January 31st, 2009
Something about the Boston bar scene really hit home for me recently: there’s a bunch of cute, young guys in this town creating spectacular drinks. Evan Harrison’s Nonantum, Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli’s Northern Lights and Casey Keenan’s Bohannon, to name a few. I’m besotted.
Take Harrison of the Independent — only a year or two out of college, and already he’s figured out how to use the herbal, day-glo-yellow Italian liqueur Strega (a.k.a. “witch”) in a cocktail. Check this out:
2 parts Old Overholt rye
1 part Punt e Mes
1 part Strega
1 dash each Angostura bitters and Regan’s orange bitters
Stir over ice until very cold and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
“It’s a pretty clear take off of the Green Point cocktail, just substituting Strega and bitters for the Yellow Chartreuse,” Harrison says.
“I came up with this in an attempt to find something to do with Strega apart from dust the bottle and answer questions about it. Strega is a cool little spirit with a cool history, but it’s too sweet to shoot or even sip on its own, and I’ve never seen it called for in any recipe. Surprisingly, it draws out the bitter orange flavors in the Punt e Mes while letting the rye do its work. And also to Strega’s credit, it gives the drink a cool, thick viscosity that kind of lingers in your mouth.”
Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. The upshot is that this drink is worthy of distinction among its many rye-liqueur-vermouth brethren, including Drink’s Fort Point.
OK, but the Nonantum? “The name comes from that village in Newton, where I was once stranded after a bizarre Catholic festival. I mistook the name for being Latin and thought it had something to do with their odd form of civic organization. I was wrong, but I still like the name.” As Harrison later learned, Nonantum is in fact a Native American word meaning, appropriately, “rejoicing.”
Schlesinger-Guidelli has barely cracked the quarter-century mark, but he already has some stellar cocktails to his name, notably the Jaguar and the new Northern Lights. The NL is one of those drinks where each layer of flavor shines on its own but contributes to a greater whole, like dance sequences in a great MGM musical.
The story behind the drink? “I took a week off between starting at Craigie and ending at Eastern Standard. I went down to Westport, MA, to work on the upcoming venture. One night of mixing with some of my best friends, this drink just came together. The late-night mixing and watching the stars, in cold New England … it reminded me of the vibrant Northern Lights.”
1 ½ oz William Grant & Sons Scotch
¾ oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
½ oz. Fresh lemon juice
¼ oz. Clear Creek Douglas Fir Eau De Vie
¼ oz. Fresh orange juice
¼ oz. Demerara syrup (1:1 demerara sugar and water)
2 dashes Bittermens ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters
Shake very well over ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon twist. Notes: Find demerara sugar (or sugar in the raw) at specialty stores like Christina’s in Inman Square. Also, S-G is pretty insistent on the brand of scotch: “I think the honeyed nature of Grant & Sons is really beautiful here.”
I admit I have yet to try Casey Keenan’s Bohannon, but it came to my attention via a trusted source. When he’s not playing drums for the Major Stars, Pants Yell! and other outfits, Keenan can be found at Deep Ellum. Recently, he took the Swedish Punsch that Ellum bar czar Max Toste made and created a cocktail with it that enamored Imbibe magazine enough to appear in the January/February issue. If you know Keenan and his love for 1960s and ’70s music, you’ll be amused but not surprised by the fact that he named the drink after disco producer Hamilton Bohannon.
2 oz gin
½ oz Green Chartreuse
½ oz Swedish Punsch
Pinch of fresh black pepper
Shake very well over cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with black pepper.
Tags: Boston cocktails, Casey Keenan, Evan Harrison, Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli
Posted in Bartenders, Cocktails, Liqueur, Whiskey | 8 Comments »
January 29th, 2009
It’s one of the oddest drinks I’ve ever tasted. And I mean that in a good way. I first had milk punch (not to be confused with the simpler concoction of brandy, rum or bourbon, sugar, whole milk and nutmeg served over crushed ice) at a Stir class last winter. It was sweet, velvety, rich … and confusing. That’s because, though it’s made with milk, it’s somewhere between translucent and transparent. In other words, not at all “milky.” Leave it to the bartenders at Drink to reintroduce this punch, which takes two days to make, to the modern imbiber. I write a short introduction to one of their recipes, Rum-Hibiscus Milk Punch, in today’s online Globe.
There are many variations on the basic milk punch recipe. The drinkboston punch party at Eastern Standard in June featured Milk Punch No. 1 from the Savoy Cocktail Book. Aphra Behn, a 17th-century English dramatist and novelist and allegedly the first woman to make a living as a writer, is credited with inventing milk punch, or at least having the first widely publicized recipe for it. Whatever its origins, it became well known enough during the 18th century for Benjamin Franklin to share a recipe for milk punch with James Bowdoin during his 1763 stay in Boston.
“Franklin’s Milk Punch recipe shares characteristics of two types of beverages — possets and syllabubs,” according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Wow. I am so looking forward to walking into a Boston bar and ordering possets and syllabubs.
Tags: Boston Globe, milk punch
Posted in Brandy, Cocktails, drinkboston in the news, Punch, Rum | 9 Comments »
January 25th, 2009
Hey all, in case you missed it, mixmaster Jackson Cannon of Eastern Standard was profiled on Chronicle HD on January 14. (The segment appears after a short piece on chef’s knives, featuring chef David Punch of Ten Tables in JP.) Cannon demos a Frisco and ES’ own Harvest Cocktail while throwing out some historical tidbits and showing off his cocktail-shaking technique. My favorite moment: As the show’s host, Mary Richardson, gingerly gives the shaker a try, Cannon instructs, “A little harder, Mary.” Hoo-hoo!
Tags: Chronicle, eastern standard, Jackson Cannon, TV
Posted in Bartenders, Booze in the news, Video | 4 Comments »
January 22nd, 2009
“Is it always this busy on a Tuesday?” unsuspecting customers asked upon entering Green Street last night. Yes, if that Tuesday happens to fall on the date of a historic U.S. presidential inauguration. And if drinkboston, BeerAdvocate and the Second Glass band together to invite everyone in the city to celebrate at this nicely stocked bar. And if presidential cocktails, inaugural craft beers, a champagne “tower of freedom” and $4 tacos are on the menu.
The crowd drank early and often, so that, by 7:30 p.m., the Ale to the Chief and Inauguration Ale (aka “Obamagang”), the Whiskey Punch (recipe below) and the Gruet Brut tower (built from specs by Martha Stewart!) were drained dry. But there was lots more good beer, sparkling wine and cocktails to be had, and bartenders Andy McNees and Emily Stanley served them up as fast as they could. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood. I know I was.
Whiskey Daisy (New School, 1910s)
From Imbibe! by David Wondrich
2 oz whiskey
Juice 1/2 lime and 1/4 lemon
1 teaspoonful superfine sugar
2 dashes (1 tsp) grenadine
2 dashes (1/2 oz) carbonated water
Last night, this recipe was batched up to make a large bowl of punch cooled by a sizable chunk of ice. The proper Daisy preparation, however, is as follows: “Use silver mug, put in above ingredients, fill up with fine ice, stir until mug is frosted, decorate with fruit and sprays of fresh mint and serve with straws.”
Tags: Cambridge MA, Obama inauguration party
Posted in Beer, Cocktails, Events, Whiskey, Wine | 7 Comments »