gin

Corpse Reviver #2

corpse reviver #2

Tonight I officially start a much needed vacation.  In celebration, I decided I needed a tasty libation, and one that would serve as a bit of pick me up after a tiring week of trying to make sure everything would be covered while I’m out of the office for the next week and a half.  What better than a Corpse Reviver #2?

The Corpse Reviver #2 is perhaps the best known cocktail from the Corpse Reviver family of drinks.  Recorded in Craddock’s famous Savoy Cocktail Book, this drink is meant to be a hangover cure.  While I’ve tested having this drink after a particularly hard night of over imbibing, I don’t know if it’s particularly effective for the purpose, but it is a tremendously drinkable, and subtly complex cocktail nonetheless.

Made from equal parts of nearly all of the ingredients, I suppose one should expect a fairly balanced drink, but this is one of my favorite classic cocktails for how marvelously well balanced it is, and how well each ingredient plays off the others.  The sweetness of the Cointreau balanced by the dryness of the gin, played against the tartness of the lemon juice, the slight oily note of the Lilet cut by the other three primary ingredients, all capped by the cool bite of the absinthe which seems to heighten each other ingredient’s more subtle flavors somehow.

To make your own, either as a nice evening cocktail, or when in need of a bit of the hair of the dog that bit you in the morning, mix the following together in a shaker with ice:

  • 1 part gin
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • 1 part Lilet Blanc
  • 1 part fresh lemon juice
  • 1-2 dashes of absinthe

After a good shake, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, or coupe if you like, optionally add a maraschino cherry, and enjoy.

A note on the absinthe: some add it to the shaker, others rinse the glass with it.  I typically prefer the latter, as I find it makes the aroma of the absinthe a little more pronounced and present in the drink, but then I am a great drinker of absinthe.  By adding it to the shaker with the other ingredients, you may find it a little mellower, which is a perfectly acceptable option if you’re not a huge fan of absinthe.

For the gin, I chose the wonderfully dry Leopold Brothers offering for its clean, strident taste, but I’ve made this drink with probably close to a dozen different gins and been pleased each time, though I do prefer this with a drier gin typically.

While we’re talking about the specific ingredients let’s talk about substitutions.  If you can’t get your hands on Lilet Blanc, but can find Cocchi Americano, that’s a perfectly fine substitution that won’t tremendously alter the profile of the drink.  For the Cointreau, often times recipes will suggest using triple sec as a replacement for Cointreau, but I really can’t recommend it in this drink.  As I mentioned in my post about the Sidecar, triple sec is sweeter than Cointreau which this drink doesn’t want, and less flavorful, which will unsettle the wonderful balance of this drink.  For that reason, I do implore you, don’t substitute triple sec in for the Cointreau here; the difference is subtle but it is noticeable in my opinion and not in a good way.

While switching out the Cointreau for triple sec isn’t a huge sin, using bottled lemon juice in place of the fresh most definitely is.  You’ll lose the crisp citrus flavor, and instead find acid in its place.  A key to making great cocktails, just like great food, is using fresh, flavorful ingredients, and you should always be using fresh citrus if you can.  I used to occasionally pre-juice citrus for the next few days, but stopped because I found that I’d let a couple days turn into a week or more, and the longer you let it go, the more the flavor changes.  Nowadays, I only juice citrus in advance if I’m going to be making a large number of drinks that day or the following perhaps, and don’t want to be stuck juicing between every drink I’m serving.

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Eastern Empire martini

Eastern Empire

After a rough day, I decided to stop into the store and pick up some more of Fever-Tree’s bitter lemon, and while there happened upon a bottle of Tomr’s Tonic, a concentrated tonic syrup of sorts.  You simply mix it with soda water (1 part tonic to 3 parts soda water), and you suddenly have a delicious, artisanal tonic water!

I used to be quite the gin or vodka tonic drinker once upon a time, though I enjoy those simple drinks on rare occasions now.  This isn’t because I don’t enjoy them (well, truth be told I can’t see the point in vodka tonics anymore, unless you have tragically run out of gin), but rather because I just can’t be bothered to keep tonic water on hand.  What inevitably happens is I buy a bottle because I’m craving a G&T, have one or two, then the bottle promptly takes up space in the fridge, not so slowly going flat until the next time I decide I’d like a G&T, and find the decidedly not effervescent tonic taunting me.  So, a concentrated tonic syrup that I can mix into the ubiquitous soda water (of which I keep a few bottles stocked at any given time, and very rarely let go flat) seemed like a great idea.  Add to that a more “rich, earthy, and exotic” flavor as their website promises, and there you go; sale made.  So, bottle of Tomr’s in hand, I already had decided to forgo the simple gin and bitter lemon I had planned for this hot summer’s evening, in favor of a G&T.  But then I started looking at the cloudy, sediment laden elixir, and thought, well, there’s nothing saying I have to mix this with soda water…

On the long drive through traffic home, I started thinking more and more about this, and tonic water in general.  Images of colonial India, transplanted Brits in stifling Victorian ceremonial uniforms, spices, and increasingly as the drive went on, hot, humid days.  From those thoughts came the idea of this cocktail, whose name came along just as easily as the proportions, which are unaltered from my first thoughts.  Ladies and gents, I present the Eastern Empire martini:

  • 2 parts Plymouth Gin
  • 0.5 parts Lillet Blanc
  • 1+ bar spoon of Tomr’s Tonic
  • 1 bar spoon of Stirrings ginger liqueur

I combined all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and a generous lemon peel, and stirred until well chilled.  I opted to stir this rather than shake it, because I didn’t want the drink to be so cold that you lost some of the more subtle flavors of all ingredients involved.  Plymouth Gin is without a doubt my favorite all around gin.  While not as dry as the ubiquitous London Dry style gins, it’s dryer than many of the botanical heavy gins that I love and often keep on hand.  The juniper note isn’t incredibly pronounced, but I find it more present in Plymouth than New Amsterdam, which I always keep on hand as an inexpensive, inoffensive mixing gin.

Lillet, aside from being a key ingredient in James Bond’s Vesper martini, is a French apéritif wine.  While the Kina Lillet called for in the Vesper is no longer produced, Lillet Blanc is its modern, less bitter incarnation.  It’s made of a blend of wines, fortified with macerated liqueurs, largely citrus in nature, as well as Cinchona bark, which contains quinine, the key ingredient in tonic water.  It’s for this reason, as well as a general preference for its taste, that I chose it for the Eastern Empire.

The ginger is very faint in this, and largely serves to sweeten the drink.  I’m not certain the drink could do without it, though I think you’d be hard pressed to identify it as an ingredient without being told.  I used Stirrings for the spice and bite, though if I had a bottle of The King’s Ginger, I think I would have used it, as it has a similar bite, but also has a wonderful citrus note.  If I had, I probably would have foregone stirring the drink with the lemon peel in the mix, and may have even dropped the citrus as a garnish.

The Tomr’s Tonic holds up well in this, and is really what makes it more than a simple martini.  The bitter quinine taste lingers on the tongue and lips, and there is definitely a distinctly earthy taste that warms the drink.  Additionally, it gives the drink a lovely golden color, though if you don’t drink it fast enough, you’ll find a bit of the sediment from the concentrated tonic separating out.

All said and done, I’m quite a fan of this one, and can see it becoming a regular drink for me.  If you’re a fan of G&T’s, but haven’t made the leap to gulping down martinis like Dino, this might be just the drink to bridge the gap into the world of the martini.  While it is refreshing on a hot day, I think it’d be equally enjoyable any time of year.

La Cascade de l’Anis

la cascade de l'anis

After far too long since our last visit, my sister stopped by today for a cocktail and to head to dinner.  We did a round of drinks to sample, including The Isis, a cocktail that is pretending to be a cider (you’ll see it posted later this week; stay tuned!), and this random experiment.  While a truly random experiment, this one was a huge hit with my sister, and we decided right then and there that this needed to get added to the blog.

This started out with me sitting at the bar, picking a bottle and then just running with it.  What that resulted in is a cool, refreshing, excellent drink for this hot and humid Georgia day.  At the core of it, this is really just a dressed up gin and bitter lemon, but the additional ingredients transform this into a completely different drink, that is distinctly original.  What ended up in the glass is:

  • 2 parts gin (I used New Amsterdam here, for its clean, mild flavor.  It’s my go to gin for long drinks, as it mixes very well and is cheap as chips)
  • 2 bar spoons crème de violette
  • 2 bar spoons absinthe
  • 1.5 bar spoons of crème de menthe blanc

All of these ingredients were combined in a Collins glass heaped with ice, and then filled with bitter lemon and stirred gently.  The result is a very light, very refreshing cooler, with the anise flavor shining through, and playing with the bitterness and quinine flavor of the bitter lemon.  That right there is why my sister decided this needed to be named what it did.  This is sure to be a summer staple here, and hopefully at your home too.

The Isis Cocktail

The Isis Cocktail

Named for the Isis River, as the stretch of the Thames that runs through Oxford is called, this drink just sort of happened, but after taking the first sip, the name came into my mind without any pause.  I made a stop into my usual package store to pick up a nice Belgian style strong ale, and a bottle of Fever-Tree ginger ale for some friends from out of state I’ll be seeing this weekend, and decided to pick up a pack of their very excellent Bitter Lemon as well.

I hadn’t been planning on making cocktails this evening, but was suddenly hit by a wave of nostalgia for the time I spent at Oxford, and the innumerable gin and bitter lemons I drank there.  I kept thinking about the Isis, and sitting by the banks with a drink in hand watching people out punting on the river, the flowers in bloom, and this is what came from those musings.

The results are a very clean, lightly floral drink, with the slight bitterness from the bitter lemon accented by the faintest hint of ginger.  The ingredients are as follows:

  • 2 parts Hendrick’s gin
  • 0.25 parts crème de viollete
  • 0.25 parts Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
  • 2 parts Fever-Tree bitter lemon
  • 5 dashes of rose water

The spirits are combined over ice in an old-fashioned glass, then topped with bitter lemon and stirred.  The rose water is then added without additional stirring.

For those that haven’t had bitter lemon, it is a tonic that goes back to the first half of the 19th century, and is essentially tonic water with lemon juice and pith added.  It carries the distinctive quinine taste of tonic water, but with a pronounced citrus note that is equal parts tart and bitter.  We don’t see it terribly often here in the States, which is a shame.

I opted for Hendrick’s gin, because I wanted to play up the floral qualities of the drink, and the subtle rose flavor found amidst the bevy of florals and botanicals of this flavorful gin seemed like the right choice.  I think doing this drink with a dryer gin, like the inestimable Plymouth Dry gin, would make for an altogether different, though equally likeable beverage.

While the bitter lemon is a major player in this cocktail, the crème de violette is the clear costar with equal billing on the marquee, despite the small portion used.  Crème de viollete has a very intense flavor, and it is all too easy to overpower a drink with the amazing violet blossom flavor (as I learned quickly in my first experiments with it).  It provides the floral backbone of the drink, whose natural sweetness counters and compliments the bitterness of the aptly named bitter lemon, supported by the final garnish of the rose water.

The ginger doesn’t really play on the pallet, but its inclusion highlights the quinine taste from the bitter lemon, and helps bring this drink to its balanced state.