clumps of brown sugar mucking up the look of your cocktail.

Pour brown sugar onto a saucer, enough to cover the top of the dish, and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon. Rim a cocktail glass with a cut lemon, then dip the rim in your brown sugar-cinnamon mixture. Put aside while you make your cocktail.

To make the cocktail:

Pour all liquid ingredients into a shaker or mixing glass, along with a few ice cubes to chill to your taste. (I like this drink just south of room temperature.) Stir well with a cocktail spoon. Pour into rimmed cocktail glass.

Tasting Notes:

Once I find some/remember to pick some up, I’ll see how this recipe goes with Doc’s Draft Hard Cider (or another hard cider of your suggestion?) and post an update.

Suggestions of other kinds of Calvados to try? Please leave 'em in the comments.

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