"When the wine goes in, strange things come out." ~Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, The Piccolomini, 1799

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Sour in the Sweet

One of the secrets to mixing a good cocktail is balance. The right amount of sweet, countered with the right amount of sour, stimulating the appropriate taste buds to create a pleasing mix of flavour.

My grandmother came out of her sitting room recently holding up a bottle and said, "What am I supposed to do with this?" It was a full bottle of Limoncello, one of the nicest liqueurs for assisting in this sweet vs. sour mixology; a lemony, slightly sour liqueur which I have found to be indispensable in martini mixing to counter the sweet content. While similar effect can be achieved with a splash of lemon juice, the Limoncello has a strong lemon flavour, with less of the bitterness of fresh lemon juice.

Take for example the following mix:

1 1/2 measures mango rum
1 1/2 measures Alizé Wild Passion liqueur
3 measures mango pineapple juice

Sounds almost sickly sweet doesn't it? So add to that a three quarter-measure of Limoncello and the sweetness subsides, the mango flavour comes through clear with a citrus finish. Truly brilliant stuff.

Until next time,

Drink With Care, Friends

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Bitters Truth

I lived in a house with Angostura Bitters for most of my life. It was used sparingly but used, particularly in drinks, enough that I could recognize its very distinctive bottle anywhere. But it would seem that my house was the exception and not the rule as most of my friends now have never tasted, and some have never heard, of Angostura Bitters.

Developed in 1824 by Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, Angostura Bitters was named for the town of Angostura in Venezuela where Dr. Siegert had been appointed as the surgeon general by Simón Bolívar. The aromatic bitters were originally brought into existence as a stomach ailment remedy for Dr. Siegert's friends and family, however it's restorative properties were quickly discovered by sailors as a cure for seasickness and thus the product began traveling the world.

By 1830, Dr. Siegert had begun export of the bitters to England and Trinidad and by his death in 1870, a partnership between his eldest son Carlos had been established and Don Carlos, as he became known, began exhibiting his father's brainchild the world over, including Paris, Vienna, Philadelphia, and Australia. By the end of 1960, Angostura Bitters was being exported to 140 different countries.

The taste itself is extremely distinctive. Tried once, you will forever remember the flavour and will be able to identify it quite readily. Deep red in colour, it is a terrific addition to many beverages, but should not be ignored as an additive to meat, fish, or even desserts.

Determined to bring Angostura Bitters to the knowledge of my friends, I recently threw a small dinner party where it was the central focus of the evening. My guests were first treated to a classic Champagne Cocktail; a sugar cube placed in the bottom of a champagne flute, soaked in a few drops of bitters, half an ounce of brandy or cognac and topped with champagne. The sugar slowly dissolves into the drink, releasing both its own sweetness and the flavour of the bitters at the same time.

Next, I prepared a dish I found on the Angostura web site called Chicken with Champagne and Bitters Beurre Blanc. It was easy to prepare, basically chicken breast with accompanying veggies, but the sauce of shallots, champagne, bitters, cream, and finished with butter was the star, turning a rather ordinary sounding dish into very extraordinary.

The Angostura Group hosts a bi-annual Global Bartender's Challenge in which bartenders from all over the world are challenged to prepare original creations both alcoholic and non. One of 2008's winning recipes was from Danilo Oribe of the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and called the Angostura Vice, which my guests finished their Angostura experience with.

Angostura Vice

4.5 ounces Mango Rum
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
3 ounces apple juice
Shake the above in a cocktail shaker and pour into champagne flute;
Top with champagne

The above makes enough for two flutes and was a very tasty sipper.

My guests thoroughly enjoyed themselves and have now been properly introduced to Angostura Bitters. If you've never tried it, start small by ordering a dash in your next gin and tonic at the bar. I highly recommend the experience.

Until next time,

Drink With Care, Friends

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Akvavit (or Aquavit for us Colonials, or Akevitt for the Norwegians), is a flavoured spirit made from potatoes or grain and produced in Scandinavia that generally contains about 40% to 45% alcohol. Often flavoured with caraway seeds, anise, cardamom, or fennel, Akvavit is a traditional part of the Scandinavian drinking culture and is used particularly to accompany fall and winter meals such as pinnekjøtt and smalahove. It is a very fragrant spirit that comes in several varieties, from the lighter, fruitier tastes, to the darker, heavily spiced notes.

While Akvavit is produced in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, the Norwegians have a particular production called linje akvavits. These have been carried on ships in oak casks from Oslo, Norway across the equator (linje) to Australia and back to Oslo via Asia and North America. The claim is that the sloshing about in the casks and the changes in temperature extract more flavour from the casks.

The earliest written reference to Akvavit was found in a letter from a Danish Lord to the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Norway dated April 13, 1531, which evidently accompanied a package and stated in part:
"Dear lord, will your grace know that I send your grace some water with Jon Teiste which is called Aqua vite and the same water helps for all his illness that a man can have internally."
I visited Norway in Fall 2008 and, at my request for a traditional Norwegian meal, found myself sitting down to pinnekjøtt with ample amounts of Akevitt. The idea is that, while not necessarily as medicinal as the Danish Lord proclaimed, the Akvavit aids in the digestion of foods rich in fat.

Later that evening, we were taken to a bar called Logen in Bergen  where we took part in an Akevitt tasting. I personally found that I enjoyed the lighter varieties far more than the dark, but I suspect that this is primarily due to my personal dislike of the caraway/anise type flavourings.

Interestingly enough, there is a restaurant in Manhattan, New York called Aquavit which boasts traditional Scandinavian cuisine and a list of Aquavit based cocktails. Perhaps a pilgrimage to this cocktail menu is in order...

Until next time,

Drink With Care, Friends

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Alizé Passion Fruit Liqueur

This liqueur is a blend of French vodka and fruit juices, predominantly passion fruit. There are five varieties of this liqueur: Gold Passion (passion fruit), Red Passion (passion fruit and cranberry), Wild Passion (passion fruit and mango), Rose Passion (passion fruit, strawberry, and lychee), and Bleu Passion (passion fruit, cherry, and ginger).

I have only had opportunity to taste the Wild Passion thus far, but if it is anything to go by, this line of liqueurs is a sure winner. Terrific flavour, very smooth, and plays well with so many other ingredients.

As you've likely noticed, I am a huge fan of Chambord as well, so it should come as no surprise that an attempt was made to introduce two of my favourites into one Yummy-tini, and here it is:

One and one half measures vodka
One and one quarter measures Alizé Wild Passion Liqueur
One and one quarter measures Chambord
Three measures pineapple juice

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker over ice;
Shake until good frost forms;
Strain into martini glass.

This is a definite keeper. Very smooth taste, light and fruity. Esthetically, a lovely pink/orange and the combination holds together, no separation of the ingredients once served, and a lovely froth on top that maintains from the first sip to the last. I didn't garnish it but a simple pineapple wedge would do the trick here.

So, to my friends that are coming over on Friday night, bring the pineapple juice...I'll pick up the Alizé. You'll love this one!

Till next time,

Drink With Care, Friends

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Purple Hooter

A friend of mine recently asked me to put together a shooter bar for a party she was throwing. So I went to work compiling a list of shooters and included this tasty treasure:

The Purple Hooter

2 measures vodka
1/2 measure Chambord or other black raspberry liqueur
1/2 measure lime juice

Place all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker;
Shake well until frost forms;
Strain into shot glass.

There are several variations out there under this name but this is by far my favourite. Some ingredient lists call for 7-Up to replace the lime juice but I personally prefer the flavour and colour of the above mix. The taste can be neatly summed up as a 'sour black raspberry'.

The above recipe was used for a three ounce shooter and as you can see by the picture, it neatly fills a tall shooter glass, but some may find it a little much. In that case,  cutting the measures in half to 1 ounce vodka, 1/4 ounce Chambord, and 1/4 ounce lime juice leaves you with a neat and tidy little 1 1/2 ounce beauty, which hosts and hostesses may find a more appealing quantity to serve their guests.

More shooter recipes to come!

Until next time,

Drink with Care, Friends.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The...Hmmm...Well, what should we call it?

If you live in Ontario, and have an affectation for peaches, then summer means one thing and one thing only to you: fresh Ontario Peaches. They are truly glorious pieces of fruit and even someone such as I who can think of several fruits I would prefer, has to admit that the smell and taste of a fresh Ontario peach is only slightly shy of ambrosia.

And so it came that I had a basket of these beauties on my counter when inspiration struck me. There may be a thousand variations on the beverage that came of this inspiration but, despite my thorough scouring of any martini list at each restaurant I happen to dine at whether I order an alcoholic beverage or not, I personally have never seen this ingredient list:

3 tablespoons peach puree
1 measure vodka
1 half measure Chambord liqueur
2 measures pineapple juice
Top with sparkling water

Peel and remove stone from fresh peach and puree;
Add to shaker with vodka, Chambord and pineapple juice, add ice;
Shake vigorously until well frosted;
Strain into martini glass, top with sparkling water;
Garnish with peach slice.

The result was exquisite. Summery, frothy, and with a slight fizz. Vodka and Chambord always play well together and combine beautifully with the scent and taste of fresh peach puree. When altering this mix to your own personal taste, I would recommend only playing with the amounts of vodka and pineapple juice, and giving from one to add to the other. Otherwise it will affect the froth and consistency of the final product. And while I am a huge fan of Chambord liqueur, increasing the amount will overpower the peach and muddle the flavour.

And so my guests and I, thoroughly impressed with the success of the experiment, stood in my kitchen savouring my triumph quietly, until someone said, "So, what'll you call it?" We knocked a few ideas around, but as yet, the peachy creation remains un-christened.

This being an infant blog, my readership is rather limited as yet, however, I feel confident that one of you will be the naming salvation of this martini. Comment with your name suggestion and help this newly born creation enter my martini list with it's proper handle.

Until next time,

Drink with Care, Friends.

Monday, July 26, 2010


This black raspberry liqueur is simply splendid. Inspired by a liqueur that was introduced to King Louis XIV in the late 17th century, it is a blend of cognac, Madagascar vanilla, blackberries and raspberries.

The bottle is distinctive, but I warn, difficult to get in to. A solid pair of vice grips was required to get it open and even after that, one of those round, plastic grippers is needed to get the cap off once the seal is dealt with.

That said it is, in my opinion, well worth the effort. Chambord is one of my favourite liqueurs. It is brilliant in a huge number of martinis or can be served over ice. Personally, I usually enjoy Chambord in a glass of bubbly. Half an ounce on the bottom of a champagne flute topped with bubbly makes a gorgeous drink.

The Chambord website has a stunning recipe list that I highly recommend to a person looking to try this liqueur.