The Mountain Times

°F Thu, April 24, 2014

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The Cocktail Corner

Hey Everybody, let's make a cocktail! Since our buddies from Jack Daniel's are in town this week, let's use on of their fine products. Lets do an Old-Fashioned. Let's use Old #7; the Honey is sweet enough, Gentlemen is mellow enough and the Single Barrel doesn't need any help.

So an Old-Fashioned: A spirit, bitters, sugar and a little water. The end.

"But Tom," you say, "what about the mashed up orange and fluorescent cherry?" I'll get back to that, for now I'll just pretend I didn't hear you and lower the large muddler I have raised above my head.

Let's start. Immediately put a pint glass in the freezer. Any pint will work fine, but if you happen to have a "Yarai" Japanese mixing glass, I'd give you a slight head nod and eye brow raise, which says, "Well played, Sir", without saying a word.

Whatever your choice of mixing vessel the important thing is that it is cold - real cold; ice cold. Might as well throw in your drinking glass while you've got the freezer door open. Something short and heavy bottomed works nice. Speaking of 'short and heavy bottomed', "Happy Birthday, Mom!" Don't worry, she gets my sense of humor, she raised me!

The other two tools you'll need are a mixing spoon and a strainer. Just use a long iced tea spoon or a bar swizzle spoon if you got it. I like the ones with spoon at one end and the trident at the other, great for stabbing garnishes, and people who ask me to pour some cherry juice in their drink. Use a Hawthorne strainer (w/ the springy thing) or a Julep (no springy thing), or just use your fingers. I'm not here to judge.

Let's get all our ingredients in a row:

Jack Daniels #7
Man, I do like the Single Barrel though, I like the bottle. Something about opening up a bottle of bourbon by pulling out a nice fat cork makes you feel like a man. And the bottle would be great to use when you are sugaring in the spring!

Granulated works fine but get yourself some cubes, natural if you can find them. You could always make some simple syrup (half sugar, half water) if you are in a hurry. But what's the rush? You've made it, you're here, in Vermont. Relax. Take a deep breath. No really, as you are reading this take a deep breath, in through the nose for a four count, hold it for four, then out through the mouth for four. Nice, right? Nothing like the Vermont mountain air.

Vermont Pure, but Poland Springs is also great if you're not in Vermont. Or if you have a nice deep well, use that. No chlorinated tap water or seltzer. Seltzer lacks the minerals that give spring water or well water that great taste. Club soda is good, too and adds some sodium that can round out a drink. (Don't worry the carbonation will be gone by the time we are done.)

Angostura. You remember these from your spring break trip to Venezuela, where you and your buddies sat on the beach and chewed on some gentian root. What? You don't remember? Nice. These are probably the only bitters you'll find at the supermarket, small bottle, big label, too big for the bottle, yellow cap.   

Let's build!
Take your mixing glass out of the freezer, drop one or two sugar cubes inside. Move them to the right side of the glass if you're a lefty like me, or the right side of the glass if you are a righty. But if you are a righty you are probably still staring at that bitters bottle perplexed at why the label doesn't fit correctly. Look, if I lived in Venezuela I wouldn't let a little thing like proper label size bother me either. Move on.

Now we'll bathe that sweet nugget in bitters. Hit it with two or three dashes. A dash is not a drop, that's why it's a different word, with different letters, so we can tell them apart. A dash should be a nice steady stream from a gentle push to the glass with the bottle. Not a drip; a stream. (Think Peter North, not Oliver North). Add about 1/4 oz O2 or soda to it and grab your muddler or the back of a spoon and smash up the cubes. Just stir it if you are using granulated. Add a bit more liquid if the sugar is being stubborn and doesn't want to dissolve. Now put your nose in that glass and smell the essence of the Venezuelan Rainforest... mmmm. Isn't this fun!

There you have it, we're done with the sweet and bitter part of this drink.

What? Oh, you're still wondering about the mashing of the orange and cherry you've seen done so many times. Well that's when I would pull that cocktail off the bar, look you square in the eye and say, "Good day, Sir." And you respond, "But I was just wondering..."

"I said, good day!", I retort indignantly.

Look this isn't an episode of "Gilligan's Island" and I'm not going to disrespect you by putting a fruit salad in your cocktail. You're an adult with kids and a mortgage for God's sake.

(Actually it's good either way but I always like to throw in an indignant rant, makes me sound like I care. In reality I believe it's a free country and you should be able to drink what you like.)

Back to our glass. Sans fruit, this time. Pick up the glass and and swirl your creation around to coat the inside of the glass. This will help get your flavors off the bottom and distributed throughout. Give it a nice counter clockwise swirl and another whiff - different right?

Now lets put in your spirit of choice, 3 oz. should do it. Anymore and you risk it getting too warm if serving it straight up, or too diluted if served on the rocks. I like to put my mixing spoon in the glass first then pile in some fresh, clean, dry ice. Really pile it on, mint julep style, then start to slowly stir until that mound starts to melt into the glass, pick up speed and keep the spoon against the glass. Try to do this with out making a sound. This will prevent introducing air into the drink. No jabbing and plunging. A little twist with the swizzle part of the spoon, if you're good, is all you need.

How long? Well, we're trying to get this libation to a frosty 38 degrees while introducing 25 percent water for dilution. I understand you're probably not a marine biologist, so stir it for about 25 seconds or sing "happy birthday" to yourself twice, but not out loud or you may have to pay royalties.

We'll now strain it straight up or onto fresh ice. Don't even consider reusing the ice that's in your mixing glass or the ghost of Harry Craddock will rise from the grave and slap that Hawthorne strainer right out of your hand. That ice is not "seasoned", it's melted and dead. Throw it into the sink after straining and move on. Don't even look at it, it's over.

So we're staining, Hawthorne, julep or fingers. Remember it's a free country and I'm not here to judge.

Wait till the very last second and pull your glass out of the freezer. We need that baby as cold as possible especially if you are serving this puppy straight up (recommended).

Time for the garnish.

Don't even thing about the orange slice with a cherry on top, because that's where it starts and the next thing you know you're ordering a Zombie Energy Drink with Cotton Candy flavored vodka and dancing in soap bubbles to techno-house music. That actually sounds like a fun night but if you skip the orange/cherry garnish you'll avoid your buddies asking, "Is that a Roy Rogers or a Shirley Temple?"

I think a single speared cherry looks appropriate (brandied, if you got 'em). But if you use a nice fat swath of lemon peel it will look like you make $100K more a year.

"Bam," there you have it. If you've got rocks, insert a couple straws, give a gentle stir. If straight, up give a gentle sniff. Close your eyes, review the steps you just made and try your concoction. Nice, right? I can't emphasize enough the closing of the eyes; it brings your taste buds alive.

Well, you're here in Vermont. You've made it. Relax, feel the warmth. You deserve it. And remember, The Road probably doesn't need one. Be safe and tipple, don't topple.