Tag Archive: syrups


Woo boy, it’s been awhile since I posted some links but between all of the fun I’ve been having this summer and the inevitable procrastination that results from sleeping in, I’ve not been able to produce anything regularly.

So… new idea. Two biweekly links posts per month. This gives me time to gather material, try out recipes and otherwise enjoy myself.

I’ve also reorganized the format slightly. DRINKS will feature cocktail recipes to try when out out on the town and make at home. NEWS will be all about the science and the politics behind what we put in our mouths while FOOD will stick to recipes.

Let me know what you think.

DRINKS

An essential list of some favorite NYC cocktails of the summer of 2011. While there’s no direct connection, I can imagine any reason why anyone planning on visiting wouldn’t pair it with the food guide below. (Off The Presses)

Looking for a fantastic cocktail at Dram? Better stay away from July 20 to the 23rd as their all-star list of bartenders will be in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail, the industry conference and booze-fest.

If, however, you’re looking for something a little more low-rent, come for 86′d, a pop-up, quintessential, dive bar experience. Depending on what sort of person you are, this is either a whole lot of fun or far too fucking precious. (The New York Times)

If you want add a silky texture to your cocktails and prevent crystallization, it’s time to start adding gum arabic to your simple syrups. (About.com)

Gum syrup will particularly benefit “tropical” cocktails. (Wired)

This Clementine Fizz sounds perfectly delicious except for one thing: they use vodka. Substitute a floral gin but keep the lovely cucumber-wrapped glass please! (Bakers Royale)

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I recently met Philip Duff at the G’Vine Connoisseur’s Program 2011 Preliminary at Swirl Wine Bar. (I competed too; more on that in a future post.) A bartender and consultant who travels around the world, he was in town to promote that program and G’Vine’s gins. He gave a lecture on the spirit and the history of distillation that was funny, interesting and not at all boring. The video above, which rips into bartenders who walk into other bars and make life hell for their colleagues, shows more of that wit.

COCKTAILS

Forget the sweet stuff. The latest trend is is herbal and vegetal. The red pepper puree is my new favorite mixer. (Details)

Cinco de Mayo may be over and done with but summer’s just starting and this is going to be a good year for tequila! Brush up on your history whilst drinking a Margarita Tenacatita. (Salon)

Caribana (I’m still not used to the new name) is coming up and while I’m not the biggest fan, I’ll be using the festival as an excuse to cook up some tamarind syrup. The fruit is tart but still a bit sweet. Mixed up as El Tamarindo, you won’t find a more refreshing highball. (12 Bottle Bar)

The blog above also has an outstanding post on infusing simple syrups. Even if you don’t have a herbal garden, you owe it your cocktails and your guests. (12 Bottle Bar)

If you have pomegranate juice, you can make your own grenadine syrup. (CHOW)

How to make Falernum #9. No Zombie is complete without it! (Post Prohibition)

One of most refreshing juices I can think of comes from the hibiscus flower. Too bad Agave & Aguacate stopped serving it. (Muy Bueno Cookbook)

Is it bad that the first thing I want to do with this recipe for switzel, a spicy non-alcoholic drink is add some dark rum to it? (The New York Times)

So you’ve just gotten used to Angostura bitters? Learn about the next essential bitters you need to have in your home bar: orange. (Serious Eats-Drinks)

Everything you ever wanted to know about amaros. My current favorites are Nonino (933796, 700 mL, $42.95) and Montenegro (601484, 750 mL, $24.15). (Post Prohibition)

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As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my favorite things about St. Martin was the vast, selection of readily-available booze. The first time I entered Le Grand Marche, the biggest supermarket on the island, I spent a good half-hour in the spirits aisle, alternatively picking up bottles I’d only heard about and marveling over the prices.

On the way down, I’d talked constantly about rhum agricole with my companions; as far as I was concerned, it was going to be my first purchase. You can’t get it in Canada and while I’d tried cachaça (the Brazilian spirit also made from cane sugar) the differences in production make these two cousin spirits more different than people might imagine.

Funny thing is, my first purchase ended up being a bottle of mezcal, El Senorio Joven con Gustano. I knew nothing about it beyond that it was not aged (joven means young). It wasn’t until four days later that I even noticed it had worms in it  (gustano). While the latter is considered a bit of a marketing gimmick and is not exactly a selling point, I’d already finished a third of the bottle and was hardly in a position to consider returning it.

The prominent smoky and woody nature of this spirit didn’t exactly lend itself it to mixing with anything but I figured I’d give it a shot, partially because I didn’t want to waste what I’d purchased and mostly because I like a challenge. One of my favorite scotch cocktails is The Laphroaig Project and so I decided to use that as an inspiration for the flavors I wanted to incorporate into my cocktail. Lime juice and this funky anise bitters I’d picked up in Philipsburg were in the first draft.

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The G20 has ruined many things for the citizens of Toronto (road closures, school closures, transit delays, the St. Lawrence Market, uprooted trees, loss of income, loss of patio space, removal of bike stands… new annoyances are added everyday) but it’s going a bit too far when the LCBO decides it has to close 7 of its stores from Friday to Saturday.

To be fair, many of the products that would be found at these locations can be found at others but that doesn’t make it right. I guess a trip up to Summerhill is in order… |Toronto Sun|

One thing the G20 can’t ruin is Ontario Craft Beer Week. Besides the numerous events happening all week long, be sure to check out the Session Craft Beer Festival at Sunnyside Pavilion on Saturday (June 26th). |Ontario Craft Brewers|

The ash from Eyjafjallajokull may have never made it this far but Icelandic beer is coming to Toronto! Skjálfti (168393, 500 mL, $3.95) is a hoppy marriage between a pale ale and a lager and both Josh Rubin of The Star and Greg Clow of Taste T.O. dig it. (If you have trouble using the LCBO  website, don’t forget to log on to drinkvine, the best way to scout out new beers and wines in the GTA.) |Toronto Star, Taste T.O.|

If you want proof why marketers should never, ever come up with a beer brand, look no further than Biker Beer a brew produced out of Nickel Brook that came about because a couple attended a rally on their wedding day. Since no self-respecting biker (or human being) will ever drink this product, I’m betting it will come to be regarded as one of the most inane vanity products  in the history of beer ever.

I bet they even have matching beach towels with their initials monogrammed on ‘em. |Toronto Sun|

Despite what this blog might be saying, you can tell the difference between different wines and the distance between good and bad wine can be pretty fucking far indeed. Just don’t be a pretentious twit. |You Are Not Smart|

Conflict Kitchen is performance art masquerading as a take-out joint. Taking a country that the United States currently has a beef with, it will serve a signature dish and with everyone happily sated, will offer potential dialog in the form of “events, performances and discussions”. Afghanistan is the first subject and we’ll I’ve never tried kubideh (anyone want to make a road trip to Kabul Farms?) I’m always in favor of exposing people to new street-food. |Kubideh Kitchen|

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Nora Maynard asks a great question and since nothing is more appealing to me than being stuck in a tropical paradise with an unlimited supply of booze, I’ll answer it.

1. Pink Gin-and-Tonic

One of my favorite cocktails made so much better with the inclusion of Fever-Tree Tonic Water.

2. Dark-and-Stormy

Because I’ve been drinking ginger beer since I was little.

3. Mai Tai

It’s so hard to find a good one and we’re lucky to have three or four bars in Toronto who do it justice. The quinessential island drink.

4. Black Velvet

A bit of an oddball choice but I really enjoy ‘em.

5. Manhattan

Always a Manhattan, never a Martini. I can’t help which camp I fall in… What are your desert island cocktails? |The Kitchn|

James Chatto’s swan song for Toronto Life finds him celebrating the architects of the current renaissance our city’s cocktail culture is currently reaping the benefits of. Having finally gotten around to visiting Barchef, I think I need to make my way to both the Black Hoof and Ame. |Toronto Life|

Malcolm Gladwell wonders why we’re surprised when we treat drinkers like sex-and-violence-crazed ruffians and then they behave that way. His idea of using culture to constrain our expectations surrounding the consumption of alcohol has merit. |Toronto Life|

Speaking of ruffians, the City of Toronto has approved temporary changes to the serving hours for bars during the World Cup. You’ll be able to get your booze one, whole hour earlier! |blogTO|

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Toronto’s cocktail scene is about to get a major upgrade with the opening of the Toronto Temperance Society. Perhaps embodying the maxim “drink less, drink better” more than any other venue, the club promises to the sort of joint where you never have to worry about getting anything different than the drink you ordered (unless you like Appletinis).

Only thing is, you have to pay an annual membership fee of $285 for the privilege of hanging out with like-minded imbibers.  Perfection doesn’t come cheap…

In another instance of exclusivity = credibility, a travelling cocktail party in Los Angeles is the Next Big Thing. Only a matter of time before someone starts doing that here (hey, wait-a-minute).

Apparently, shit beer equals poor stock performance for major beer companies. Who’d have thought? Even better, the supposed panacea for these corporations involves buying up perfectly good craft breweries and wringing every little bit of individuality from their recipes.

Robert Parker, the venerable wine critic, rated a wine higher in a blind tasting than he had in his published review of it earler. Cue snickering

Alcademics reviews a new liqueur from Bolivia that is made from coca leaves. While not quite monkey-for-your-back, it apparently does give you a boost. They also take a look at a mezcal, my new favorite tipple.

I’ll drink a bicicletta if it means I get to have a two-hour lunch in the afternoon to boot! Half-an-hour is practically criminal.

Moonshine goes mainstream with white whiskey. Hopefully the LCBO will get notice and start selling a bottle here (I’m not holding my breath).

Another thing they should get on Right Away is St. Germain. Why is this not available in Canada? It practically sells itself! Here are some cocktails to tide you over…

Over at A Mountain Of Crushed Ice, Tiare talks about collecting bar tools (which is about as wonderfully geeky as you can get when it comes to the industry).

Dr. Bamboo resucitates Midori melon liqueur (at least for enthusiasts) with a cocktail that actually sounds pretty tasty. I predict a dark age revival… Can new uses for blue curacao be far behind?

I grit my teeth every time someone asks for a Keiths. A Good Beer Blog pointed me in the direction of guys who just might be my heroes. I wouldn’t mind so much if people just admitted to being biased towards mainstream brands.

If I had a little more discipline, I’d release my own brand of syrups and bitters instead of waiting for lines like Trader Tiki to make their way up to Canada.

SLOSHED! puts together a Bumble-bee Cocktail which sounds amazing, courtesy of Charles H. Baker Jr. and his book, Gentlemen’s Companion (not a new release in case you were wondering). They’ve also managed to introduce me to my new favorite quote (by the same man)

…all really interesting people–sportsman, explorers, musicians, scientists, vagabonds and writers–were vitally interested in good things to eat and drink; cared for exotic and intriguing ways of composing them. We soon discovered further that this keen interest was not solely through gluttony, the spur of hunger or merely to sustain life, but in a spirit of high adventure.

What an excellent sentiment!

(Image taken from Boing-Boing)

Wow, it’s been three days past the date last year when I first started this blog. Due to a hangover, I wasn’t in much of a mood to celebrate on the day of but this Tuesday finds me in a much more charitable, if not expansive, mood.

To honor the day (and help me digest the lovely breakfast I just made for myself) I put together a little drink that, while admittedly cobbled together from what I had lying around the kitchen, is not too bad and totally in the spirit of The Jolly Inebriate.

THE FORTIFIED LUSH

1 1/2oz London Dry Vermouth
1/4oz L’abbe Francois Cassis
1/4oz Strawberry/rhubarb syrup
1/2oz Angostura Bitters
Soda water

Fill a highball glass with ice and pour in the first four ingredients. Top up with soda and stir.

This cocktail has the chief advantage of being perfect for afternoon drinking when you might not want too much alcohol. The larger-than-usual amount of bitters keeps the sweet stuff in check and plays well with the vermouth as well.

You can substitute most of the ingredients for other brands if you wish and the recipe for the strawberry syrup can be found here.

I can’t show you a picture because I’m currently without a camera (a long, sad story involving a fat man and Lee’s Palace during Halloween) but it’s red and murky. You could probably garnish it with a blackberry on a stick but don’t go out of your way; drinks made before happy hour should be consumed with as little fanfare as possible.

Swimming-drunk-282x300A man in North Carolina recently had all of his moonshine confiscated which the director of ALE (Alcohol Law Enforcement hah!) is calling the “biggest seizure” of his career. How big is big? 929 gallons equals 118,912 ounces which would keep quite a few bars running for awhile.

Restaurants in Vancouver can now extend last call from midnight to 1 a.m. during the weekdays and from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. on the weekends. I don’t really see this as a big deal because their bars can already stay open till 3 a.m. but I suppose if an owner wants to extend his service by an owner, it’s up to him. I wish Toronto had a 3 a.m. last call

A fellow by the name of Paul Dickson has written a dictionary of 3,000 synonyms for “drunk”. Eponymously-titled, it’s charmingly illustrated by Brian Rea and deserves a place in every self-respecting drunkard’s library. Kingsley Amis would have a copy!

Jamie Boudreau of spiritsandcocktails.com makes Cherry Old-Fashioneds to accompany an Old-Fashioned in an inspired bit of molecular mixology. It sure beats those liqueur-filled chocolates you get during the holidays.

Sloshed! shares the recipe for the Corpse Reviver #2 just in time for Halloween. I’m no fan of hair of the dog but this could work for me.

I love orgeat so it’s only fitting that Rick of Kaiser Penguin, who pointed me in the direction of the first recipe I used, should come back with what he claims is an even better version. Enjoy and remember, the darker the sugar you use, the better it will turn out!

Equally indispensable when it comes to making quality cocktails is ginger syrup. Tiare of A Mountain Of Crushed Ice wants to know how you make your ginger syrup. While I mostly muddle or shake mine, I’d be interested in trying pressed ginger juice.

(Illustration by Brian Rea.)

shrub syrupThe Shrub is a fruity rum or brandy libation, predating the cocktail. The beverage is little known today, but enjoyed immense popularity in colonial America during the 18th and 19th century.

It is considered an unusual drink by modern standards in that the syrup is vinegar based and resembles closely a preserve or cordial. The idea was to extend the life of fruit cultivated seasonally and used to mask the harsh flavors of the the alcohols of the time. The first artificial ice machine was invented in 1851 by John Gurrie and was not commonly used until much later. Therefore, people needed to find alternative methods to combat spoilage. The vinegar works as a preserving agent while delivering a satisfying tartness to the drink. It is most commonly partnered with Rum or Brandy but as far as the ideal fruit to use, there are no limits to the bartenders creativity.

There is a company in the States that produces a line of purportedly excellent pre-made Shrub syrups (Tait Farms of Pennsylvania), but I have found it very rewarding making my own. The Old City Tavern in Philadelphia whose combined liquor and wine sales are comprised of 60% shrubs, has it down to a science. Their recipe (published in Eric Felten’s “How’s Your Drink?, a staple for the cocktail connoisseur) is an easy starting point for making your own. It consists of:

THE SHRUB

2 oz dark rum
1 oz shrub syrup
4 oz gingerale or soda

Stir into a tall glass and garnish with fresh raspberries.

The syrup for this cocktail is also simple:

SHRUB SYRUP

1 cup water
1 cup raw sugar
2 pints fresh raspberries
2 cups white wine vinegar

Mix the water and sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a boil until the sugar dissolves. Then drop the heat to a simmer and add the raspberries and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Add 2 cups of white wine vinegar and bring to boil for 2 minutes. Then, let the mix sit and cool. Double strain the excess fruit from the syrup, bottle, and refrigerate.

The raspberries are nice as they give a natural sweet-and-sour pucker to the cocktail. However, I have tried blackberries, strawberries, currants, raspberries, and mangoes, and have enjoyed every one of my concoctions. I’ve also added ginger, cinnamon, spices, and cloves to many of these in an attempt to find the perfect mix, but as I’ve never been disappointed, the search goes on.

The one thing that I have found with the above recipe, is that it is just as good (or dare I say better) when one drops the amount of vinegar to 1 cup. I add a second cup or so of water to make up the difference in liquid. This takes away some of the excessive tartness, and as we have ample refrigeration these days there’s little worry of the syrup spoiling before it is consumed.

Some recipes for the shrub call for ginger beer to be added. I’ve tried this, using Jamaican style ginger beer and found the results less satisfying. The strength of the ginger beer overpowers the refreshing, subtle, flavors of the shrub. I’ve yet to attempt it with a milder ginger beer, say from Bermuda, but think perhaps the results would be better.

Remember that the point of the syrup originally was to mask the flavors of the ‘greasy’ rum of the time. We are blessed these days, due to the wizardry of modern distillation, with a vast array of delicious rums. I suggest trying them all with different syrups. A spiced rum is very nice, and the dark rums work best of all. For this reason the syrup should be added to taste and not necessarily used at full strength.

I make this drink often for friends of mine who frequent my bar. Ross prefers brandy while his wife Jen, prefers rum. I like both. Recently I made a modified version of the syrup for a vodka martini. It is also good in a Kir or Kir Royale. My advice is to experiment. It’s simple and fast to make, and is always a hit. Remember there are no fast rules when it comes to making good cocktails. Just good taste.

(Photo linked from Stirred, Not Shaken‘s post about shrub. Check it out for a fantastic recipe for Black Cherry Shrub!)

beer liquor eatSarah Boesveld of The Globe and Mail reports on a “bacon trend” that seems to involve the tasty pork product being added to everything from cupcakes to ice cream and serving it with chocolate sauce. I just want my Bakon vodka dammit! I can’t imagine a better Caeser…

Corby Distilleries (owner of Wiser’s, Lambs, Polar Ice, etc. and controlled by Canadian Club’s Hiram Walker & Sons. Ltd which is itself a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard of France… confused yet?) reported a 24 per cent increase in its net earnings which it attributes to its license to distribute Absolut in Canada and the LCBO’s recent strike.

Why am I repeating this? I merely find it interesting and slightly worrying how tangled these companies get with their labyrinth of distribution deals spanning the globe. Basically, everybody owns a little bit of everybody.

I’m very happy to see Cocktail Culture post a recipe of the Bloodhound Cocktail because it means I’ll be able to use the rest of my strawberry syrup.

Camper English of Alcademics tries to make ice clearer by refreezing it multiple times. Besides the visual joke, the numerous responses from other folks make it worth browsing.

He also shows us how to get more mileage out of our simple syrup.

Could you tell a Collins from a Fizz if you saw them in a bar? The Kitchn gives an overview on the two cocktails, their similiarities and their differences.

Over at the The Washington Post, Jason Wilson rebrands the Red-Headed Slut (one of those slutty cocktails from the 90′s) for the new century and ends up paying tribute to a beloved and recently-departed film director.

Vodka & Co. posts three very delicious-sounding cocktails using Bombay Sapphire gin. Feel free to substitute your own favorite spirit but try at least one of ‘em.

Oh Group shares their recipe for shrub. (Make some, you won’t regret it!)

The cocktailnerd reviews the latest round of ginger beers in his pantry. I wish we could get some of these up here in Canada…

Coming so soon on the heels of 3 Brewers opening up a brewpub in Toronto, we have a local brewmaster getting in on the action. Canadian Beer News reports that Michael Duggan (of Mill St. and Cool fame) will be opening up Duggan’s Brewery at the former location of Denison’s Brewing on 75 Victoria St.

So I kind of owe you guys an apology. I’m dreadfully late on some promised reviews and other articles. Besides the party I’ve been busy enjoying summer. Not being at home means not much time between sleeping off the fun and going to work. I promise to do some more writing soon but since this season started so late, I want to enjoy what I can of it.

The party did go well. No slushies but all the guests were ably served by the bar I’d set up. I had to man it because the bartender I’d asked to come in was delayed by a lengthy catering shift elsewhere. Even so, I had a good time (one for me, one for you!) and while it wasn’t exactly revolutionary, it was a reminder of how even the most basic bartending can be tons of fun when you have your friends around you.

(Photo taken from The Stakhanovite Twins’ Flickr Photostream.)

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