Sunday, April 21, 2019

Amer Picon Cocktail (With DIY Amer Picon)

This is my first attempt at this cocktail, not just the first one made with my homemade Amer Picon. I had been putting it off until I could make the Amer Picon myself rather than substituting Picon Biere, knowing that it would not be a balanced cocktail. If you can't make it with the real deal, it's just not worth bothering to make it at all.

There's a lot of lime juice in this drink, but it is perfectally balanced with sweetness and bitterness. Yes, it is still a sour cocktail in the style of a Jack Rose, but that doesn't make it a bad drink. In fact, I think it is a little better balanced than the Jack Rose because of the orange bitterness of Amer Picon.
  • 2 oz. Amer Picon (DIY Amer Picon used)
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. grenadine
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

Picon Fizz (Revisited With Homemade Amer Picon)

This simple Fizz recipe is much tastier with my homemade Amer Picon recipe made from orange peels, Ramazzotti and Combier. It is easy to make, unlike many egg white Fizzes (a proper Fizz in my opinion) but some drinks, especially light and refreshing summer cocktails begin and end with a liqueur (or Amaro in this case) and soda.

That said, there's a lot happening in this long drink. There's a very herbaceous liqueur, grenadine and a brandy top that keeps the flavor of grape spirit strong. For this time around, I chose hibiscus lavender syrup in place of grenadine. This was a good choice. More richness made for a better cocktail.
  • 2 oz. Amer Picon (DIY Amer Picon used)
  • 1/2 oz. grenadine (substituted RAFT hibiscus lavender syrup)
  • 1/2 oz. brandy (Asbach Uralt used)
  • sparkling water
Build drink in a Collins glass full of fresh ice with grenadine and Amer Picon. Top with sparkling water and stir gently to combine. Float brandy on top. 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Prince Street Cocktail (Original Recipe)

Old Town Alexandria needs its own cocktail associated with its colonial history, something classic and regal to contrast it from New York's Manhattan and Chicago's Southside. I give you the Prince Street Cocktail, named after one of Old Town's more pristine cobblestone streets.

This cocktail is based on the Bonnie Prince, a gin, Lillet Blanc and Drambuie cocktail of similar proportions. For this cocktail, I really upped the amount of Drambuie to add richness--look at that honey color! The flavor then becomes one of spiced wine, heather and old whisky. For the gin, I chose northern Virginia's ImaGination gin from MurLarkey Distillery. There's so much spice (Drambuie and ImaGination) and orange flavor(from Lillet and the twist), that Prince Street tastes as decadent as the Royal name it carries. 
  • 2 oz. MurLarkey ImaGination Gin
  • 1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc
  • 1/2 oz. Drambuie
  • orange twist
Combine all ingredients except for orange twist in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist.

(Ketel One Botanical) Cucumber Mint Martini

Now that Ketel One is making this Botanical series with infusions of fresh ingredients, it's only fitting to tick off a few Martini variations using the new spirits. A Martini only requires a neutral spirit and vermouth, preferably vodka or gin, and some kind of fresh garnish. Cucumber and mint are a pleasingly fresh addition to the Martini cannon, and Ketel One's Botanical blend is a welcome helpmate in this regard. Open the bottle and you have everything you need. I do recommend using a large helping of dry vermouth with this cocktail--keep it wet--it is cucumber after all. And if you happen to have mint and a cucumber handy, so much the better.
  • 2 oz. Ketel One Botanical Cucumber and Mint Vodka
  • 1 oz. dry vermouth
  • cucumber peel and or mint garnish
Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Spear a peel of cucumber or use a mint sprig as garnish. 

Napoleon (DIY Amer Picon Recipe)

Lots of cocktails purport to be quintessentially French, which is to say they belong to a French tradition of drinking or use a selection of French-made ingredients. The Napoleon goes so far as to claim France's most notorious Emperor.

But setting all that bluster aside, Napoleon's namesake cocktail is an excellent mix of France's hard-to-find bitter aperitif wines. Amer Picon--so rare in its pre-prohibition form outside of Paris that we have to resort to making it ourselves--adds an orange bitterness to this classic gin drink. Dubonnet Rouge and curacao lend color and orange sweetness.

I could have picked a French vodka and used Cointreau if I wanted to go the full French, but I decided that a rum based orange liqueur like Vitae would work better as a substitute for curacao. Copper Fox Vir Gin is also a nice treat, it's star anise botanical gives it an absinthe-like flavor fit for cafe sipping. I'm glad I came back to this recipe to try it with these ingredients. Take a look at my attempt at this cocktail in 2015. It wasn't bad back then, but this is a surefire improvement on the concept.
  • 2 oz. gin (Copper Fox Vir Gin used)
  • 1/2 oz white curacao (Vitae orange liqueur used)
  • 1 tsp. Dubonnet Rouge
  • 1 tsp. Amer Picon (Homemade recipe used)
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass full of ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

The Gherkson (Original Recipe)

Vodka and cornichons, those little spicy pickles that are often served with charcuterie, are a combination enjoyed all over the world. There's something amazing about dipping a pickle into a cold shot of vodka, shooting the vodka and finishing with the pickle. In Eastern Europe, vodka and onion is a common pairing. Drinkers enhance their experience by smelling a cut onion after taking a vodka shot.

All of this led me to the recipe for The Gherkson, a Gibson Martini with cornichons (gherkins) and cocktail onions. The garnishes are from Maille, makers of a very spicy Dijon style pickle brine that also includes these amazing cocktail onions and whole mustard. The vodka is MurLarkey Divine Clarity potato vodka, and I happily picked up Carpano Dry vermouth. This vermouth contains a lot of herbal echoes of their Antica formula and fits very well with a dry and savory Martini.
  • 3 oz. vodka (Divine Clarity used)
  • 1/2 oz. dry vermouth (Carpano Dry used)
  • Maille cornichons and onions
Combine vodka and vermouth in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with cornichons and cocktail onions.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Picon (Revisit With Homemade Amer Picon)

This is a bitter cocktail akin to the Negroni, but with an overtly orange and herbal swing to it. A drink like this really requires the classic Amer Picon that is no longer available even in France. It has been sweetened and its alcohol content reduced so that it is now only available as an ingredient intended to be added to beer or wine. The Amer Picon that is available now is not the bracing bitter that it used to be in the golden age of cocktails. That is why making it yourself is so necessary. 

Cocchi Dopo Tetero is a bitter sweet vermouth that uses more cinchona and bitter herbs than many sweet vermouths which are losing their appeal in this era when drinkers really appreciate bitterness. I was surprised that the Dopo Tetero has deep roast notes similar to dark chocolate. It is rich! Doing a cocktail with it and equal parts DIY Amer Picon makes for a dark and bitter drink.
  • 2 oz. Amer Picon (DIY Amer Picon used)
  • 2 oz. sweet vermouth (Cocchi Dopo Tetero used)
Combine all ingredient in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

Sanctuary (Revisit WIth Homemade Amer Picon)

The Sanctuary is one of the first cocktails I made for this blog when I thought I had a suitable substitute for Amer Picon--a very difficult to find French Amaro that bartenders now have to recreate in order to get the strength of flavor of the original recipe. All this fuss over the Amer Picon, one tends to overlook the Dubonnet Rouge, another seldom seen classic cocktail ingredient. In fact, at two ounces, the Sanctuary is really a Dubonnet Rouge cocktail more than an Amer Picon cocktail.

Dubonnet Rouge (Love the new label!) is an aperitif wine spirit that is fortified and flavored with a secret blend of herbs and spices. Unlike Lillet, it is not purely an orange flavored wine, though there is some citrus in Dubonnet Rouge. There are chocolate and roasted cabbage notes in the aperitif as well. So with that depth, this wine cocktail gets punched up with Cointreau, a 40-proof triple sec made with bitter and sweet oranges, and Amer Picon, a bitter orange liqueur. The result is a complex cocktail that keeps changing as you drink it. As it warms it takes on a chocolate orange character and continues to be extremely rich, despite having a lower ABV than most cocktails.
  • 2 oz. Dubonnet Rouge
  • 1 oz. Amer Picon (DIY Amer Picon used)
  • 1 oz. triple sec (Cointreau used)
  • lemon twist
Combine all ingredients except lemon twist in a mixing glass (The NY Bartender's guide says to shake, but I really think that makes the Dubonnet Rouge cloudy and it's unnecessary so I stirred) with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist. 

Brittany (Revisit With Homemade Amer Picon)

Brittany is the northwest region of France, known for it's rocky coastline and resorts that dot the English channel. It seems appropriate that an especially fruity cocktail using gin and a French Amaro would bring together the best of English and French qualities in a single drink.

I did not use an English gin for this second run of this cocktail on my site. I thought that the German Monkey 47, with it's dryness and super botanical blend would work well with the bitter Amer Picon and tart juices. It keeps the drink interesting when orange and lemon juices tend to flatten out the flavors of gin.

The other interesting aspect of this cocktail is the use of my DIY Amer Picon. This is made with MurLarkey white whiskey infused with cara cara orange peels, Ramazzotti amaro, and Royal Combier--which is a kind of cognac and orange liqueur with Mediterranean spices. The Amer Picon really adds a deep bitter orange floor to what would ordinarily be a tart and floral cocktail.
  • 2 oz. gin (Monkey 47 used)
  • 1/2 oz. Amer Picon (DIY used)
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • orange twist
Combine all ingredients except orange twist in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously to chill and dissolve sugar. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

(DIY) Amer Picon

I've done it! Finally, I have my own Amer Picon knock off. I got the recipe from PUNCH, which was easy except that finding Combier is pretty difficult depending on where you live. But that is all easier to get than Amer Picon--a bitter orange liqueur that hasn't been available in the U.S. for decades. Even the varieties available in France are no longer the same bitter boozy product that Amer Picon once was.

It all started with picking up a bottle of Ramzzotti amaro. I'd seen Combier on bar shelves in the past and figured that the other ingredient wouldn't be too hard to find. As it turns out, Elixir Combier (which may or may not be the ingredient listed in the PUNCH recipe) is not available in the Washingtion, Virginia, Maryland region. Elixir Combier is a biter French orange liqueur with spices from the Mediterranean like myrrh. It turns out that I could find Royal Combier, the same liqueur with cognac added so that it is a competitor to Grand Marnier. This, I assumed, would be a suitable substitute.

The small jar on the right of the photo is orange bitters. I made these using MurLarkey Justice White Whiskey--a version that is 110-proof so that it makes infusions better.

I takes 2 cups of Ramazzotti and one cup each of Combier and orange bitters. Add 1/4 cup of orange peels (I used bitter cara cara orange peels) and let the mixture steep for a week in the refrigerator. For my bottle, I used an old scotch bottle and printed one of the many images of this long-lost spirit

Regent's Punch

By far the largest punch in the New York Bartender's Guide from 1997, the Regent's Punch serves 80! It is the reason I had to get a dedicated punch bowl. It still wasn't large enough to handle the full size of the punch, so I served it in a half size (see how full that punch was!) and re-filled the bowl when it ran out.

The need of such a massive punch  comes from those colonial balls and large parties of societal figures including monarchs. Take a look at the ingredients to see the kind of royalty this punch caters to: champagne, riesling, cognac, dark rum and triple sec. It truly was intended for regents or the ruling class.

Besides settling on Gruet blanc de blanc sparkling wine over more expensive champagne, I did not deviate from the recipe.  I used Broadbent rainwater Madiera, Appleton signature blend rum, Meukow cognac (Because it tastes more French than brandy) and Combier Liqueur d'Orange as an expensive and high quality triple sec. Chilling all ingredients first was a major help to pulling off this huge punch in time for the party, and having two bundt pan ice cakes ready was critical. Just after I served the punch with the ice and sparkling wine included, I found a large spring flower to set in the center of the ring of ice.
  • 1 bottle riesling or dessert wine (Chateau st. Michelle riesling used)
  • 2 bottles Madeira (Broadbent rainwater used)
  • 1 bottle triple sec (Combier d'Orange used)
  • 3 bottles champagne or sparkling wint (Gruet blanc des blanc used)
  • 16 oz. dark rum (Appleton Estate special blend used)
  • 1 bottle cognac (Meukow used)
  • 16 oz. black tea
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 quarts sparkling water (2 bottles of San Pellegrino)
  • 8 oz. lemon juicee
  • 24 oz. orange juice
Combine all liquid ingredients except champagne and sparkling water in a large punch bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar. Refrigerate the bowl and liquid for at least an hour before serving. When serving, add a large cake of ice (I prefer a bundt pan rings) and top with sparkling water and champagne and stir.