Classic Cocktails ~ No. 8

No. 8 ~ Whiskey Cocktail, Old Fashioned

• The First “Cocktail”
• Old School Recipe
• Newer Old Fashioned

Here’s another grand, old school cocktail. Indeed, it is probably the original mixed drink to go by the name cocktail. In 1806 a newspaper editor defined a cock tail as:

a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters it is vulgarly called a bittered sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said also, to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because, a person having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow any thing else.

Source: The Balance, and Columbian Repository, Hudson, NY, v5,n19

Despite the political cynicism, this first definition of a cocktail embodies the Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail and many similar mixed drinks, which used a different liquor. It does not explain the origin of the word cock tail, though. My made up explanation is that the fruit garnish was threaded onto a skewer and looked something like a rooster’s tail. If it were originally spelled cock tale, I might think it referred to political rhetoric.

In a modern bar, asking for an Old Fashioned will likely get you one mixed with bourbon. But back in the day you would specify the type of spirit, for example, “I’ll have a whiskey cocktail, old fashioned.” The Whiskey Old Fashioned embodies all of the flavor components typical of a great cocktail: sweet, sour, bitter, alcohol. See Classic Cocktails ~ No. 9 for more on the subject of wholeness.

Mixologist Robert Hess says that the first whiskey cocktails used lemon, not orange, and had no candied cherries. They certainly had no soda water either. In that spirit, here’s a recipe for a very early whiskey cocktail.

Old School Whiskey Old Fashioned

  • 1 teas. raw sugar
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • 2 slices of lemon
  • 2 ounces whiskey: bourbon or rye

Method

In a tumbler, combine the sugar, bitters, and one slice of lemon. Break down the lemon with a muddler or the back of a sturdy spoon until the fruit is bruised and the sugar is dissolved into the juice and the bitters. Add your whiskey. Bring up the volume with pure ice water. Garnish with a lemon slice.

Newfangled Old Fashioned

Modernistas like things sweeter, more colorful, and easier, but we still have to have the bitters in there. This version is less muddy since we substitute orange liqueur for muddled orange and all the fruit goes in at the end. Although purists say that soda water isn’t authentic, it does lend some zing. Whether or not you use soda water, there still has to be some water incorporated into the drink, either from melting ice during the shaking or by straight addition.

  • 1 tbl. triple sec (Grand Marnier or Cointreau)
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • 2 ounces whiskey: bourbon or rye
  • splash of soda water
  • 1 slice of orange
  • 1 maraschino cherry

Method

In a shaker, over ice, combine the triple sec, bitters, and whiskey. Shake firmly. Pour while straining into a tumbler over more ice, bring up with soda water, and garnish with a slice of orange and the cherry.

With election day less than six weeks away, may I suggest a Whiskey Cocktail, Old Fashioned? It may be just what you’ll need to swallow the grandstanding, stump-stomping, whistle-stopping, banner-waving  hysteria. They can’t buy one for you anymore. Nope, you’ll have to make it yourself. TPJ

Potato Leek Soup with Gueuze

My first trip to Belgium was the wettest September on record, raining 12 of my first 14 days. I was traveling by bicycle and camping most nights. I will never forget the smell of the sodden countryside and the diesel exhaust that hung heavily in the damp air.

I still remember the dour, down-turned faces of women shopping at the weekly markets while I picked out my potatoes, leeks, and lardons. Doesn’t sound like much of a vacation, you’re thinking. True, not for anyone but the foolhardy. Then again, you probably didn’t resuscitate yourself from the chill by making potato and leek soup on your camp stove.

As the cooler fall days approach, what better way to warm up than with this savory and rich soup. It calls for gueuze, an un-fruited sour wheat beer from Belgium. Gueuze, loosely pronounced ‘ghuhz,’ is typically a blend of plain lambic beers of varying ages. A blend of 1-, 2-, and 3-year old lambics is fairly common. The beer is very lively in the bottle and has a pungent characteristic aroma comprising lactic acid, horse blanket, sulfur compounds, and tropical fruit.

Potato and Leek Soup with Gueuze

Ingredients

  • 4 ea    leeks, med to lg size
  • 2 lb    russet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup    lardons, lean salt pork, ham, salt-cured, not smoked
  • 1/2 cup    unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups    gueuze (vintage lambic blend), 325-355 ml bottle
  • 2 ea    bay leaves
  • 1 teasp    sea salt
  • 1/2 teasp    ground white pepper
  • 1 cup    heavy cream
  • 1 sprig    thyme
  • 1 teasp    chives, fresh

Method

Prepare the leeks by trimming and discarding the roots and most of the green tops, rinsing to remove all grit, and chopping finely into 1/4″ pieces. Divide leeks evenly, reserving one half. Peel potatoes and dice into 1/2″ cubes; reserve under water in a large bowl to avoid browning.

In a 4 qt saucepan, heat 3 qts water to boiling. In a separate large soup pot of at least 6 qt capacity, melt 1/4 cup of butter and slowly heat the lardons to render their fat. Avoid overly darkening the lardons. Remove the lardons with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and reserve. Add half of the chopped leeks to the butter and cook on medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid browning. Deglaze with the bottle of gueuze. Drain the potatoes and add to the pot. Add the boiling water, bay leaf, salt and white pepper. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, until the potatoes are falling apart and the leeks are very tender.

While the soup is cooking, sauté the reserved leeks in the remaining butter until soft, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Back to the soup, remove and discard the bay leaves, then carefully purée the hot soup in a blender in batches until smooth. You may have to jockey pots to accomplish this, but you should end up with the puréed soup and the sautéed leeks in the same pot. Taste for seasoning and correct salt and pepper if needed. If the soup is too thin, reduce with constant stirring until consistency is that of a thick sauce. Stir in the cooked lardons, cream, and thyme. Heat soup through and serve immediately with chopped chives as a garnish.

I know I’ll be making this soup again soon. Hope you will try it, as well. Cheers. TPJ

Pears Poached in Cherry Lambic

Just returning home from the Great American Beer Festival I had to know: Were my pears ripened? If you’ve ever grown a garden or fruit trees you know the anxiety that comes with travel. Did the birds/rabbits/squirrels/deer get them? Was there a hailstorm or a frost? Is all well in my little Eden?

And… there they were, just yellowing, huge, heavy, aromatic, sweet. This calls for something special, I thought – poached pears in kriek!

Cheery, cherry lambic, commonly called kriek (Ned.) or cherise (Fr.) is one of the most wonderful and surprising of wheat beers. Fruit lambics are pleasingly lactic-sour, opulently fruity, and may range in yeast-driven flavors from straight-ahead sweet-tart to farmhouse funky. Because of their ingredients and extended aging lambics have lost all trace of hop aroma and bitterness. They showcase complex expressions of wild yeasts and souring bacteria, and yet they retain a certain amount of mouthfeel from the 30-40 percent raw wheat used in the grist. Many have characterized lambics as the most wine-like of beers, but I’m confident most oenophiles would balk at their first taste of a true lambic.

It is this very wine-like aspect that inspired me to take the traditional dessert of pears poached in wine and retool it for lambic. Among the lambics, kriek is closest to the colors and flavors of red wine. In fact, after several years of aging, the cherries become less distinct; the brew takes on a dark fruit melange and effervescence that might be similar to a pinot noir wine cooler.

Poached Pears in Kriek!

Ingredients for 8 Servings

  • 8 ea    Bosc pears, sub. Bartlett or Anjou
  • 4 ea    star anise
  • 1 ea    orange, juiced
  • 1 cup    sugar
  • 1 bottle    kriek, 750 ml
  • 1 cup    whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp    orange liqueur or cognac
  • 3 tbsp    powdered sugar, divided
  • 8 ea    mint leaves
  • 8 or 16 ea    almond cookies

Method

Advance Preparation. In a pan large enough to hold all of the pears laying on their sides (e.g. 4-quart saucepan), combine whole star anise, juice of orange, sugar, and kriek. Heat the mixture over medium heat to dissolve sugar and infuse spice. Keep warm.

While the kriek mixture is heating, peel the pears from top to bottom leaving alternating strips of peel attached to create a striped effect. Leave the stem intact. Trim the bottom slightly so pears will stand upright. Place pears on their sides in the warm kriek mixture, cover, and simmer for 30-40 minutes, turning the pears halfway through and basting frequently. Pears are done when still firm and a sharp knife penetrates readily. Remove the pears and set them upright in a rimmed dish to cool.

Reduce remaining poaching liquid over medium heat until the consistency of a light syrup, to about 2/3 cup, then strain to remove solids.  Cover and refrigerate pears and sauce separately until serving (up to 2 days).

Assembly. Whip the cream in a cold, clean stainless bowl until soft peak stage. Add the liqueur and 1 tablespoon of the powdered sugar and whip until stiff peaks form. Place a pear on each serving plate, drizzle 2-3 teaspoons of sauce on and around each pear. Using the tip of a toothpick, make a small hole in the pear right at the stem and push the stem of a mint leaf into the hole. Place or pipe a dollop of whipped cream beside the pear, dust with powdered sugar and arrange one or two almond cookies on the plate.

There’s an old saying in restaurants, that people always remember the dessert. If you take the time to prepare this fabulous fall treat for your friends or family, trust me, they will remember it! Cheers! TPJ

Summer Squash Enchiladas

The farmers market is a vicarious reminder of European travels.

In my new base-of-operations-slash-secret-hideout (Lincoln, NE) I can choose from many farmers markets. The biggest is the Saturday market in the old haymarket district. I start by cycling along the Rock Island bike trail to market, then I stuff my knapsack full of whatever strikes my fancy. It’s post modern hunting and gathering. When I get home I can put the puzzle pieces together into dinner and few meals for the week.

Last week I trundled off to market and stopped at a little hole in the wall place right along the bike path, Marlene’s Tortilleria. You know you’re in the right place when there are sacks of corn stacked halfway to the ceiling – you wouldn’t believe the smell! In the back room Marlene was operating the Dr. Seussian machine, which magically produced endless warm thick white corn tortillas. She came out to help me and saw the bag of tortillas I’d put on the counter. “Don’t you want them fresh?” she asked. Most certainly a rhetorical question! She grabbed a handful that she could barely hold and slipped them into the bag where they instantly steamed up. I had the cornerstone of today’s culinary puzzle!

At the market I daydreamed about vegetables and cheese and tomatoes and chilis. I picked up a summer squash and a zucchini, avoiding the giant ones of late summer. At Shadowbrook Farm I found delicious heirloom tomatoes and at my favorite chili farmer’s table, a box of bright orange habaneros and juicy looking serannos. But I couldn’t locate my usual cheese maker and decided to stop off at Ideal Grocery for cheese and a can of enchilada sauce. So there was the plan for squash enchiladas. What else to buy?

I had the fortune to find a Persian woman selling rose-scented baklava made with almonds, cardamom, and rose petals. I can die now a happy man. Let’s see, bread and pizza dough from Le Quartier, some nice leeks and tiny red onions from one farmer, and an earthy head of fresh cabbage from another, melt in your mouth peaches and pears along the way.  That was all for today – no more room!

All that cycling around can make a fellow mighty hungry. So here’s the answer:

Summer Squash Enchiladas!

Ingredients

  • 1 summer squash, medium-sized, diced
  • 1 zucchini, medium-sized, diced
  • 1 leek, cleaned, green top removed, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-6 hot chilis, minced
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 12 ounces cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano, substitute Greek oregano or epazoté
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • salt & pepper, to suit taste
  • 8-12 corn tortillas
  • 1 can red enchilada sauce
  • black olives, sliced
  • green onions, sliced
  • tomato, chopped

Method

In a large sauté pan, heat two tablespoons of the oil over medium heat, then add diced squash, leeks, garlic, and chilis. Reserve a couple spoonfuls of chopped chilis for later. Lightly brown the squash mixture, then remove from the stove and allow to cool.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine 2/3 of the cheese, the egg, and the half-and-half. Mix in the dried oregano, cumin, cilantro, salt and pepper. When the squash mixture is cool, combine it with the cheese mixture.

Heat the enchilada sauce in a small saucepan until warmed through. Heat the remaining oil in the sauté pan. When the oil is hot, fry a tortilla lightly on both sides, then, using a spatula, place it into the warm enchilada sauce only to coat it. Place the tortilla on a plate, arrange a portion of squash filling, 2-3 tablespoonfuls, onto it and roll it up. Place it into a flat, non-reactive baking dish. Repeat until the tortillas and filling are used up. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Decorate with your choice of toppings, perhaps sliced black olives, chopped green onion, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, chilis, etc.

Bake in a 325º oven until heated through and bubbling around the edges, 30-40 minutes. Serve with rice, a fresh cabbage salad, and a cold Pilsner. Enjoy! TPJ

The GABF Rant No. 3 – It’s a Marathon and a Sprint

One of the wink-wink nudges you’ll get when you’re among the week-long attendees at the GABF is the old “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” line. Admittedly, it was funny the first few times. Besides, it’s probably true. Somewhere in my pile of notes from a previous year I have an entire essay written on the subject.

But tonight I’m not waxing nostalgic for beer-addled philosophical drivel. I come from the school of journalism that says you should throw out most of what you write – and I do! So wherever that essay is hiding right now it can remain, despite the possibly of a phrase well-turned or an insight seen. (Big breath. That reminds me of why my blog entries are sporadic – because I actually research, craft and edit my pieces, and link to detail that you can follow. Then there’s the little something I call 80/20 thing: that 80% of my thoughts stay with me and 20% get written down. Therefore, ergo, id est… these writings aren’t entirely spur-of-the-moment-op-ed jumbles, dirty laundry, et cetera. And no, little girl, these words don’t come from cabbages. Perhaps another time on that one.)

No, I’m just going to outline my week for you and let you decide. (And here’s another caveat, because parentheses seem to be where my thoughts are living right now, let you decide what type of sporting event this is). Just so you know in advance how I perceive the week (and the weak), it is neither a marathon nor a sprint, indeed it is both rolled into one.

If there is a sports metaphor here, it is more of cycling stage race, day after day rubbing elbows, monitoring metabolism, and risking a cataclysm that precludes your finishing. Strong one day and possibly weak the next. There are the pennants and colorful shirts, the throngs and their wafting social smells of sweat, cigars, bratwurst, and worse. The roar, the lines, the broken glasses. The newly of drinking age channeling their inner 2-year old. The VIP lounges, though entirely subdued by the standards of my old hangout (Las Vegas). And don’t forget the media darlings – the Sam, the Charlie, the Koch, and the other Koch. Side events take over the shadows in lesser venues and the commerce that erupts backs up from disgusting bathrooms like too much apple juice and milk in a baby’s stomach. There are pop stars who rise above their fellow brewers, royalty among the writers (one imagines there are), and at least 155 certifiable beer bloggers, among whom I seem not be numbered.

Lo, amidst this chaos there is an order. I have a place in that order. It is neither glamorous nor redundant. In bicycling terms I am a domestique, a helper of sorts. I go with the flow of the day and jump when there’s a need. But I’m not just resting in between, I’m still pedaling at 80% between jobs. I am part of l’equipe (“the team”), that this year will judge nearly 3,600 beers in a mere two and a half days (yes, we’re very efficient!). I am a chronicler of events. I am a gourmand, a Bohemian, an explorer. I am a snob and a prick. And I am just one of 49,000. Here is my schedule.

      Tuesday

    • Fly to Denver, arrive 7:30 am. Take shuttle downtown.
    • Drop bags at bell desk. Go to Wynkoop.
    • Judge Lallemand dry yeast contest 11:30-4:30.
    • Run to hotel, change, check in.
    • Get judging assignments, attend judge orientation.
    • Meet friend/colleague Melissa Cole from London.
    • 5-course beer dinner at Mizuna (details in a future post).
    • Cab back to Falling Rock, mind the toilets, have a nightcap.

      Wednesday

    • Get up, 6 am, workout.
    • Breakfast 7:30, cleanup.
    Judging 8:45 am-5 pm, lunch included.
    • Back to room, take online French exam.
    • Head out, choose between 5 venues within walking.

      Thursday

    • Get up, workout, breakfast, as before.
    • Judging all day.
    GABF first session, 5:30-10.
    • Attend food-beer tasting lectures.
    • Seek out food beers at a dozen booths.
    • Back to hotel for Keg Ran Out Club (KROC) festivities.

      Friday

    • Get up, workout, breakfast, as before.
    Judging until noon.
    • Grab a glass of beer from the lobby bar.
    • Run (literally) 8 blocks to Falling Rock.
    • Judge the Alpha King Challenge
    (Crown America’s Hoppiest Beer)
    • Scram to Jax in time for happy hour (oysters and martinis)
    GABF 2nd session, 5:30-10.
    • Attend food-beer tasting lectures.
    • Seek out sour beers at a dozen booths.
    • Hit the town for late night grub.

      Saturday

    • Get up, workout, but skip breakfast.
    • Walk a mile to Cheeky Monk for beer breakfast with the Bruery.
    • Time permitting, catch up with my notes.
    • Walk another half mile to Bones for cooking class 12-2 pm.
    GABF 3rd session, 12:30-4:30, arrive at 2:30 after Bones.
    • Work at the Cicerone booth promoting beer expertise.
    • Bail around 4 to beat the supper rush, many options.
    • Return to festival for 4th session 5:30-10 pm.
    • Attend food-beer tasting lectures.
    You Be the Judge Booth with Paul Gatza, 8:30-9 pm
    • Back to hotel, nightcap.

      Sunday

    • Airport shuttle 7:05 am.

Those who’ve been on one of my beer expeditions in Europe/UK know that this schedule is not unusual, just throw in a few castles and farmers markets!

Cheers! TPJ

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