The Porchtime Sipper

The Porchtime Sipper

When I picture my perfect Memorial Day -- meaning the Monday proper, after most of us have had our share of barbecue beers and whatnot -- what I'd really like to do on that day is sit on a porch, in a nice, big, comfy chair (rocking, or Adirondack -- I'm not picky) and spend the afternoon reading a good book and sipping on something wonderful. 

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The Pregnant Pause

It's been un longtemps and a day since I've posted, which means lots to catch up on even if you're one of my kindly regular readers -- let alone a newbie gamely bouncing on the blogwagon thanks to my recent Saveur Best Cocktail Blog nom (#believethatscalledahumblebrag #hinewbies).

Everything you need to know about my truancy, as well as my all-telling *general*outlook*on*life*, you can glean from the following statement: I feel acutely guilty that, thanks to uterus-subletting fetus, I'm not inclined to drink for you guys as much as I once did. Isn't it awful how I'm letting y'all down, spending my current pregnancy largely away from alcohol? Without a coupe in her claw, who is this Blogtender personbot?

Talking like a normal now... I'm totes pregs! A girl is due in August. I drink a lot of nonalcoholic beer these days (it takes the edge off, it really does). I also allow myself one sip per cocktail ordered by the PhoBlograpHusband whenever we're out, and when out at restaurants with ace bartenders, I ask them to mix me up a mocktail of my own.

At MEDIAnoche in St. Louis (my old stomping ground, was there in February), one bartender complied with a lemon juice-ginger syrup concoction that was damn fine and delightful. I found myself relishing its memory (and replicating it in pic below) as if it were a real, actual drink. I hadn't caught every move he'd made in its construction; was it really just lemon juice and ginger syrup? I might have tasted fizz. At least mocktails are still getting my mixology mojo going, right? At least I still have that?

FYI, I have no plans to turn this blog dry for the next few months. My one-sip rule stands for the full-hooch tipples I'll continue to roll out here. Is that controversial? If so, let some modern-day Carry Nation twist up her bloomers, cause a stink online, and pave the way for my appearance on Anderson touting my hedonistic child-ruining. Cocktail-book deal to follow, natch.

Having said that, today's cmocktail is, in fact, without alcohol. I started with that lemon-ginger base and wanted to see what I could work up from there. Turns out it was the sprightly kick of fresh ginger that felt like fizz, so no soda needed, but the recipe I drafted this weekend did include grapefruit soda and a quick hit of Liber & Co. Spiced Tonic Syrup, which I was kindly sent as a review sample several weeks back and do recommend as a quirky, comfortably priced change of pace from bitters. (Think Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters, with a more concentrated flavor and a quinine-y finish, bought at a half-off sale.)

Impregnate the Pregnant Pause with light or dark rum or tequila, or gin, or even bourbon. I think this recipe's got legs, versatility-wise, and damn if it's not refreshing as all get-out. Maybe not as refreshing as the half-gallon of mint chip I downed last week, but that's just the expectation talking.

The Pregnant Pause

1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 ounce ginger-infused simple syrup

1/4 teaspoon Liber & Co. Spiced Tonic Syrup

Grapefruit soda, to fill

Cucumber wheel and rosemary sprig, to garnish

1 1/2 ounces booze of choice, to taste (optional)

Combine juice, syrups and liquor, if including, in ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a Pilsner glass over ice. Top with grapefruit soda. Garnish with cucumber and rosemary.

Tasting Notes

My grapefruit soda came from SodaStream. It's one of the little flavor-adding packets you get when you buy the start-up kit. FWIW, I only used half the packet and the soda turns out just as flavorful and (I'm assuming) not as sweet.

As I suggested above, swap in Fee Brothers Barrel Aged Whiskey Bitters for the tonic syrup, or even Angostura. You basically just want a couple dashes (maybe 2 or 3 to taste) of something that plays against the other flavors.

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The Pimm's Cup

Thanksgiving-narrative guest post by Leslie Deak, who previously chronicled for us her experiences of drinking ice creaminess while having pizza stolen by an NBA player.

The following is a story of the wrong cocktail in the wrong place at a really, really wrong time. But it all works out in the end. So, three wrongs make a right, I guess.

My husband’s family has a tradition of gathering together for Thanksgiving, and last year was no exception. We found ourselves ensconced in one of the well-appointed residences at Jekyll Island Club in Georgia. After a lovely Thanksgiving morning bike ride, a freak accident involving another member of the family resulted in an ER visit, thus leaving me and my sister-in-law to our own devices for most of the day. (Don’t worry, everyone is okay.) With unplanned downtime, I considered my options. Hey, look -- the club has a bar!

I perched myself in one of the rockers on the porch of the old hotel, overlooking the marshes at a distance. I waited until a respectable noon (well, it was mostly noon!) before moseying up to the bar. MISTAKE.

The bar was mobbed with well-heeled southerners meeting their families for The Big Feast. The tiny U-shaped bar was manned by one efficient, polite, overworked bartender with a line three people deep around the perimeter. As I approached the bar, I overheard one patron inquiring as to how the bartender made a Pimm’s Cup. “Pimm's, ginger ale, and a twist of lime,” was the response. Intrigued, i asked what Pimm’s tasted like. The bartender, patron, and her companion all looked at me with bemused expressions. “It’s just... Pimm’s,” said the bartender. Suddenly, I was quite self-conscious of my three heads, but proceeded nonetheless.

(Later research revealed that Pimm’s is a British liqueur, and Pimm’s Cups are generally considered to be a summer drink. I was in southern Georgia over Thanksgiving.)

Feigning sudden remembrance of the liqueur and its heritage (mind the gap!), I told the bartender that I’d give it a whirl. I waited patiently for my turn, and was rewarded with a gingery, spicy, citrusy concoction that perfectly married the turkey-and-chilly-weather vibe of Turkey Day with the porch-sitting warm weather around me.

I was hooked, and ordered the same cocktail once (or five times) more. Hey -- repetition makes it easy for the overworked bartender to recognize you and your drink! I sat on that porch, sipping Pimm’s Cups, watching southern toddlers in seersucker suits and fancy dresses run around on the lawn in front of me. Throughout the afternoon, I was repeatedly deployed as the photographer for family portraits, a request I was happy to indulge. As it turns out, the Pimm’s may have enhanced my arteeeeeestic vision.

Pimm’s Cups and the Jekyll Island Club made a potentially bad situation into a lovely memory that I can bring back with a simple cocktail.

The Pimm's Cup

2 ounces Pimm's No. 1 

4 ounces ginger ale (ginger beer tempered with sprite will work in a pinch)

Twist of lime  

Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add Pimm's and ginger ale. Twist a peel of lime above the top of the glass and drop in. Swizzle well and serve.

Tasting Notes

Leslie wants to mention to y'all that a mix of  ginger beer and lemon-lime soda can nicely sub for ginger ale.

I'd like to mention that many, many, many sources will tell you that a proper Pimm's Cup contains not just a citrus twist, but large pieces of unmuddled cucumber and strawberries (and sometimes the meat of citrus fruit as well, not just peel). However, clearly Leslie's bartender was going by the bottle. While its back label does not identify this recipe for a Pimm's Cup per se, it does state quite plainly, "Fill a tall glass halfway with ice. Add 1.5 oz Pimm's. Top off with ginger ale or lemon-lime soda. Garnish with a slice of lemon." No mention of other fruits. I also happen to believe that one of the reasons a Pimm's Cup gets a bad rep as the unpalatable equivalent of Marmite is because people think they have to be proper and submit to the cukes. You can go your own way.

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The Bathtub Gin(ger)

In my quest for Total World Cocktail Domination, last week I made myself a little spreadsheet of upcoming recipe contests, those expressly for cocktails as well as others where my commendable potations will be up against some lame-ass summer salads or whatever.

First at bat: a grapefruit-and-ginger recipe contest courtesy of a skin-treats company. Winners get paid in grapefruit and ginger-scented bath-product gift baskets!... Wait, I've never mentioned what a slut I am for a nice, relaxing bubble bath? Well, there you go.

Starting from scratch, here's how I manifested The Bathtub Gin(ger). I am writing this all down for you because one day The Museum of the American Cocktail will ask that my brain be donated to their archives, but that won't be possible because I never plan on dying. So you guys can pass this along to them and I bet they'd even give you money for it.

Attempt #1: Take everything I know and/or have at my disposal in the grapefruit and ginger departments, combine with appropriate cutesy wordplay and visual puns, pour into a glass. This means gin, sloe gin, ginger syrup and fresh grapefruit juice, plus some egg white (creating visual pun of frothiness = bubble bath) and a salted and sugared rim (because I like Salty Dogs).

Result: Salt overpowered EVERYTHING. Blergh.

Attempt #2: Nix salt/sugar rim, see what happens when you add in some Luxardo. Why? Because Luxardo's proven itself a stealth facilitator of awesomesauce cocktails before.

Result: All Luxardo, even though I only used half an ounce. Damn.

Attempt #3: Back to drawing board. Try using World's Greatest Cosmopolitan as a template, swapping out cranberry juice for grapefruit and ginger syrup for regular simple syrup. (Oh wait... I don't use simple syrup in the World's Greatest Cosmopolitan.) Keep all other elements of WGC intact: lime juice, triple sec, confectioner's-sugar rim.

Result:  Weirdly lacks a center. What starts out as the right amount of sweetness somehow evaporates into nothing. This is getting frustrating.

Attempt #4: Brainstorm other possible ingredients. Remember the beauty that is grapefruit-Campari sorbet. Graft Campari and a splash of sloe gin onto WGC recipe.

Result: Getting there...

Attempt #5: Spend way too much money on a bottle of Charbay Ruby Red Grapefruit Flavored Vodka, all the while lamenting, "Whither art thou, Domaine de Canton?" Curse the SAQ for putting you in this predicament. Go home, construct a recipe using those elements you like best from attempts 1-4. Decide that the ginger syrup needs help; find ginger ale on sale.

Result: This...

The Bathtub Gin(ger)

2 ounces Bulldog Gin

1 ounce Charbay Ruby Red Grapefruit Flavored Vodka

1/2 ounce Campari

2 ounces freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice

1 ounce ginger syrup

1 raw egg

About 2 ounces ginger ale

Confectioner's sugar, for the rim

Mint sprig, to garnish

Rim a cocktail glass with confectioner's sugar and set aside. Combine gin, vodka, Campari, grapefruit juice, ginger syrup and the white from raw egg in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Before straining contents of shaker into sugar-rimmed cocktail glass, pour about two ounces of ginger ale in the glass first. Garnish with mint sprig.

Tasting Notes

To make ginger syrup: Mix a half-cup of granulated sugar and a half-cup of water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. While waiting for mixture to come to a boil, grate a thumb-sized piece of ginger into the pan. Stir until mixture reaches a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Strain into a container and let cool before using. This will make you more syrup than you need. You can refrigerate or freeze the rest.

As you probably already figured out, I poured the ginger ale into the empty cocktail glass first because I didn't want to shake the carbonation out of it. If you've got Domain de Canton on hand, try it in this recipe (instead of or in addition to ginger ale) and let me know what it tastes like!

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The Witty Comeback

Guest post by Dan Saltzstein, a cocktail enthusiast and an editor in the Travel section of The New York Times. Do yourself a favor and follow him on Twitter.

The origin story of my house cocktail begins with a glass of amaro, the bitter Italian liquor flavored with a secret mixture of herbs, roots, dried citrus peel and who-knows-what. After a meal at Frankies Sputino, a terrific Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, a friend offered me a taste as they drink it in Italy: straight-up, after a meal, as a digestif. I wasn’t a fan. Too syrupy, too bitter, too sweet. But, I thought at the time, this would go great with some seltzer and a splash of citrus.

So I tried that combo -- and loved it. The seltzer cut through the viscous amaro and some lemon (or a combination of lemon and orange) brightened its dark flavors. It was refreshing, tasty and (to use a word I try to avoid when writing about booze) addictive. I tried a few amari and settled on Averna, a Sicilian brand that is particularly herbal and dark. I drank that combo all through that summer.

Then I came into some prosecco, the sparkling Italian wine. I substituted it for the seltzer and loved the new combination. That became my house cocktail, which I dubbed the “12V,” after our apartment number. But who wants to open a bottle of prosecco every time you want a cocktail? My experimentation continued.

Rye has always been my favorite base liquor for cocktails. I love its mellow sweetness (less than bourbon) and spicy aftertaste. (Michter’s is great, as is the new Bulleit rye, but Old Overholt, with its $20 price point, is my go-to for cocktails.) [Ed. Note: Dan, is that for a liter? If ever in NJ, a liter of Overholt costs like $12 at Wine Library. Plus: unlimited cheese sampling!] So I tried rye, amaro and lemon -- ok, but too harsh. At the time, I was also playing around with homemade syrups, and had stumbled on ginger syrup, which I loved. I tried it with the rye, amaro and lemon. Perfection. The sweetness of the syrup mellowed the whole thing and the infused ginger added a kick that echoed the rye’s spiciness.

A few weeks later, I was invited to a party thrown by my friend Kat, who has perhaps the most elaborate home bar set-up I’ve ever seen. [Ed. Note: Let the record show, Dan's not been to my house yet.] Maybe I was feeling a little competitive. I brought with me a bottle of Averna and some of my homemade ginger syrup. Kat was plenty busy with the grill and asked me to make a few rounds of my new house cocktail. I was happy to oblige. Our mutual friend Michael noted that the cocktail needed a new name. I asked him to come up with one. Without much thought, he said, “The Witty Comeback.” I loved it, even though I had no idea what it meant.

“We were in Kat's kitchen, you were mixing the cocktail, and there was a bunch of folks bustling around, and it just popped in my head,” he told me recently. “Also, I thought it would be appropriate for a drink that's not quite tart and not quite sweet.”

Fair enough.

The Witty Comeback

 2 ounces Old Overholt rye whiskey

1/2 to 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice (about the juice of half a lemon)

1/2 ounce  Averna amaro

1/2 ounce ginger syrup

Shake all ingredients vigorously over ice and serve in a chilled coupe glass. Garnish, if you want to be fancy, with a flamed orange peel.

Tasting Notes

I make my ginger syrup by bringing equal parts sugar and water to a simmer, then adding a handful of chopped ginger and, turning off the heat, letting it steep for about a half-hour, or until it’s sufficiently gingery. (Note: it should be pretty darn gingery.)

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