I’ll spare you the history and variations of this particular Audrey Saunders creation for two reasons: (1) We’re doing our best to get ready for next week’s pilgrimage to Tales of the Cocktail and (2) it’s already been covered extensively by everyone from the lowbrow to the highbrow, plus a handful of cocktail bloggers in between.
But here’s the reason it’s on our radar: Last night, we met up for dinner and drinks with out-of-town guests, Morgan — one-third of the Drink Dogma troika — and his lovely wife Stacey. Our first stop was Nopa, one of our favorite cocktail-savvy restaurants, both because of their fabulous bar program and their delicious (and locavore-friendly) food.
Stacey and I both ordered an Old Cuban to start, but — because I was too busy being social — I didn’t get a chance to take a picture, nor to see how they were putting together this effervescent refresher. Which is a damned shame because now I haven’t the faintest idea how they get this drink to be a rather flamboyant, Shrek-like shade of green.
Even using silver rum (an unorthodox variation, given the Bacardi 8 in the original recipe) I couldn’t achieve anything more than a Mojito-colored khaki. Obviously I need to go back to Nopa and do some more investigation.
Whatever color it is, the Old Cuban makes for a refreshing way to start a warm summer evening at the bar. And if you can talk Morgan and Stacey into joining you, I can guarantee you’ll have a fabulous time.
Old Cuban Cocktail
1-1/2 oz aged rum (Bacardi 8 or Flor de Caña 7)
1 ounce simple syrup (or less, to taste)
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
6 mint leaves
Muddle the mint leaves with the simple syrup in a mixing glass. Add the lime juice, rum, bitters, and ice. Shake well. Double-strain (through a Hawthorne strainer and a smaller sieve) into a chilled cocktail glass or flute. Top with bubbly, and garnish with a spring of mint or half a sugared vanilla bean.
After reading yet another post extolling the virtues of making your own ginger beer, I decided to take the plunge. Aside from the tedious (but strangely relaxing) task of peeling and grating 2 pounds of fresh ginger, it’s quite a simple operation.
Dale DeGroff’s homemade ginger beer recipe — recommended by Robert at Explore the Pour — isn’t very sweet at all: A mere 3/4 cup of sugar to 2 gallons water. If you want sweetness in your drink, it’s simply a matter of adding simple syrup to taste. Starting with a barely-sweetened ale, you’ve got the flexibility to use liqueurs or flavored syrups without fear of a cloying end result.
Other than a prominent ginger taste, the largest difference between the commercial stuff and the homemade variety is a lack of fizz. I experimented with carbonating part of my batch by running it through a soda siphon; it worked, although perhaps a bit too well. The relatively dense liquid hung on to the CO2 bubbles better than plain water would, resulting in a thick-headed mess. Not wanting to waste any of my brew, I emptied the contents of the siphon into pint glasses, allowed the foam to subside, and funnelled the result into an empty bubbly bottle (which I capped with a spring-loaded Champagne saver). The end result: A lightly carbonated, highly gingery, very dry ginger beer.
Of course, there’s no shortage of good cocktails that use ginger ale as a base: Moscow Mule, Headless Horseman, and Dark & Stormy, to name just three. But this week’s entertaining schedule included a fair number of parents with a sharp eye on their little ones. You can’t just whip up a strong cocktail under these sorts of circumstances (no matter how tempting it may appear to the bartender).
Riffing on Audrey Saunders’ Gin-Gin Mule, an increasingly popular Moscow Mule variation, I combined my ginger beer with the usual gin, lime, and mint, but in a simpler, lighter arrangement. No muddling, less gin, less lime, and a little added fizz… a few variations and you’ve got breezy Mule alternative that’s not the least bit watered down. It’s a faintly boozy drink, a good option when entertaining guests who lack the cocktail gene, or when the weather’s hot enough for multiple cold beverages around the barbecue. In short, it’s a perfect Drink of the Week for summer’s first long weekend.
1/2 oz simple syrup (mint or rosemary flavored, if possible)
1 to 1.5 oz dry gin
4 oz homemade ginger beer
juice of 1/4 to 1/2 lime
In a 12 oz highball glass filled with ice, combine the syrup, gin, ginger beer, and lime juice. Top with soda water to fill, and garnish with a mint sprig.
If you’re using commercial ginger ale, be sure to pick a quality brand with plenty of bite. Skip the soda water and reduce or eliminate the syrup, depending on the sweetness of your mixer; the end result will be more along the lines of a Shady Grove. If you decide to make your own ginger beer, be forwarned that DeGroff’s recipe yields a generous two gallons. It freezes well, however.
No mere pretender to the retro cocktail trend, the Pegu Club is a true vintage recipe. It’s been making the rounds since at least the 1920s, and was purportedly invented at the eponymous club in Burma during the British colonial era. (If you’re curious, Robert Hess has a nice DrinkBoy article on the recipe’s evolution over time.)
I first tasted this drink years ago (at the Zig Zag, where else?) but I’ve never tried making it at home. For some reason, even though the ingredients are far from obscure, it just feels more like the kind of drink you want someone else to make.
Luckily for lazy drinkers like me, it’s becoming easier to find bartenders who know how to properly construct this tangy treat. Pegu’s become something of a darling in cocktail circles in the last few years, so much so that in 2005, Audrey Saunders adopted its name — and its Asian vibe — for her now-legendary cocktailian haunt. As you might imagine, getting a properly made Pegu Club cocktail at the Pegu Club is as easy as asking.
2 oz. gin
1 oz. orange curaçao
1 tsp. lime juice
dash Angostura bitters
dash orange bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice, and strain into a cocktail class. Garnish with a lime.
Editor’s note: Over the next couple of months, we’ll be delegating Drink of the Week duties to a few of our cocktailian friends from time to time, as our bar supplies and equipment are rather limited in our temporary space.
First behind the stick is our friend and neighbor Erik, a talented amateur mixologist who’s currently working his way through the Savoy Cocktail Book, trying each drink in alphabetical order! Today, though, he shares the results of last night’s Robert Burns-influenced experimentation.
I had an idea to drink a Scotch-related cocktail last night, in honor of Burns Night, and Audrey Saunders’ Dreamy Dorini Smoking Martini was the first that occurred to me.
I composed the elements — 2 ounces of decent vodka, a couple drops of Henri Bardouin pastis, and a half an ounce of Jon, Mark and Robbo’s “The Peaty One” Scotch — and stirred them together.
I didn’t like it.
I just kept thinking, this would have been better with vermouth instead of vodka. And how do I get this Band-Aid taste out of my mouth?
Maybe Islay-style malts just aren’t my thing.
I hated to be boring and retro, but I stirred together a hard-to-beat classic cocktail that’s even more fitting to the occasion.
1-1/2 oz. Italian Vermouth (I used Carpano Antica)
1-1/2 oz. Scotch whisky (I used Compass Box Asyla)
2 dashes Benedictine
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Since tonight marks the beginning of Sukkot and the Chinese Autumn Moon festival, I suppose it’s futile to pretend that it’s not yet fall. Even though we live in a place where we don’t really see the leaves falling from the trees, all this rain makes it pretty obvious that Indian Summer is, at last, behind us.
This Audrey Saunders cocktail — a favorite of our Seattle crew — requires a bit of shopping, but the end result is well worth it. If you try it, I suspect that you’ll enjoy making it well into the holiday season.
1 oz. Clear Creek pear eau de vie
2 oz. Trimbach reisling
1/4 oz. honey syrup (equal parts of honey and water)
1/2 oz. Orange curacao
dash Peychaud bitters
Measure all ingredients into cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a whole piece of star anise.