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.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Flooding: Update 8

Now that we've gotten back to working on the basement rater than Dragon*Con costumes, we've made a considerable amount of progress that I want to share with you.

Basement Progress: New wall framing

Scott has framed out the new opening to the storage room. We are relocating the door, and the new space will have a pair of bifold doors that will allow us to get things in and out easily. In the hallway where the door used to be, we will be adding a wall and closing off part of the hallway as a linen closet.

Basement progress: mudding drywall

Meanwhile, I have taped and mudded the new drywall.

Basement Progress: All primed

I also primed the whole space, including the gyp board ceiling. Although the ceiling was already white, there were many cracks and nicks that I had to repair, so I just primed the whole thing. Additionally, I'm pretty sure it was never painted originally, and there was even overspray on the soffit above the fireplace from when they painted the brick.

Basement Progress: Color selection

Here, you can see the samples I brought home in the process of narrowing down the paint color selection. We chose the scheme on the left. It's a bit dark, but not terribly so, and I think that the ultimate result will be similar in feel to this inspiration photo:

Image on Frog Hill Designs, found via Pinterest.

Here's another inspiration photo showing a bit of the two-tone effect:

Image from amazing bespoke cabinetry company Plain English Designs.

At least for now, you can see a number of things I was thinking about color-wise on a Pinterest board I created for the purpose.

Basement Progress: Painting - 1st coat of upper color

Today, I painted the first coat of the lighter color over almost all of the finished walls. You can see it starting to come together.

What I don't understand is how working for much longer and getting much more painting done was nowhere near as exhausting as yesterday's ceiling painting. Holding things over my head is just not my strong suit.

Cocktail Wednesdays: The Buster Brown

Buster Brown Cocktail

Yesterday, spent the afternoon and early evening priming the ceiling in the basement (not to mention a few walls before that), and by the time Scott got home, I was ready to collapse. I didn't have the energy to cook the meal I had thawed ingredients for, and I hadn't picked a cocktail either. Scott sweetly took care of everything, but not a cocktail. Tonight, on the other hand, I felt up to trying something. I picked something with lemon, since Scott wasn't having a cocktail with me; he just had a glass of whiskey. This Cocktail Wednesday Thursday's drink of choice was the Buster Brown.

I can only assume that the Buster Brown is named after the cartoon character, but I can't confirm that, and there are also other candidates in a blues singer and a baseball player. It is a twist on the whiskey sour. The Buster Brown has 25-50% less lemon juice, and it adds the aspect of orange bitters.

The Buster Brown:

1 1/2 oz Bourbon
1/2 oz Lemon juice
1/2 oz Simple syrup
2 ds Orange bitters

Combine all ingredients and shake over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

The recipe I used came from a new favorite resource of mine, Kindred Cocktails. I found this website through a comment on my misguided first attempt at the Colony Cocktail. Not that we've tried a second attempt yet, but we do know what real maraschino is now! At any rate, the reason I find it useful is that you can not only search and filter recipes by ingredient or recipe name, but you can also create a "Cocktail Book" of recipes you like or want to try, and you can rate drinks. You can create categories within your cocktail book, and you can print a menu with recipes. Some other Buster Brown recipes I found while trying to find something on the history of the drink have less syrup or less lemon juice. The recipe on the Cocktail Database uses sugar rater than simple syrup, and the recipe on Vintage Recipes uses gum syrup. Personally, I'm a bit curious as to what the results would be it I substitute syrop de citron, ad if this is something I could try routinely for Scott to bring down the acid level in drinks with lemon. Then again, he might be able to handle the reduced quantity of lemon in this drink.

The verdict: Personally, I find this much nicer than a typical Whiskey Sour. The orange bitters add a surprising amount of orange flavor for such a small quantity, and it balances fairly equally with the lemon. The bitters add depth to the drink as well, in a way that orange juice would not. Perhaps it could use more whiskey and/or less simple syrup, but I did like it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cocktail Wednesdays: The Sensation

The Sensation Cocktail

This week's cocktail is a bit of the last gasp of summer, as it is a crisp, cool drink. The drink is called Sensation, and it's a cocktail that includes some ingredients from the Mojito and some from the Last Word.


6 leaves Mint
1/2 oz Maraschino Liqueur
1 1/2 oz Gin
2/3 oz Lime juice

In a mixing glass, muddle the mint with a few ice cubes and the maraschino until the mint is broken to very small pieces. Add more ice and the gin and juice, shake until cold. Strain into sugar rimmed cocktail glass.

The verdict: We both enjoyed this drink a lot, though not quite as much as last time's Fancy Free or The Last Word. The Sensation is crisp from the mint, and the gin balances nicely with the marachino in these proportions, as opposed to the dominance of the marachino in other drinks we've tried. Scott found it to be too tart, but I did forget the sugar rim, so that may be the culprit. I may have to give it another try, just to see, or reduce to 1/4 oz of lime juice. I decided to serve it with a sprig of mint, but I really preferred the look of the simple cocktail with just the tiny floating mint pieces.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Food History

We didn't have a cocktail this week, since Scott was feeling sick. Instead, I thought I would share with you what I was watching last night.

Appetite City is a fabulous TV series on New York City local TV. It's about the history of food in New York, and to a certain extent, America as a whole. I have been finding it rather fascinating. You can watch full episodes online.

I was turned on to this show by historical gastronomist, Sarah Lohman. I've been following her blog, Four Pounds Flour, for a while now. She researches historic food and tries old recipes, posting the results on her site. She both converts old recipes for the modern kitchen and demonstrates hearth cooking at a historic site. She also cooks during a segment of the Appetite City show. You can watch her try pickled oysters or the original baked Alaska. You can read about her adventures from cooking bear meat to trying recipes from the very beginning of the vegan movement.