Voodoo

img_4016My Baron Samedi hat was in use at New Year at a masked party & although sadly we didn’t have a rum-based cocktail at the time, I thought I’d properly honour the spirit of the Baron with his favourite spirit, and mix up a voodoo-themed cocktail this weekend.

The recipe comes from Difford’s Guide. and he describes it having been invented by the sculptor and bartender, Alex Kammerling in 2002.

I like the drink – the base is a rum Manhattan variant, made fresh by the addition of fresh lime and apple juices. This turns it into a longer drink, but with plenty of alcoholic heft. The Baron would approve. My only change is to add some bitters to give it a little more zip – and with a nod to the voodoo theming, I have used Peychaud’s bitters (Peychaud was born in Haiti, before settling in New Orleans). These seem to complement the apple and lime perfectly, but ginger would probably work just as well.

Method:

2 shots dark rum (I used Havana Club 7 Años, Diffords suggest Bacardi Carta Ocho)

3/4 shot Martini Rosso

2 1/2 shots of fresh apple juice

1/2 shot of lime juice

1/4 shot sugar syrup

Option – dashes of bitters to suit

Garnish by sprinkling cinnamon through a flame onto the drink.

Shake well over ice, then strain into a Collins (Diffords method) or Old Fashioned glass (my preference), filled with ice.

Benjamin Franklin’s Orange Shrub

Ben Franklin's rum & orange shrub
Ben Franklin’s rum & orange shrub

I recently added Michael Dietsch’s book, Shrubs, to my collection of drink books, this being a history of two distinctly-different styles of drink that share the same name and most likely a common ancestor in the middle Eastern sherbet, a combination of fruit flavours and sweetening to make a refreshing drink. The first style of shrub is the older English combination of citrus and sugar, steeped in alcohol, that developed when this country opened up trade with the caribbean and citrus fruit, rum and sugar became more available. The other shrub is a vinegar-based fruit drink that came out of the early colonial period in America, presumably using the antiseptic and preservative properties of vinegar to preserve the fruit ingredients of the drink.

I wanted to make one of the older, English-style drinks based on rum & sugar, so settled on a recipe from Dietsch’s book that came from the papers of Benjamin Franklin, one of the most famous founding fathers of the U.S.A. He was a remarkably talented man who crossed the Atlantic nine times in his amazing life – no small achievement when this meant an arduous journey by sail. America, as a trading colony, is reflected in the recipe – simply sugar, combined with rum and oranges, and left to steep for several weeks. Unlike Franklin’s recipe, which runs to gallons and quarts of ingredients, I made a smaller batch: half a cup of sugar, two oranges & half a bottle of rum.

The method is simple: Firstly, juice the oranges, and combine with the sugar. Then, in a bottle, combine the peel from the juiced oranges with the rum and leave overnight.

The following day, remove the peels, and add the sugar/juice combination to the rum and shake to combine. The mixture should then be left somewhere cool and dark to mature for 3-4 weeks.

My mixture went into the bottle at the weekend, so will be ready sometime around the beginning of March.

 

Old-fashioned: Diplomatico Reserva

Old Fashioned, made with Diplomatico rum & Velvet Falernum
Old Fashioned, made with Diplomatico rum & Velvet Falernum

We had dinner last night in the Rum & Crab Shack in St Ives, a great restaurant located right on the harbour, which has a range of caribbean & creole cooking, including dishes such as jambalaya, gumbo & po’ boys (which covers the ‘crab’ side of the name). The other half of their menu (the ‘rum’ part) is a 35-strong range of the sugar cane distillation, organised by style, strength, flavour & so on. You could spend a happy evening just sampling their neat spirits, but I opted for their recommended after-dinner cocktail, the Old-fashioned.

I am very fond of this cocktail, because of its simplicity & elegance, and it was great to try a version that not only was based on rum, but also included an ingredient that I had read about, but never actually tried: Velvet Falernum. This is a Barbadian liqueuer, made by John D. Taylor, with rum infused by various herbs & spices – a little like the home-made rum concoctions you are served on beach bars in the Bahamas, each one a secret recipe of the barman, and all guaranteed to cure anything from impotence to hair loss. This spiced rum was then mixed with a very old rum from the Diplomatico range, their Reserva Exclusiva. I had just bought a bottle of this to sip by itself, and so the chance to try it in a cocktail seemed too good an opportunity to pass by.

The resulting drink, served in a cool old-fashioned tumbler with a very large cube of ice, was initially way too sweet for my taste, but after some stirring to dilute the drink with a little water from the ice revealed a much more attractive drink, though if I made it home, I think I would add barely any sugar. The drink had an almost smoky flavour, with heavy notes of vanilla, toffee & treacle, all cut through by the refreshing citrus kick from the lime & orange zests. It was a very good drink to round off a spicy creole meal.

Proportions (I am guessing here from the drink’s impression on me; the menu only gave the ingredients):

2 ozs of dark rum (Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva)

1 oz of Velvet Falernum

Dashes of Angostura bitters

Lime wedge

Sugar cube

Glass: Small tumbler or old-fashioned glass.

Shake bitters onto a sugar cube and lime rind & muddle in the glass until the sugar is crushed. Add a few drops of water if liked to dissolve the sugar. Add single large ice cube, then pour rum & Velvet Falernum over the ice, and stir. Garnish with a large slice of orange zest.

Tribune

Tribune
Tribune

On a recent visit, my friend Andy Grant brought over three of his new bitters recipes, including a bottle of Scelerisque et Absinthium – or chocolate & absinth. The mixture is remarkable – with a really warming, spicy flavour; the chocolate is really subtle, lending an almost creamy texture to the aniseed-like notes of the absinth.

I thought this combination needed a cocktail of its own to show off in, and so began to think of flavours that match the base flavours: the absinth notes made me think of the Sazerac cocktail, and the chocolate reminded me of rum.

So, I elected to make a variant of the Sazerac cocktail, using rum as a base. The end result is really very good, even if I say it myself: there is a creamy flavour from the rum and chocolate, and a mysterious note from the layers of absinth. It’s a pretty strong drink, but one to be sipped and enjoyed. The whole is dedicated to Andy & his excellent bitters.

Proportions:

2ozs of dark rum (Havana Anejo 7-year old)

1 small sugar cube or a pony of simple syrup

3 drops of Extreme d’Absente Absinthe bitters or a small quantity of Absinthe

4 drops of Scelerisque et Absinthium bitters

Glass: Old Fashioned glass

Chill the glass. Muddle the sugar cube with the Extreme d’Absente bitters (if you are using regular Absinthe, then rinse the chilled glass with a few drops of the Absinthe and drain) in your mixing glass.  Stir the rum together with the chocolate & absinth bitters and ice in the sugar mix and strain into the chilled Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a large slice of orange peel.

The Manhattan variations

Simple 3oz Manhattan
Simple 3oz Manhattan

It must be clear by now that my favourite drink is the Manhattan. Unlike a Martini, I have never been served a bad Manhattan – dull, perhaps, or not cold enough, but never bad. 

A Manhattan is basically a whisky Martini: the basic combination for the cocktail is a spirit, flavoured with a vermouth in a 2:1 ratio & then added some zip by the dashes of bitters.  If that combination works for gin & whisky, then it must work for other spirits? And of course, it does.

Here in no order of preference, is a list of the cocktails that have used the same ingredient selection, except for the base spirit:

Palmetto – aged rum, vermouth & bitters (also called a ‘Cuban Manhattan’).

Harvard – cognac, Italian vermouth, Angosturas bitters

Chancellor – blended scotch, port, dry vermouth, bitters.

El Chanceler – blended scotch, or a ‘mild’ single malt, madeira, dry vermouth, bitters*

Affinity – blended scotch, sweet & dry vermouths, dashes of bitters

Rob Roy – Scotch whisky, vermouth & bitters.

Fourth regiment – whisky & vermouth in a 1:1 ratio, then dashes of three bitters: celery, orange & Peychaud’s.

Tijuana Manhattan – tequila, vermouth & bitters.

Perfect cocktail – gin, sweet & dry vermouths, bitters

Presidente – white rum, sweet & dry vermouths, dashes of grenadine

* My own recipe: a portuguese version of the Chancellor, using Madeira.

Dark & Stormy*

The Dark & Stormy, as mixed at the Porthminster Beach Café
The Dark & Stormy, as mixed at the Porthminster Beach Café

Cocktail, or highball? It’s really the latter; the drink really only has two ingredients: dark rum (here, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum) and ginger ale, with more ale than rum. Garnish is a lime wedge.

There’s not much to the drink, but as a pre-dinner reviver, this one really hit the spot.

I’m not a big fan of flavoured rums, but on a fine, sunlit evening in St Ives in the best fish restaurant in the south west, the Porthminster Café, it really was a great pre-dinner drink.

* Naming note: I have spelled this drink with an ampersand. The original Dark ‘n’ Stormy recipe is protected by trademarks, filed by the rum company, Gosling’s, who invented the original drink, using only their Black Seal rum & a particular Bermudan brand of ginger beer (although they have recently changed to their own). If you’d like to know why, then an article in the New York Times will enlighten you.

Mojito – Molecular version

Molecule-R suspended mint  caviar mojito
Molecule-R suspended mint caviar mojito

I recently tried out one of the recipes in the Mojito R-Evolution kit by Molecule-R: the suspended mint caviar mojito.

The recipe isn’t terribly tricky – you can see the methodology on their website – you boil up sugar & mint in water, add a thickening agent, and then form the spheres so beloved in molecular gastronomy by dropping the mint gel into a liquid that causes a membrane to form around the gel. What is tricky is forming perfectly round spheres of mint – mine came out like irregular blobs, so clearly plenty of practice is required to make even, consistent mint caviar.

Making the mint gel, prior to sphericization
Making the mint gel, prior to sphericization

I also discovered that the mint solution has a fairly pale green colour when made, so I added a fair amount of natural green colouring to get something approximating the bright green illustrated on the packaging.

The third point to note is that the recipe given in the Molecule-R booklet lists lime as an ingredient, then forgets all about it in the method. I squeezed the lime into the final mixed drink, as it was lacking something without it, to say the least: a mojito without lime is harking back to the original 1941 version of the drink (according to mixologist David Herpin), but it is not the version we enjoy now.