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December 22nd, 2008

Snow & elderflower

St. Germain Sno-Cones

Friday night, Central Square, the first blizzard of the winter season. I’ve just finished having cocktails at Cambridge’s solid new bistro Craigie on Main with a few of the ladies of LUPEC Boston — Pink Lady, Fancy Brandy (our shutterbug) and Saucy Sureau — and we’re about to snow-boot it over to Green Street to grab a nightcap with those young bucks behind the stick, Andy and Bice.

Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli with St. Germain Sno-Cone

But wait … Saucy, who reminds me of a girl in a Northern Renaissance painting, has an idea. The snow piling up on the sidewalk is so fluffy and fresh … it’s actually edible. And, seeing that Saucy peddles St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur for a living and always has a supply on hand, along with some little plastic tasting cups … well, how ’bout a St. Germain Sno-Cone, girls? We make one extra and offer it to the bartender who has been concocting little gems for us all evening, Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli. It’s delicious. Saucy announces, “I’m entering this in a cocktail contest.” “You win!” we say, and throw the unspiked slush in the bottom of our cups back into the snowbank.

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Posted in Liqueur | 7 Comments »

November 28th, 2008

Ginger – ooh la la

Ginger Grant dreams of Domaine de Canton

Calling all Boston imbibers: This Monday, December 1, a group of Boston bartenders will compete in the semi-finals of the Domaine de Canton 2009 Bartender of the Year contest. The competition will, of course, involve mixing an original cocktail using the exquisite new French cognac-based, real ginger-infused liqueur.

The event takes place upstairs at the Beehive in the South End from 5:00-7:00 (after the judges have made their selection) and features complimentary appetizers and Domaine de Canton cocktails. It’s open to the public, but you gotta RSVP by emailing paul@tipplingbros.com.

The contestants are:

Jennifer Harvey – 33 Restaurant & Lounge
Mike Paquette – Scampo Restaurant
Bob McCoy – Eastern Standard
Josh Caron – Five Fifty-Five
Steven Shur – Boston College Club
Jeff Grdinich – White Mountain cider Co.
Clif Travers – The Beehive
Chris Whitney – Alibi Bar & Lounge

The judges (with their titles quoted verbatim from the invite) include:

John Gertsen. Cocktail Guru – No.9 Park & Drink
Liza Weisstuch. Sprits & Lifestyle Writer – Imbibe Magazine, Whisky Magazine, Massachusetts Beverage Business
Misty Kalkofen. Mixologist Extraordinaire – Drink, Founder LUPEC Boston

See you there!

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Posted in Cocktails, Events, Liqueur | 4 Comments »

July 5th, 2008

Saints of St. Germain

St. GermainBoston bartenders made an impressive showing in a recent St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur mixology contest at Employees Only in New York City. Congrats to No. 9 Park barman Ben Sandrof for taking first prize, which came with a bounty of $5,000. Ben schooled competitors from some of the country’s best cocktail bars, including Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco, the Violet Hour in Chicago, Dressler in Brooklyn and Seven Grand in L.A.

“I’m totally honored. The amount of talent in that room was pretty remarkable,” he says.

Another Boston competitor, singled out by contest judge and “King Cocktail” Dale DeGroff for her original St. Germain cocktail, was Misty Kalkofen of Green Street. She summarized the competition, which she said “was nerve wracking”:

The first round involed a “written test about spirits. The second round we were presented with four bottles marked A, B, C and D. We had two minutes to taste them and guess what they were. We then had five minutes to pick one of them and make an original creation for the judges. That was tough. Then the last round was building the cocktail you had submitted.”

The last round almost did Ben in. Curdled cream and a broken glass tripped up his first two attempts at mixing his Sureau Fizz within the time limit, but he managed to twist an orange peel over his third attempt just as the horn blew. Nice work, Ben and Misty. You made us proud.

Here’s the recipe for Ben’s winning cocktail, the Sureau (that’s French for elderflower, mes amis) Fizz.

Sureau Fizz

2 oz Beefeater gin
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
1 oz St. Germain
3 drops orange blossom water
1 1/2 oz heavy cream
1 fresh raw egg white
1 oz soda water

Method: Shake all ingredients for 10-12 minutes and pour into a collins glass. Top with soda water. Garnish with orange oil.

And here’s the recipe for Misty’s drink:

Summer of Sureau

1 1/2 oz St. Germain
1/2 oz Batavia Arrack
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz pineapple syrup*
3 dashes Bittermans Boston Summer Bittahs

Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. *Pineapple syrup: pass fresh pineapple juice through a fine strainer lined with a cone filter (a coffee filter would work, too). Then take the pineapple water and make a syrup that’s two parts pineapple water, one part sugar.

Posted in Bartenders, Liqueur | 9 Comments »

May 21st, 2008

I say pimento, you say allspice

St. Elizabeth Allspice DramAnother lost cocktail ingredient is being found around Boston: pimento dram. I was served two different cocktails containing the stuff in the span of 24 hours recently.

First up was the Passenger Pigeon. Cocktail enthusiast Fred Yarm invented this drink for, get this, his International Migratory Bird Day party. As if winning the Drinking to Obscure Occasions prize weren’t enough, Fred and his consort, Andrea, put together an astonishing list of 20 cocktails named after birds — all classics except for two that Fred created and one by Robert “Drinkboy” Hess. Since I had only tasted pimento dram, a liqueur of Jamaican origin, at the Lost Ingredients session at Tales of the Cocktail last summer, I went straight for the drink that featured it. “Ah, that’s one of mine,” said Fred.

Passenger Pigeon
2 oz Calvados
1/2 oz pimento dram
1 dash Angostura bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Fred says, “The concept of the drink started as a rye drink with the pimento dram, but rye did not work well with the flavors as it was; perhaps some sweet vermouth could have rectified that. Instead I substituted the rich-flavoredness of Calvados to balance things out.” Not a bad drink at all. The Calvados dominated the first few sips, but the allspice flavor of the pimento dram intensified as the drink warmed a bit.

That’s right: allspice. Pimento is the Caribbean term for this clove- and cinnamon-like berry. But since North Americans think “olives” or “loaf” or even “cheese” when they hear the word pimento, the company that reintroduced pimento dram to the spirits market, Haus Alpenz, is calling it St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram. I think “pimento dram” is more poetic, but, alas, Haus Alpenz owner Eric Seed wants this product to appeal to a demographic beyond those who collect out-of-print bartender’s manuals and read Imbibe magazine. (See Misty Kalkofen‘s post about Seed on the Tales of the Cocktail blog.)

The next night, Michael O’Donovan of Highland Kitchen used the St. Elizabeth in a vintage recipe from CocktailDB:

None But the Brave
1 1/2 oz brandy
1/2 oz pimento dram
1/4 oz lemon
1/4 oz rum
1/4 tsp sugar
Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

“I think I’ve been making it with a touch more lemon, rum, simple [syrup], and have added bitters. It can, however, get overly sweet and allspiced very quickly,” said Michael. The drink he made me was good, and I’m certainly willing to participate in further experimentation.

If anyone knows the origin of this drink, please chime in, because I and others have come up dry. None But the Brave is the title of a 1965 movie, directed by and starring Frank Sinatra, about Japanese and American soldiers stuck on a Pacific island during WWII. But why would anyone dedicate a cocktail — especially one with these ingredients — to such a film? Anyway, it seems unlikely that a drink with such an unmodern combination of spirits would have been created as late in the 20th century as that.

The phrase goes way back, actually. “None but the brave deserves the fair” is a line in the 1697 John Dryden poem “Alexander’s Feast.” The poem depicts Alexander the Great celebrating at a victory banquet after conquering the Persian Empire in 331 B.C. The “brave” refers to the Greek king, of course; the “fair” refers to Thais, a famous courtesan who is Alexander’s date at the soirĂ©e. So, at least we’ve narrowed down the birth date of the None But the Brave cocktail to somewhere between 1697 and 1965.

Further reading:

Cocktailchronicles.com blogger Paul Clarke wrote recently about pimento dram in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Chuck Taggart, who writes the Gumbo Pages, came up with a good recipe for pimento dram a couple of years ago. He then created his own pimento dram cocktail, the Reveillon.

Boston mixologists, including Michael (above) from Highland Kitchen and Stephen Shellenbergers of Dante, among others, are making their own pimento dram.

And as more Boston bars stock this liqueur, you might want to order a …

Lion’s Tail
(from cocktaildb.com)
2 oz bourbon
1/2 oz pimento dram
1/2 oz lime
4 dashes simple syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
Shake well over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

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Posted in Cocktails, Liqueur | 10 Comments »

March 26th, 2008

Ladies’ Night with LUPEC at Toro

Ladies’ Night with LUPEC at ToroAnyone who was at the LUPEC Boston Tea Party knows that the Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails throw a helluva party — and all for good causes. The group’s next event, Ladies’ Night, is this Sunday, March 30, at Toro in the South End.

The Ladies are taking this occasion to toast their forebroads — you know, people like Ada Coleman and Texas Guinan — in honor of Women’s History Month. All those who appreciate both broads and cocktails are invited to attend this coed gathering. No cover charge, no tickets. Just show up around 9:00 p.m. and enjoy a special menu of cocktails made with St. Germain elderflower liqueur (among other tasty drinks), plus Harpoon beer, free apps and a raffle. LUPEC Boston’s newly published book, The Little Black Book of Cocktails, will be on sale. The group will donate proceeds from the event to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Friends Boutique. Dress up in your cocktail-iest attire and stop on by.

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Posted in Events, Liqueur | 2 Comments »

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