Thursday, July 30, 2015

Further Diversions from the Stainless Steel Counter

One obvious limitation to the variety and diversity of mixing is the number of traditional kinds of spirits there are. There's gin and rum and bourbon and scotch and brandy and vodka and tequila, any one of which provides a firm platform for the exploration of tastes and combinations. Still, one often senses the monotony of this limited panoply of historical precedents. One may expand this range a bit by using aperitifs or fruit drinks as bases, but then we're straying into punches and coolers and toddies--not cocktails. Cocktails as such deserve to have their own categorical purity, which we should respect. 

So, in the round-robbin of shifting alternatives, here are five more, some so new they don't even have names.
This one is a delicately spiced number. You don't see apple liqueur used much in popular recipe books, and I can't think why. Apple flavor, especially the crisp "green" side, makes perfect sense in a drink. Maybe the association with apple juice is somehow wrong. Gin is a flavored spirit, and here the delicate herbs in the gin mate with the apple and Genepi aperitif to make a very sophisticated flavor, "dried out" by the lime.   

3 part Boodles gin
1 part apple liqueur
1 part Genepi des Alpes
1 part fresh lime juice

Shakes and served up in very cold cocktail glasses.


Exotic ingredients are making a comeback in the liquor business. Today, you can find "bitters" in dozens of flavors, and other kinds of special ingredients are appearing too. Here, I use black burnt sugar syrup (which is a little like clarified molasses) to lend a bit of down-south sweetness to a classic dark rum arrangement. No one would be surprised or embarrassed to be served this in New Orleans or Key West on a hot afternoon in late summer.    

2 parts dark rum
1 part puerto rican rum
1/3 part black burnt sugar syrup
1/3 part blood orange liqueur
1/3 part cinnamon liqueur
1 part fresh lemon juice

Swirled and served on the rocks, or up, with or without an orange or lemon peel floating on top. 


This one is very seductive, but the optional addition of vanilla-almond syrup is hard to settle. I first made it with, and it seemed a trifle too sweet, but when I made it without, it seemed comparatively dry. I think maybe just reducing the amount to half a teaspoon of syrup might be the trick. The ginger with the parfait d'amour (a proprietary flavor that's in the orange family, but is more complex than that) is really a revelation. 

3 parts golden rum
1 part parfait d'amour
2/3 part ginger liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla almond syrup (optional)
1 part fresh lemon juice

Shaken and served up.


Here again, the use of the burnt sugar syrup, alters in a good way the effect of the traditional Peychaux bitters. Galliano goes well with lots of other flavors, and here it deepens the quality without diverting it. This one, like the dark rum recipe above, is inspired by Southern hospitality and charm, which you can experience second-hand just by drinking this drink!

4 parts Jack Daniels sour mash whisky
1 part Galliano
1.5 parts fresh lemon juice
1/3 part burnt sugar syrup
four dashes Peychaux Bitters
orange peel + 1/2 teaspoon orange juice

Swirled and served up. 


This last perhaps doesn't fully qualify as a cocktail, since it's based on an aperitif--dry vermouth--instead of a straight spirit. Still, especially for the ladies, it's the perfect Summer cooler, which can be served up or on the rocks, and of course it's a weaker drink, so less dangerous or inebriating. Not that I worry too much about that, since I rarely have more than one drink at any given time. I've nick-named it the "punch drunk" since it's really sort of a punch, but will not make you "drunk." 

"Punch Drunk"

2 parts dry vermouth
1 part compari
1 part triple sec
1 part lime
1 1/2 part soda

On the rocks, or up if you prefer.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Certain Rare Cancers Have Been Reported

When I grew up in the 1950's and 1960's, you routinely saw and heard advertisements for non-prescription medicines. In those remote times, cigarettes and beer ads were also routinely permitted--so the question of the public's health was decidedly an ambiguous matter from a regulatory standpoint. 

Over the last two decades, spending by pharmaceutical companies on lobbying, and advertising to the general public on television, have mushroomed. Drug companies are making very big money on a host of new products, designed to appeal to people who have common chronic afflictions, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, indigestion and irregularity, depression, diabetes, obesity, sleep disorders, joint and muscle disease, chronic pain, skin hair and nail problems, and so forth. None of these conditions is new, and the treatments are generally familiar and routine. 

Non-prescription medicine is available to the general public, because it's considered safe enough that ordinary people can be trusted to use it in a safe way. Prescription medicine is considered to be safe only when prescribed by, and taken under the supervision of, a trained physician. Marketing prescription medication over public media to the general public is a relatively new phenomena--the campaign to convince people that taking riskier artificial or synthetic substances is going to make a significant difference in their lives. 

Many of the new drugs aren't even "primary" treatment products. They're just designed to "help" when used in conjunction with a primary treatment regimen. 

It used to be that drug companies targeted their campaigns to pharmacists and doctors. When I was growing up, the father of one of my friends was a pharmacist. He'd received hundreds of "gifts" and come-ons every year, to influence him to promote the use of one or another commercially marketed pills or applications, in the hope that he would recommend them to his customers. Toys, paperweights, pens, calendars, it was a relentless flow. 

Today, drug companies have gotten permission to promote prescription medications directly to the general public. 

We've all seen the new ads. They have fancy names, scientific sounding--like Verdaxa, or Duvadin, or Clinolix--and we know the FDA has passed them, but FDA approval apparently doesn't guarantee safety, at least not any more.

On each ad, there is a cheerful vignette of someone performing daily routines, or on vacation. They're all smiles, liberated from the distractions of their medical issues, getting on with life, celebrating just being alive. 

But while all this visual drama is taking place, a comforting voice is narrating the serious side effects which may accompany the desired "cures" the drug was designed to effect. The possible "side-effects" of a pill for depression may include heart attack, stomach ulcers, swollen feet, and even "certain rare cancers." 

You would think that any advertisement which was required to inform you about all the bad things which could happen to you if you used a product, would probably not work. 

But we all know that big corporations aren't stupid, and they wouldn't be using these ads if they weren't working. 

Americans have always loved taking medicine, and it's becoming more true every year. Is it because we have an inordinate credulity for panaceas? Do we think we can medicate ourselves into health? 

Most people know that eating a good diet, and exercising regularly, are the best behaviors for good health. Smoking, drinking immoderately, living a sedentary life, being socially isolated, or taking unnecessary risks such as driving too fast, or crossing streets while texting--these are all behaviors designed to shorten your life, or to lead to poor health.

But people are not rational. They will do things they know are bad for them, out of sheer laziness, or simple mischief. 

People can be convinced of almost anything--right up to, and including, committing suicide.

The pharmaceutical companies know this, and they rely on it. 

Would you take a drug which "might" help with a chronic condition, but which carried the risk of certain much more serious side effects? 

"Certain rare cancers have been reported."  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Three New Mixes from the Stainless Steel Counter

The days pile up and the recipes keep coming.

It's a restless round of changing combinations, a refusal to settle on a favorite. Exploration, discovery, surprises and confirmations. Questions, with a few answers. Failures, with the occasional success. 

Here are three new happy discoveries. Parfait d'Amour, as produced by Marie Brizard(c) (a French distiller), has an orange basis, with some other allied flavors. It has a purple color, though what the color has to do with the flavor is anyone's guess. (Creme de Violette has the same color, but with a different flavor.) I find Parfait d'Amour to be a useful liqueur, when I'm looking for a different spin on citrus. The first recipe here is great on a hot day.   

2 parts gin
1/2 part parfait d'amour
juice of 1/2 lime
tonic water to finish

Served on the rocks, perhaps with a lime peel.  

Thinking again of hot weather, this one has a little Down South flavor, with the burnt syrup added, which gives it a slightly molasses quality that is quite suggestive of New Orleans combinations. Bourbon goes well with sweet nut flavors. The lemon just straightens it out a bit. 

3 parts bourbon
1/2 part hazelnut liqueur
1 teaspoon burnt sugar syrup
1 part lemon juice

Swirled in ice and served up with an orange slice.   

Readers will know that I like aquavit as a mixer. This one functions as a flavor agent, since the white vermouth is the goods. I don't know why the ginger works with the aquavit, but it does. The lime keeps things neat, and focused. It's on the dry side, but still refreshing.  

1 1/2 part aged aquavit
2 parts dry vermouth
1 part ginger liqueur
1 part lime juice

Served up in chilled cocktail glass--with lime slice if you wish.

Summer in the Bay Area. It's been hot the last few days, with the saving grace of the marine fogs to cool our sleep at night. We have the best of worlds here, in terms of weather. Temperate, though a bit too dry of late. Here's hoping for a wetter Winter.