Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cocktail Wednesdays: El Presidente

El Presidente

This week's cocktail is El Presidente. This drink was a Cuban staple during Prohibition in America, when Cuba was a destination for forlorn drink lovers. Some sources say that it was offered by the president of Cuba to Calvin Coolidge in Havana, and he declined. It's more likely that it was named for a president of Cuba, probably Gerardo Machado, who ruled Cuba from 1925 to 1933.

El Presidente

1 1/2 oz Añejo rum
3/4 oz Dry vermouth
3/4 oz Orange liqueur
1/2 tsp Grenadine
Orange peel (as garnish)

Stir with cracked ice, strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with an orange peel.

Añejo (aged) rum is aged in oak casks. Though there aren't really any legal requirements for this type of rum, but it has generally spent at least a few years in a barrel. This rum has a more full bodied flavor. This was our first time trying it.

The verdict: Both Scott and I felt that this drink reminded us of something that we couldn't quite pin down. I agree with The Cocktail Chronicles that the Añejo rum lends a butteryness to the drink. Scott and I both felt that the orange liqueur was the primary flavor in the drink, and this is really my criticism of it. I am interested in trying a variation advocated by Rundood which contains only 1/4 oz orange liqueur, or perhaps Esquire's version, which uses 1/2 oz. I foresee that either of these would be more balanced. The Cocktail Database recipe uses smaller quantities of both orange liqueur and vermouth, but I already felt that the vermouth wasn't really present. On the other hand, I definitely tasted the grenadine, lending not only sweetness, but also the flavor of dark red fruit.

One of the reasons that I chose this drink was that it contains grenadine, so I was glad that I could taste the grenadine in it. I was also glad that the grenadine was a pleasant addition, not overwhelming, as in the Marvel Cocktail. The reason for this is that earlier this week, I made grenadine from scratch, and I wanted to try it out. In my pursuit of a better quality of cocktail, and given that I had used up all of the grenadine we already had, when I hit on a recipe over at 12 Bottle Bar, making up a batch seemed like a good idea.

Home made Grenadine


2 cups Pure Pomegranate Juice (POM or other brand)
4 cups Sugar
1/4 tsp Orange Flower Water
1/4 tsp Rose Water

1. Heat the juice over a very low flame and mix in the sugar in batches until it is completely dissolved and the syrup is clear.
2. Remove 3/4 of syrup from the stove, and heat the remaining 1/4 over a medium flame until it is reduced by 1/4. When this is done, add the rest of the syrup back to the pot.
3. Add approximately 1/4 tsp each of orange flower water and rose water — just enough to accent the syrup without becoming prominent notes.

I actually reduced the syrup only by about 1/4 rather than the 1/2 called for by the original recipe because it was so thick it was probably at ribbon stage in candy making, so I stopped. Also, the orignial recipe called for 6 drops of each type of water, but because my bottles were open mouthed, so I estimated that 1/4 tsp was an approximate equivalent.

After making the grenadine, I really understood why it is used as a sweetening agent. It is basically a rich syrup made with juice instead of water. I chose to use R.W. Knudson juice from the natural foods section of my supermarket because it was the only one that was simply pomegranate juice without other additives (though, admittedly, I couldn't find POM there). I picked up the rose water and the orange blossom water at my local Arabic market. (I say my local market because it's really the only one I have been to. There are many in the area.) Each of these small bottles of intense flavor were less than $1.50. The grenadine turned out very well, much better flavor than Roses brand, and also much darker and much thicker. I put it in an empty Bushmills Irish Whiskey bottle, because I had it on hand. It was a fitting container, and the color is a beautiful deep red like the seed of a pomegranate when the light shines through it. I look forward to trying it in more drinks, and to trying the rose water and orange flower water, as well.

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