Thursday, December 31, 2009

Johnnie Mac

"So, what's on for New Year's?" I asked Joe, all excited for a nice winter's brew to warm the chill out of my bones.
"Hogmanay!" he replied.
"Hogmawha? Sounds, uh, tasty."
Joe explained, (with the needed patience,) how "Hogmanay" was not the drink for New Year's, but the name of the holiday itself. At least the holiday celebrated in Scotland, from where this week's 'Greatest Drink in World' hails.

'Twas many years ago. A young Joe, then a journeyman, plying his mixological trade from town to town, found himself at a wee pub just north of Aberdeen. Mid-afternoon saw locals wander in and, along with their square sausage, tatties, and scones, a common order was the Whisky Mac. At this point of his travels, Joe knew of this drink, and had mixed his share, but it wasn't until that mid-winter's chill at the pub had he witnesses firsthand the drink's hold on it's people. And for good reason; this drink is among their own and absolutely brilliant.

The Recipe:
- Add boiling water to taste.

Most commonly served in a whisky glass, (mine arrived in a brandy snifter, apparently to amplify the experience through both the feel of the heat and the smell of the ginger, or something like that.)
Original recipe by Col. MacDonald, RAJ, India

Bartender's Notes: The Whisky Mac is a traditional Scottish drink, and with the New Year's Eve celebration of Hogmanay, it seemed only natural to combine the two.

The 'Whisky Mac' was invented in the 1800's when a Scottish Colonel in the Indian Army decided to mix Ginger Wine in with his scotch. This may have something to do with the belief that ginger, and likewise Ginger Wine, possessed medicinal and aphrodisiacal properties, which may have been the impetus behind the slogan, "Stay Up With Stone's!"

The recipe calls for scotch, and Johnnie Walker Black is among the higher-end, blended whiskies. It's addition is what gives the drink the name, the "Johnnie Mac."

It is important to note that "scotch" means the drink and not the people. The people are know as "The Scots" and referring wrongly to one or the other would be unwise in either situation.

Chris's Notes: With the first sip of this concoction, I was awash with warmth. It was like drinking a hug from a favorite aunt. In it's warm embrace, I found a comfort and support. The crisp snap of the Johnnie Walker, complimented expertly by the sweet ginger, was brought up to new heights with the addition of the hot water. It was as if my whole self was going, "Aaaahhh" and "Mmmmm," at the same time, watching the shivers leave me. This is a highly recommended cocktail to warm a body this time of year, and not something to just be reserved for Hogmanay or New Years.

For a more in-depth look at Johnnie Walker and his legacy, you can view the 6 minute film, "The Man Who Walked Around the World," starring Robert Carlysle, Right here!
(Click for the Johnny Walker film.)

So get your Black Bun and "Lang may yer lum reek"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Turkish Delight

This week's drink,"The Turkish Delight," shares its title with the candy of the same name. The candy version is a sweet, soft, pink, jelly candy, usually cut into small squares and most often arrives in a soft tissue-lined candy box sprinkled with superfine sugar.

Turkish Delight, (the candy,) dates back to 15th century Turkey, where it was known as Lokum, (Arabic for 'morsel' or 'mouthful.') It was introduced into England in the mid 19th century under the name Turkish Delight. It was supposedly a favorite of Lawrence of Arabia.

Turkish Delight is featured in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and has seen a recent surge in popularity in Europe since the release of the film version: "The Chronicles of Narnia ."

The Recipe:

Into a cocktail shaker filled with ice:

- Add a 3 count of Svedka Vanilla Vodka,

- Add a 2 count of White Creme de Cacao,

- Add a dash of "rosewater,"

- Add two tablespoons of honey,

- Add 1 shot of chilled water,

- Add two drops of Grenadine,

- Shake festively.

- Strain into a Brandy Snifter,

- Garnish with a cherry and a slice of lemon.

Original recipe by Joe the Bartender, Passage to India Restaurant, Salem, MA

Bartender's Notes: I have included this cocktail in the 'Greatest Drink in the World' for two reasons: Firstly, because it tastes exactly like Turkish Delight. And secondly, because no Christmas in England would be complete without a box of Turkish Delight. In modern England, it may appear peripheral, but it is still present.

Turkish Delight is not to everybody’s taste, it is rather an acquired taste, in fact, I recently found it on a list of 100 things to eat before you die. But if you follow the recipe exactly and give it to your English friends, they will be amazed. Try serving it with a bowl of unshelled roasted pistachio nuts with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Chris's notes: While fellow patron, Johanna, likened the flavor of this drink to the popular Scottish beverage, "IRN BRU," I found the taste of this drink to be just like drinking a glass of candy. I can only assume the candy in question is the Turkish Delight that the drink is named after, as I am unfamiliar with this particular confection, (as I likewise am with IRN BRU,) but this was quite yummy and I believe its namesake was what the White Witch from Narnia used to seduce that kid into betraying his siblings. That there's some formidable stuff!

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Catarina

"It's time to get out of London."

Cheryl and I looked at each other nervously. "Uh, what are talking about, Joe?" we asked, tentatively.

Joe explained that the weather here in Salem was similar to back in London about this time of year. But when the dreariness, damp and chill gets too much for those Londoners, they head for Spain. Or Portugal. Or some, like Joe, head to the Canary Islands for a little taste of summer to warm the chill out of their hides.

While we were relieved as to the state of Joe's stability, he continued to describe a drink favored by tourists on those holidays, and produced a special glass which he had brought in that he decided would best compliment this concoction. He named the drink after the Square where he tended bar in Las Palmas and witnessed the hold this cocktail had on visitors.

The Recipe:

Into a large wine goblet full of ice

- Add a 1 count of Chambord,

- Add a 3 count of white wine, (Pinot Grigio,)

- Add a 3 count of tonic water, (or equal parts tonic water/wine,)

- Stir.

- Add a handful of berries,

- Add a fresh slice of orange, (the orange is more important to the taste than the berries!)

- Ignore the straw and gulp fearlessly from the rim!

Original recipe by Joe the Bartender, Passage to India Restaurant, Salem, MA

Bartender's notes: Grand Canaria surprisingly has a very diverse and interesting grape population used to produce some very fine wines. Naturally in Las Palmas we would use one of the local wines. Another great choice would be a White Rioja but I find the extra expense is not really justified. I have also used Chambord instead of the original Cassis, as it is far more widely available. Note crème de cassis is the syrup and not the liqueur and should not be used; way to sweet.

Replace your sangria with the Catarina. I have worked in a number of Spanish bars, and trust me it is not a good drink. They use the cheapest red wine and whatever liquor in a plastic bottles the cheapest at the corner store. Also the fruit is usually the near-rotten fruit the market is about to throw out. The only guarantee you will get with sangria in Spain is the most wicked hangover of your life.

The best sangria I have ever had is ironically enough, here in the US. I suppose you guys have standards.

Chris' Notes: Thanks, Joe. Standards are important to us, booze-wise.

Impressions on the Catarina: This is a definite gulping brew. More like a 'Grown-up's Gatorade' in respect to refreshing. I can see a dozen or so of these ripping down quite easily on a hot summer afternoon, (or even a winter afternoon, if spent someplace appropriately tropical.) My "research partner" today is my wife, Cheryl, who, after taking a sip, declared the drink 'hers.' She concurred with Joe and me and took it to the next step saying that this would be the perfect drink when coming back from a long run.

That's refreshing! Like a vacation in a glass.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pink Gin

This week's drink is NOT an original, nor is it a creatively-interpreted tavern standard, but a traditional, pedigreed cocktail, with a respected recipe as set in stone as cocktail recipes get.

The Recipe:

- Into a Delmonico Glass, (AKA "Whiskey Sour Glass"):

- Add approximately two teaspoons of Bitters, and roll it around to coat the glass,

- Dump it out.

- Add a 4 count of Beefeater Gin,

- Add water to taste, (1/4 to 1/2 cup)

Bartender's Notes: Firstly, the recipe I have offered is from my days as a barman in Whitechapel Road in the east end of London. Pink Gin was always made to the same formula. It was drunk by the nearby market workers as well as the Girls working the area. It was a favorite among the working class, (Blue Collar,) often accompanied by a pint of bitter (Ale).

I am sure that Whitechapel’s most famous visitor ("JtR,") or one of his rather unfortunate “Friends” enjoyed a Pink Gin at some time.

Second: Do not add Ice. I never once added ice to a pink gin during all my years in London.

Next: The Tonic Water confusion: Angostura Bitters was first produced by DR. Johann Siegert of Germany when he was stationed at the port of Angostura in Venezuela. It was used as to eliaviate the many stomach disorders of that area. Angostura was added to tonic water by sailors and those in the West Indies to mask the flavor of quinine. Hence the confusion of adding tonic to a pink gin. It was not until 1830 when Bitters arrived in England that the tonic water was replaced by gin.

Lastly, if you do choose to change the recipe for Pink Gin then there are a few rules: Ask yourself, Are you paying? And are you drinking this yourself? If the answer is "yes" to both, then please, by all means, do what you want to it. Add a cherry and some fruit juice, Shake it and strain it into a chocolate rimmed martini glass. Garnish it with a straw umbrella and a twist of mango peel. Whatever you want, just don't call it a Pink Gin!

Chris's Notes: The bitters really brings out the flavor of the gin, and gives it a smoky, pine-y taste, like drinking something brewed in a forest. Or, as Kerry put it, " a sultry, late-autumn cocktail, with hints of smoke through the evergreens."


Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Chili-Chocolate Martini

--- ♪ “Happy Birthday To Me.

Happy Birthday to Me.

Happy Birthday, Dear Chri--♫--issss,

Happy Birthday To Me.” ♪ ---

Okay, so it’s my birthday. And every good birthday-boy deserves cake, right? I am no different. Only problem is, I have never been a big cake eater. BUT what if that cake was made of vodka and chocolatey liqueurs? AND what if that vodka-and-liqueurs-cake also had the punch of spicy cayenne pepper?

I give you The Chili-Chocolate Martini. (I repeat, “Happy birthday to me!”)

The Recipe:

While chilling a large martini glass, into a cocktail shaker of ice:

- Add a 3 count of Van Gogh Pomegranate Vodka

- Add a 3 count of Godiva Chocolate Liqueur

- Add a “sploosh” of Creme de Cocoa

- Add a squirt of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup

- Add a “generous” pinch of cayenne pepper, (tolerance depending!)

- Shake Exhuberantly!

- Drizzle chocolate syrup around the inside of the now-chilled martini glass,

- Strain into the drink into the chocolatey martini glass

- Ganish with a cherry.

Original recipe by Joe the Bartender, Passage to India restaurant, Salem, MA

Bartender’s Notes: The first recorded chili-chocolate recipe stems from the Aztecs, they produced a hot chocolate drink from cocoa beans and ground dried chillies.

I am sure that a few of the more inventive Aztecs threw in a sploosh of tequila, especially on a first date. (Did Aztecs date?)

I found my inspiration for the Chili-Chocolate Martini while visiting my favorite Boston chocolatier. He had made a pomegranate chili chocolate truffle.

I instantly thought, I could make a drink from that. Et Voila! The Chili-Chocolate Martini!

Chris’s notes: The cayenne pepper starts out as a delayed aftertaste from the first sip, providing a very subtle tingling. With the following sips, however, this taste is far more pronounce, and really opens the taste buds up for a total immersion in the creamy chocolisciousness. One of the best birthday cakes I’ve ever had.

Incidentally, the making of this drink at the bar caused no fewer than four other people to order one right then and there.

Nobody was disappointed for following this impulse.

Salud, Chris

Further cocktail-napkin scribblings: Joe thinks that the The CCM could use a catchy name! Kerry, (dedicated research partner/sister,) has proven herself adept in this area, (see "Lucky Monkey.") Joe suggested "Sunday School Teacher" due to the drink's primary characteristics; sweet, yet hot!

Any name suggestions will be considered and voted on by a panel of enthusiasts, (and we'll try to do it early in the evening!) The best suggestion will officially become the new name of this concoction and its author mentioned here, highly.

Okay, plus, I'll buy you a round some Friday night.