Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Bombay Sapphire Martini

That's it! I have officially lost control of this blog. Joe informs me that this week we are doing HIS favorite drink, and that is that.

What am I to do? Mix my own? I had no choice but to put my trust, once again, in Joe's alchemical prowess in the manipulation of spirits.

In retrospect, I believe I chose wisely.

The Recipe:

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

- a 7 count, (yes, I said SEVEN,) of Bombay Sapphire Gin
- a 0.02 count, (give or take a drop,) of dry vermouth,

- stir emphatically with a bar spoon,

- Strain into the now chilled Martini glass,

- garnish with a twist of lemon.
Recipe by Joe the Bartender, Passage to India Restaurant, Salem, MA

Joe the Bartender's notes: A question I am often asked is "What do you drink when you go out". The short answer is a 'Bombay Sapphire Martini, straight up with a twist.'
But like most of my answers to simple questions, I also have a multifaceted answer, (otherwise known as ramblings.)

To understand how I got to a BSMSUW/T I, like Darwin, need to examine the origins of my personal evolution of drinking.

Just as ape first climbed down from the trees, my early days where very basic and consisted of drinking cheap draught beer at my local pub.

The next step in the evolution process was "finding a mate." I realized that this was not going to be achieved by hanging out in the pub and playing darts with my buddies. So, putting on my glad rags I ventured forth to the more trendy bars and nightclubs. Drinking at these establishments was akin to a mating ritual as depicted in an edition of National Geographic:

"The male of the species first orders a bottled beer. Czech, German or French are acceptable selections. He always drinks straight from the bottle. In this fashion he is presenting the label in a display of sophistication. The aim is to attract a female of the species impressed by his selection and taste. It says: "Look at me! I drink expensive beer beer from exotic places, and I will share my money and sophistication with you!"

(Incidentally, as good as this sounds on paper, it is possible that someone forgot to tell the women , as it didn't really seem to work.)

The next step in the evolution process was the wine bars. The early 80's in London was a time of great excess. Everyone seemed to have money, and easy money is easily spent. I spent the next couple of years either working or drinking in these establishments. (For those unfamiliar with wine bars, they were bars that primarily sold wine and champagne. You sat with friends and quaffed huge quantities of either French, Spanish, German or Italian wines. Everyone was called "darling," everyone was an aspiring sommelier and everyone ordered bottle upon bottle of wine.) Eventually the whole pretense became somewhat tacky.

Turning my back on the wine bars, the next reasonable step was towards membership to CAMRA. That is the UK's campaign for real ale. Otherwise known by Americans as that flat warm beer that English people drink. At this point you should google "CAMRA."

but please remember to come back...

Welcome back!

Somewhere along this time line, I noticed that I had acquired a wife. This made me part of a couple. As a couple we started going to dinner parties. What drink you brought with you said a lot about you as a couple. a bottle of wine was usually accompanied by some Aquavit, white port, ouzo or cherry herring. If your offering was brought back from a recent trip with a story attached, even better. I remember one dinner party where a young lady produced a case of wine she had received from her very own vineyard in Alsace, a wedding gift from her father. Although the wine wasn't very good, this offering could not really be topped.

I feel now that I have reached the pinnacle of my evolution. I am at an age where I can order a proper martini without seeming pretentious. (You really do have to be at least out of your twenties.) And this is how I like my martini. Bombay Sapphire, straight up, with a twist.

Will I evolve further? If so where? Or will I start to slide back down the ladder ending in a barrel of cheap draft beer.

Chris the Barfly's notes: My experiences with this drink are far less autobiographical than Joe's. In fact, I have only had the one, (that he forced upon me!) so, in this section, (known as the brief section, from now on!) I will give my impressions of this cocktail based solely on my limited exposure to it. I hope it suffices.

Well, despite the fact that this cocktail is, for all intents and purposes, straight gin, it is surprisingly smooth. Where most virtually undiluted spirits of such a proof are generally sippers, (or shots!) this drink had me taking larger mouthfuls, just to get the full taste of the gin all over my palate. This is most certainly due to the smoothness of the Bombay Sapphire, backing up all the claims that Joe has made regarding this particular brand. I truly enjoyed this martini and and will never again doubt Joe's judgement.

I learned that this blog is not about control, and who has or doesn't have it, but in the ancient and revered symbiotic relationship of mixologist and thirsty patron, trust is the key.

Trust me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Pale Deacon

While searching for inspiration for this weeks greatest drink. I came across The Pale Deacon. When I am researching a drink for the blog I will experiment with five or six cocktails, sometimes tweaking them here or there while taking suggestions from the Greatest Drink expert Panel, (or whatever bar flies happen to be in on a Sunday night.) The Pale Deacon came out the winner this week by far. In fact, the Pale Deacon went down so well it produced both tears and group hugs from the panel of experts. I also saw some exchange of phone numbers and at least one episode of knee squeezing.

One question that came up was what does the name the Pale Deacon actually mean? Nobody including myself could come up with a reasonable answer. If anyone out there knows what it means please let us know by commenting on this blog.

The Recipe:

Into a cocktail shaker full of ice add

- a 4 count of Tanqueray Gin

- a 4 count of grapefruit juice

- a dash of simple syrup, (sugar,)

- 3 dashes of Angostura Bitters

- Shake religiously!

- salt to taste, (3 hearty shakes came out nice!)

Joe the Bartender's notes: Many, many years ago when I was just learning my trade in London, I worked at a well known "Gentleman's Club," (by this I mean a club for gentlemen; high backed leather chairs, brandy snifters and cigar and pipe smoking kind of club, and NOT the pole dancing, over-priced drink kind of gentleman's club).

This club was frequented by those who held the political and financial power in London. I remember a group of four ministers from the Church of England who frequented the club regularly.

This party consisted of three upper level ministers and one young deacon. It seemed to me that the three ministers where introducing their young colleague to the powers that be, (political and financial, that is, not heavenly, I think they already had that base covered.) Almost as if they where preparing this young man of the cloth for advancement within the Church of England. My conspiracy theory paranoia wonders if this young deacon is now wielding some authority among his flock from some upper level of the church, still controlled by the three original ministers.

Could this be a Pale Deacon?

Chris the Barfly's notes: As far as The Pale Deacon, the drink, is concerned, this cocktail seems to be on a completely different flavor palette from other drinks, perhaps it was the grapefruit juice as a core.

The heart of this drink is the grapefruit juice: so different, tart and bitter, Maybe that is why it stands out so from the typical bar fare. The combination of flavors; the grapefruit, the bitters, sugar, Tanqueray's and salt make this just a delicious drink, and nothing sweet or candy-like about it.

And apparently, good for you, too! Grapefruit juice is loaded with Vitamin C, and antioxidants, helps to lower cholesterol and to metabolize fat. In fact, grapefruit has been called one of the 'Seven Wonders of Barbados,' since its introduction there, shortly after being invented in the 1800's.

So, it was extremely fortuitous, (at least for continuity’s sake,) that we had guest research assistant, Michael B., our resident Barbadian, (and frequent "Greatest Drink" taste tester,) on hand for this evening’s consideration. Michael commented immediately of how the flavor reminded him of home, with the saltiness and the tang of the juice. He took it a step further and suggested that this cocktail accompany kettle-cooked salt & vinegar-flavored potato chips.

This is an unusual drink, but one that I wouldn't hesitate to order again, no matter what flavor chips were served.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Special Request...

Hello everyone,

I need to ask for your help this week. A customer of mine is comming in for her big "4-O" party.

She has asked me to make a special drink for this event. She doesn't like anything too strong, too sweet, too tart, too fruity or creamy. Do you have any suggestions for me?

Joe the Bartender

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dark & Stormy

The Dark And Stormy is the official National Drink of Bermuda. For good reason, too. This thing is scrumpdilly! Joe took this revered and delish recipe and tweaked it with his own touch. The result?
Well, it IS the greatest drink in the world this week, so, there ya go.

The Recipe:

Fill a 16 ounce Pint Glass with ice, and then add:

- Gosling’s Ginger Beer, fill about 2/3s of the way to the top, (Joe prefers Barritt’s when available)

- Float a 4 count of Gosling's Black Rum

- 1 count on Canton to fill the glass

- Garnish with a wedge of Lime

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

Joe the Bartender's notes: I have two reasons for putting the Dark and Stormy up as the greatest drink in the world... this week. First, because it is the greatest drink in the world... this week. And Second, it allows me to use the word 'eupeptic' in a sentence, as in:

"The Dark and Stormy is the perfect drink to accompany any meal because of its eupeptic qualities."

Now I have that out of my system, back to the drink. The Dark and Stormy is one of the few drinks to my knowledge that has a particular brand as a must-use ingredient. Gosling's has trademarked the name Dark and Stormy , so in making one you must use Gosling's Black Seal Rum. I have added Canton to my D&S, as I like the smooth ginger flavor and extra "oomph" it gives.

To my shame as bartender, I had never heard of the D&S until about three years ago when I was in a bar in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and a customer ordered one. I believed at the time that it was a local fisherman's drink,you know, The Perfect Storm , and all that. It wasn't until later investigation that I discovered it was actually the national drink of Bermuda.

I was drawn to the D&S because of the inclusion of ginger beer. Apart from the Moscow Mule, there are not many registered cocktails that have ginger beer as an ingredient.

As a kid growing up in the U.K., ginger beer was always a favorite "soda" of mine.

Ginger beer originated in England some time in the 1700's. The English author, Enid Blyton, in her Famous Five books always had the kids drinking "lashings of ginger beer," when they sat down to one of their feasts. For those of you unfamiliar with Enid Blyton, she was the J.K. Rowling of her time. She wrote the "Famous Five" books between 1943 and 1961. Her gang of four plus dog where upper middle class children always getting into hijinks.

She has been criticized in her writing for, shall we say, not being very "P.C." One criticism is that she had her kids eating an abundant amount of food and drinking these "lashings of ginger beer," when, in fact, England was still under post-WWII food rationing until 1954!

Ginger beer, Gosling Black Rum and Canton. The greatest drink in the world... this week.

Chris the Barfly's notes: Four kids and a dog getting into hijinks? I think I've seen that show!

On the Dark and Stormy, well, first and foremost, you NEED to like ginger to like this drink. That said, if you DO like ginger, you are going to love this drink! The ginger beer is a bit on the sweet side, but the bitter punch of the dark rum, (or "Black Rum" according to Gosling,) totally balances this thing out. But it is the Canton, (a favorite flavor enhancer of Joe's, I have noticed!), that REALLY brings out the flavor of the ginger from that ginger beer.

This is such an easy drink to make, (and make well,) and an incredibly easy cocktail to drink. It is not too strong, not too bitter, and not too sweet, just a tall glass of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens!

Those Bermudans chose well!

Yes, this Dark and Stormy has lots of Ginger. Granted*, but that is not a bad thing.

(*Sorry. I have a hard time NOT doing that sort of thing! -C.)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Maker's Mark Manhattan

Going a little 'Old School' this week, and breaking out one of the classic cocktails; The Manhattan.

The Maker’s Mark Manhattan, to be specific.

The Recipe:

Into a cocktail shaker full of ice, add:

- A 6 count of Maker’s Mark Bourbon

- A 2 count sweet vermouth

- A “dash" of Angostura Bitters

- Stir, (Don’t shake!)

- Strain into a large martini glass

- Garnish with 2 Maraschino cherries

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

Joe the Bartender's notes: It is claimed that the Manhattan was first served to Winston Churchill's mother at New York City's Manhattan Club in 1874.

The original Manhattan was made with America rye whiskey. However, during Prohibition, rye whiskey became very difficult to get hold of, and so Canadian whiskey was used. At the end of Prohibition , it was decided, (by whom I don't know,) that American whiskey should again be used for this American drink. Unfortunately, the production of rye whiskey is a slow process which requires a very long aging process. The bourbon distilleries where able to get back on track much faster, hence the replacement of bourbon for rye.

I know some of you purists out there will not agree with my choice of Bourbon, but what the hell this is about what I like.

I have just returned from a trip with some like-minded bartender friends from a Rodeo in Fort Worth Texas.

After a day of having our senses abused by the smell of horse #@*! and being surrounded by some very large and noisy Texans, we went in search of some more comfortable surroundings, ie. a bar. On entering said establishment we ambled up to the bar to see what was on offer. One of my colleagues spotted a bottle of Makers Mark. After some instruction, the young cowgirl barkeep was able to produce a rather splendid MM Manhattan. We spent the rest of the evening consuming rather a large quantity of these, as well as plates of some indistinguishable meat. I believe there was some interaction with a mechanical bull at some stage of the evening, but after all those fabulous Manhattans, it all becomes rather a blur.

Yea haw!

Chris the Barfly's notes: Without the contrasting benefit of Texans, cowgirls or bulls, mechanical or otherwise, I was presented with this classic and venerable cocktail by Joe.

My first impression was that this is surely not for nuns, teetotalers or kiddies. The Maker's Manhattan has all its burrs; unsanded or smoothed, and is a cocktail requiring a somewhat more seasoned palate. Made famous by Ol’ Blue Eyes and his Rat Pack, The Manhattan became the symbol of style and among the most famous of cocktails.

Now, I have never visited those smoky New York hang-outs of Frankie, Sammy, Dino, and the boys, but one can't help feeling a bit more sophisticated with this little bowl of bravado soup at one's side. It was about mid-way through it, I found myself wishing that I had this with a cigar. Perhaps a nice Cuban, sitting in a plush wing-backed chair in front of a fire. Because that is what this drink does; Makes you feel warm inside and give you a feeling of being spoiled by simple pleasures.

No wonder Frankie and his gang drank them.