Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Spearmint Julep

This Saturday sees the return of The Kentucky Derby, the biggest horse race in the world. To mark the occasion, Joe has decided to mix up that iconic cocktail, The Mint Julep. In true Greatest Drink In The World... This Week-style, though, some alterations have been made! The Spearmint Julep is the result.

The Recipe:
- Make simple syrup as usual, add one cup of sugar to one cup of boiling water, and dissolve sugar thoroughly
- While the syrup is still hot, add a generous bunch of spearmint leaves,
- Allow it to cool,
- Pour the mixture into a blender and give it a quick "whiz,"

- Pour a 2 count of your "pre-prepared" spearmint syrup into a glass,
- Add 6 to 8 fresh spearmint leaves, (the cooked spearmint and fresh spearmint have a different flavor!)
- Muddle
- "Cram" your glass with chipped ice,
- Stir,
- Add even more ice,
- Add a 4 to 5 count of Wild Turkey Kentucky Bourbon,
- Stir,
- Add more ice still!
- Garnish with a sprig of fresh spearmint and a "touch" of seltzer.

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

It would have been easy to say that substituting spearmint for the mint in this week's drink was yet another stroke of genius on our resident alchemist, Joe's part, or that we, the entire Greatest Drink team sat around a darkened table in a smokey room trying to decide exactly how to improve upon this American classic.

But the truth must be told. It was an accident. A lucky accident borne of a busy night, multiple people multi-tasking and an uncommon breakdown in communication. As Joe was preparing to create this concoction, he delegated the preparation of the syrup and mint mixture to his trusted Sancho Panza-type sidekick and beloved Passage to India fixture, Dilip.

Somehow, Dilip's end result contained fresh spearmint in the place where fresh mint was expected.

Upon the discovery of this departure from the norm, it was unanimously decided to go ahead and try the mix in the cocktail recipe.

The finished result was nothing short of amazing. The spearmint created an even cooler feel to the drink, taking the fire out of the bourbon without masking the taste. Delicious. A real winner!

Joe's Notes: I have been excited about the upcoming Kentucky Derby for some time now. Not because I am a gambling man, but so that I can introduce the Mint Julep into the Greatest Drink library. The Mint Julep is a classic American cocktail, and I think our Spearmint Julep is a refreshing alternative to the original.

As with many of the cocktails that have a herbal ingredient, it was first introduced as a medicinal tonic. A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of serving a real Kentuckian a Mint Julep. The lady in question sat at my bar and as the conversation developed, I was informed that "I am a thoroughbred Kentuckian, honey, bluegrass through and through."

Coming from the U.K., I had always had an image of this breed sitting on their veranda wearing a light floral printed dress and fanning themselves cool from the midday heat. My guest was wearing a mickey mouse sweatshirt and a baseball cap. Not exactly my naïve image, nonetheless, she did insist upon calling me "honey," which delighted me to no end. I asked her if I could make her a Mint Julep as I had never had the opportunity of getting a true opinion straight from the horses mouth as it where. After clearing up that I was not actually calling her a horse, she agreed.

With bated breath I waited for her to take the first sip. " Not bad, Honey" she replied.

"Not bad," I said "is not good."

"Well, Honey, two things. Firstly, cook the mint," she then explained the process of infusing the sugar syrup with mint." And cut the straws short, you want to be able to smell the fresh mint leaves. Also, add more ice, we Kentuckians like our Juleps icy cold"

Grateful for her advice, and with the whole "horse reference" thing hanging over me, I thought better of pointing out that that was three things, and not two.

So I hope you enjoy this weeks drink, it is a collaboration from both myself, Dilip, and a real live Kentuckian.

One final note, knowing that my son had recently done a report on the state of Kentucky for school, I asked him what information he could give me. This is what he said. "Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, 50 percent of the people that get married for the first time are teenagers, and it is against the law in Kentucky for women to swallow live frogs."

Almost not-even-remotely-related video "here.")

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lucky Monkey

Another 100% original composition, straight from Joe’s own noggin , this drink is simple to mix up and makes an after-dinner treat to rival the sweetest of desserts.

The Recipe:

Into a cocktail mixing tumbler of ice, mix equal parts of:

- Bailey’s Irish Cream

- Banana flavored rum

- Creme de Banana

- White Creme de Cacao

Shake well, strain in to a large, chilled martini glass

- Garnish with a fresh strawberry

Recipe by Joe The Bartender, Passage to India Restaurant, Salem, MA

Bartender’s notes:

One Friday evening in the not too distant past, Senior Research Assistant, Kerry, was perched at her regular bar stool. Her hawk-like eyes spotted a bottle of banana rum sitting amongst the highly polished bottles displayed behind the bar.

"Joe" she said, "could you rustle up a little something with that."

After a little tweaking and some supervision from Kerry, I presented her with would come to be called The Lucky Monkey.

"Delicious" she replied. Chris, in his usual manly tones , agreed that it was "Very Good," but a little too sweet for him. "I couldn't drink this all night," he stated.

Sharing my years of experience and knowledge I informed the gathering crowd that as with any dining experience all things had their place. A cocktail (or two) before dinner, a little light wine with appetizer or soup. Water with the salad. A more robust wine or beer with dinner. And a Lucky Monkey or suchlike with dessert. Now upon completion of dinner, the choice of what to drink is completely open. You can start the cycle from the beginning or simply choose to stick to the safe bet.

As some of you may know, I reached what is commonly known as a "milestone birthday " recently. To mark this event my younger, slimmer and slightly more attractive brother decided that it would be a good idea to visit from the U.K.

Bringing with him his wife and four children, they took up lodging in the top floor of my house. A large table was booked within walking distance of my house and we all set off for a fun-packed evening. I was forced to sit with a large, flashing badge, (pin,) announcing my age to everyone in the restaurant. As I watched the badge's reflection mocking me from the mirror opposite , I couldn't decide whether it was through the hand of God, or the delights of medical science that I had managed to cheat death for so long. Sinking back into my Sapphire Martini , (see,) I listened to my brother as he announced that from now on my idiosyncrasies and rather odd behavior could be seen as an age-related phenomenon.

I think it was at this point, or as soon as the laughter had subsided, that I decided to try and drink my way through the 'Greatest Drink in the World ' library. Now, although this is a good idea, I would recommend that for any one attempting this in the future, that it may be advisable to maybe stretch this feat out over a long weekend.

As for my brother and his family, it looks like they may be trapped here for a while due to erupting volcano 's over Iceland.

Happy birthday to me, Joe the Bartender

Chris’s notes: Before Joe's advanced age caused him to engage in long circuitous explanations and to explore each and every passing and only remotely-related thought that popped into his head, he said to me once, "Mixing drink flavors," he said, quite lucidly, "is a lot like baking or cooking. If the core flavors mix well together, the drink will be a good one." This drink explains exactly what he meant...

Bailey's, chocolate and banana. And well together these tastes go! The Lucky Monkey is tasty as all heck, and one sip provides it’s drinker with a full-body smile.

It is a creamy beverage, though, and sweet. This makes the drink seem more like a full-on dessert than an aperitif, (as Joe noted above.) And like a dessert, more than one could prove to be pretty filling.

One thing that wasn't explained yet, however, is the name. When Joe presented this to Kerry and me, it was a "Try this," scenario. It was not yet an official cocktail, as in, it was nameless.

Spitballing , we knocked a few terms about, "Banana & Bailey's," "Green Banana Sundae," and a few others. We had even decided on making a contest for the blog, "Name this Drink" with first prize being a year's supply of rum, or some other motivating award.

As Joe and I were hammering out the details of the contest, how to do it, what to make as a prize , et cetera, Kerry blurts out, (after just taking another good-sized gulp of the drink,) The Lucky Monkey.

The contest was immediately abandoned. We knew that was the name we were looking for.

Cheers! - Chris

("Uh-oh. Chongo!" Token only-vaguely-related video; 'Here.')

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Royal Ascot

A BIG Happy Birthday to Joe the Bartender this week! As is the custom here at Greatest Drink In The World... This Week, a special celebratory beverage was in order. For his own special day, Joe decided to go with the The Royal Ascot.

The Recipe:
Into a champagne flute, add:

- one ounce (or to taste,) of St. Germain,
- five ounces of Pink Champagne,

- Garnish with a fresh strawberry and a small slice of orange

Joe's notes: The Royal Ascot cocktail is named after a drink I was asked to make for the actual Ladies' Day at Royal Ascot. For those of you unfamiliar with Royal Ascot, it is a five-day horse racing event, held at Ascot, which is about an hour outside of London. The first Royal Ascot race was started by Queen Anne in 1711. The race is held on land owned by the Crown, (that is what we in England call the reigning Monarch). Ladies' Day is the pinnacle of the five-day racing event. All the women wear elaborate dresses and even more elaborate hats. The gentlemen wear top hat and tails . This way of dressing started as a spill over from the Royal enclosure and over the years has grown into as much of the day as the racing itself. If you are going to attend the same horse race as the Queen of England you need to be properly attired, and who knows, you may even be mistaken for royalty yourself.

At the time I was asked to make a drink for Ladies day, I was employed by or a rather prestigious London hotel group. To be presented with such a request was quite an honor. I was given an unlimited budget, so I ordered a shipment of Moet & Chandon Champagne and some fresh frais du bois from France. I then steeped the frais du bois with some demerara sugar and top quality Kirsch. This I stored in huge airtight glass jars in the wine cellar for a couple of weeks. A day or two before the big event I strained the strawberries and handed the pulp over to our head chef to make some little tartlets with.

On the day of the event I travelled with my entourage and set up under the billowing white tent that I had been allotted, (not to far from the Royal enclosure itself!) The day started very well. I put an ounce or two in each champagne flute and topped it of with the Moet. As I handed them out I received many "Yummies!" and "Delicious, Darlings" from the elaborately dressed ladies of Ascot. After about an hour I noticed that the noise level in my tent had increased dramatically. The ladies where getting a bit tipsy, some of the "posh" accents were slipping and their true East London accents where coming out. I was getting a little concerned but still not too worried until I spotted one Ascot Lady standing on a chair holding court. Her hat had slipped, thankfully covering most of her makeup smeared face, she had one shoe off, and was waving the other rather threateningly at a group of sniggering women! I unfortunately was unable to reach her in time before she fell and landed on the table of our strawberry tartlets.

I was advised by the Ascot authorities to close my tent for the day. Looking back now, I realise that I left the fruit fermenting for a little too long and had managed to produce a rather potent drink. I was never again invited back to Ascot, but thankfully the whole incident was quietly swept under the table, as is the British way.

Chris's notes: Incidentally, Joe insisted on this being the drink of the week this week as this Sunday marks his, (oh, let's say 39th,) birthday, and of course, no one could argue. The Royal Ascot, (which, in fairness, I thought was either that scarf-y necktie worn by foreigners, or a donkey's bed ,) was apparently named after someplace in Britain, (see Joe's notes!) and I suspect Joe was feeling a tad homesick.

However, after it was made up and served, research partner, Kerry, declared, with her first taste of it, that it was like, (and I am quoting, minding you!) the "most deliciousest strawberry soda in the world!" (She does have a way with words!)

This evening we were joined by guest researcher, Jill, who hearing it to be for Joe's birthday, decided to order one of her own. After her first taste of Joe's drink du jour, (or "de la semaine," as the case may be!) she commented on how she found The Royal Ascot to be "fresh, and sparkling, yet not pretentious."

Much like Joe himself.

(Only vaguely-related video here: "Ladies' Night ")

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Brandy Alexander

From his now-famous "Classics Collection," Joe presented me with the Brandy Alexander, a stark, ghost-white cocktail that looks as innocent as milk, and tastes like a chocolate Fribble.

The Recipe:
While chilling a large martini glass, into a cocktail mixing cup full of ice, add:

- a 3 count of brandy, (a "V.S." should suffice. No need for a V.S.O.P or an X.O., as the other ingredients will make the difference negligible.)
- a 2 count créme de cacao
- a generous sploosh of heavy cream

- Strain into the now-chilled martini glass

- Grate some fresh nutmeg over the top, (not too much!)

Chris's Notes: The Brandy Alexander was a favorite drink of John Lennon's during his eighteen-month long "Lost Weekend," (seen here enjoying a table full of them with Peter Lawford, then-girlfriend May Pang, and Harry Nilsson.) The ex-Beatle jokingly referring to the drink as a "Milkshake."
This metaphor should come as no surprise, as the Brandy Alexander is deceptively smooth, sweet, and chocolaty! As mine arrived, the first thing I noticed was the stark white color. As seemingly pure as the driven snow! (Hardly!) And therein lies its deceptive nature!

But fortunately, the Brandy Alexander is so rich and so heavy, that like any desert, drinking too many would not be any easy task, as these babies would fill you right up!

Senior Research Partner, Kerry, (who appropriated the rest of my drink!) admits that although this may not be a warm-weather cocktail, it would have been perfect to pass the time during her recent "Flood Day" - being house-bound due to a recent flash flood here in the Northeast.

Might have at least picked up the spirits!

Joe's Notes: The Brandy Alexander is a fine example of a classic cocktail. It is a variation on The Alexander cocktail. The Brandy Alexander substitutes brandy for the original ingredient of gin. There are many theories on the name but my favorite is the following.

Rector’s (a famous New York eatery before Prohibition) was having a dinner celebrating “Phoebe Snow ,” the fictional advertising character who traveled the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, always in her white dress.

Rector’s bartender, Troy Alexander, came up with a new, white drink for the occasion—gin, crème de cacao and sweet cream, and the cocktail took the name of it's inventor. The earliest known citation of the Alexander was in 1915.

This, as you can see, forces me to comment on an issue that I have avoided like the black plague: "The great martini debate."

Okay, before we get our knickers in a twist, let us pour ourselves a stiff drink, (preferably one from T.G.D.I.T.W.T.W. )

Fact one: A martini is only made with gin. A vodka martini is made with vodka.

Fact two: An Alexander is made with gin. A brandy Alexander is made with Brandy.

Simple really.

Stir it, (my preference), shake it, or agitate it in some fashion that mingles its ingredients, I don't really care at this point. Let us leave that discussion of another day.

What I do care about is the snobbery associated with the Martini. I have heard too many bartenders dismiss drinks presented in a martini glass as not really a martini. Well, we know that, but as long as the word martini is prefixed with another as in vodka, apple, chocolate, cucumber, or Vesper, I believe it is acceptable.

The martini has transformed, it has changed from its original concept, into a style of drink.

Now I know a lot of you, at this point, probably want to take to the streets with flaming torches and pitchforks and banish me as a complete heretic. But before you rally the good people of the village, hear me out.

Let us take as our example, the car.

Although both Leonardo Di Vinci's and Robert Anderson's notion of what constitutes a "car" has since dramatically been changed and improved upon, (let us, at this juncture, ignore the whole Toyota thing,) the basic concept has stayed the same. That is to say it is a passenger-carrying automotive vehicle. Yet we do not call an airplane a flying car or call a boat a water car. So at what point do we change the name? They are still both passenger-carrying automotive vehicles. Does the word car imply that it travels on the ground and must have a minimum of three wheels?

Let us get back to the Martini. The Vodka (ingredient) Martini (style of drink) tells both the bartender and the customer what the drink is, (just like the word “car.”) Should our snobbery surrounding martinis force us to change these now hundreds of martini drinks names just to please a few?

Or are you with the group that believe that the whole naming drinks “Martinis” is just yet another example of our society's decline in both its moral standards and etiquette?

Either way I would be very interested to hear back from our readers, as I have said this is a discussion and not a lecture, (I am not some sort of crazed megalomaniac.) And who knows? You may be able to change my opinion.

Good luck with that!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

The New-Fangled

Dipping back into the realm of the "classics", Joe pulls out an Old Fashioned recipe and dares to tweak it. Of course, purists would decry any changes to an Old Fashioned as "not an Old Fashioned!" So, we here at The Greatest Drink in the World... This Week respectfully defer, and cheekily naming this variation, The New Fangled.

The Recipe:

Muddle together in the glass:

- a slice of orange, a maraschino cherry, 3 dashes of Angostura Bitters, and 1/2 a packet of sugar,

- add ice,

- add a 3 count of Jack Daniel’s,

- add a 2 count of cherry brandy,

- Top with soda,

- Stir,

- Garnish with a slice of orange and/or a maraschino cherry.

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

Joe's Notes: As you can see I have changed the classic Old Fashioned cocktail to the New Fangled. The functional word being changed, i.e .altered. I have not invented or even reinvented, (is this even possible? How can anyone invent something that has already been invented?) Anyway, I digress. The point being that although the ingredients may have changed, the overall experience of the drink has stayed the same. The Old Fashioned has always been one of the few drinks that not only stimulates the taste buds but is also an auditory and tactile experience.

What, you may be asking yourself, am I talking about? Let me explain.

When you order either the Old Fashioned or the New Fangled from your bartender, ask him not to muddle the ingredients too much. The drink should be served with a small spoon. This allows you to dissolve the sugar to the perfect sweetness. Stirring the ice around the glass will give you the desired watering-down of the drink. Use the back of the spoon to squeeze out how much of the orange flavor you prefer.

Stirring the drink with a metal spoon will produce that wonderful clinking sound allowing your thoughts to fade into oblivion or stimulate your mind to the brink of genius.

Chris's Notes: As you can probably see from the photo, I got to enjoy this drink with a full meal of fine Indian cuisine, so my senses were pretty much satisfied. I approached this drink with a single-sense agenda; Taste! (Not to mention, when surrounded by my fellow "enthusiasts," the brink of genius is a parcel of real estate not frequently explored!)

Regardless, (or "irregardless," if you're one of THOSE people!) with flavor as my primary criteria, I zealously seconded this as this week's "Greatest Drink." The Jack Daniel's is a very strong flavored whiskey, true, but Joe's inclusion of cherry brandy added a sweetness that truly complimented it. A caveat; my fellow researches this evening, Cheryl and Johanna, found the drink to be a little on the strong side for their tastes, (whereas it scratched me right where I itched.) So make certain that yours comes with it's spoon to temper the tastes to your specific liking!

Joe's Soap Box; (A.K.A. Additional Bar Chatter.)

Change can come in many forms: good, bad or indifferent. Unfortunately, I see change happening in the service industry that I am not entirely pleased with. For example, During this past week, I went into one of these new trendy sandwich shops springing up all over town. The young lady behind the counter had obviously got her days mixed up and had dressed for an audition in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The addition of a hair net and transparent plastic gloves only added to the absurdity of the overall look. Patiently waiting my turn to be served, I looked up at the near hieroglyphic scribblings on the menu board. I had no idea what most of the offerings were.

(I still don't know what “khmeli suneli crusted chicken” is, or even if it is legal.) During my wait, I did manage to count fourteen different types of breads, as well as various flavored wraps, soup in bread bowls and the ever present oxymoron, no carb sandwich roll.

When it was my turn at the counter I asked for a BLT on wheat. this is the conversation that followed.

Sever: " Sorry, no tomato"

Me: "You must have a tomato somewhere, this is a sandwich shop."

"Sorry, no tomato."

"Cucumber then, I'll have bacon, lettuce and cucumber."

"No cucumber."

"Yes, you have. I can see some over there."

"That's pickled cucumber infused with mustard seed and fenugreek. Would you like that in your sandwich?"

"Good God, no! Just some mayo then."

"We have a homemade mayonnaise with a hint of rosemary, or garlic and dill infused mayonnaise. Which one would you like?"

"Neither really, just regular mayo."

“Sir," (letting out a heavy sigh,) “your choices are homemade mayonnaise with..."

"You know what, I think I would like to change my order. Are you sure you don't have any tomato?”

No response, just a glacial stare.

The line behind me continues to text, tweet, and Twitter at a furious speed, looking up from time to time to monitor my progress. At this point I am tempted to order a PB&J on Wonder-bread, but I think this may send the poor girl into a murderous frenzy, so instead I say " I'll have the tilapia, papaya and roasted walnut on a sun-dried tomato and basil low-carb wrap"

This she can do!

Leaving the sandwich shop I surreptitiously dump my obscene purchase in the trash barrel outside and head into the establishment next door. I am pleased to see that their menu doesn't have the words "A hint of" or "infused with" and their soup comes in ceramic bowls. I order a slice of pizza and a coke.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for the introduction of new and adventurous items on the menu. But somewhere along the way, many have lost sight of the fact that we are here to serve the public. Lets give them what they want, and please lose the attitude, (and the nose ring.)

Cheers, Joe

(Vaguely related token video: 'Changes.' )