We just passed our 4th anniversary of writing this blog! As always, we’re going to whip up some yummy cocktails to celebrate and we’re also going to talk a bit about what we’ve learned over the years.
When we first started down this boozy odyssey, we were total neophytes with regards to what actually went into making a good drink. We made a lot of questionable drinks and dodgy impulse purchases, but in general we had a good time. We made plenty of mistakes, but we didn’t let that stop us on our obsessive quest for yummy drinks. Over the years we’ve accumulated some general rules of thumb to how we approach things.
First off, don’t be afraid to depart the text. When we first started out, we followed cocktail recipes as precisely as we could. We at least weren’t measuring our bitters out of pipettes, but we would have if we’d had them. 😉 The thing is that everyone’s palate and tastes are different. Not only that, but what you’re in the mood for can change depending on the evening or what you’re having for dinner. So if you want your drink a bit sweeter make it a bit sweeter, or tarter, or add more booze or less booze. Whatever tastes right to you. Not only that, but since you’re using fresh ingredients (you *are* using fresh juice, aren’t you?) you get a lot of natural variance in flavor. Sometimes your limes will be extra tart, other times less tart. Adjust your proportions accordingly. Believe it or not, there are no cocktail police who are going to bust down your door for not following a drink to exact specifications. If there were, we’d be writing this from cocktail prison. Viva la revolution!
Secondly, always keep trying different recipes and ingredients. We amass great lists of new drink recipes and try several every week. Ones that catch our eyes usually have interesting combinations of ingredients or interesting proportions. We’ve gotten pretty good at reading a recipe and imagining what it tastes like. However, we’ve been surprised plenty of times by recipes that didn’t sound that great but turned out to be quite delicious. So don’t be afraid to try new things. Also if you don’t want to invest in bottles that are unfamiliar and maybe a bit pricey, see if one of your local bars carry it and ask for a taste. We’ve gotten some surprised looks from time to time, but most bartenders are happy to nerd out with you over some esoteric ingredient.
Finally, we’ve learned that expensive booze, used properly, makes for a really nice cocktail. Don’t be afraid to occasionally mix with it. It’s totally worth it. Worried about the cost? Mr. Boudreau has this excellent article on the cost breakdown. We have our everyday brands that work perfectly well, but every once in a while it’s really nice to break out the good stuff and make a really lovely cocktail. With that in mind, on to the celebratory drinks!
For our previous anniversaries we’ve gone for fizzy wine cocktails because there’s something so festive about them. For this year, we decided to depart the text (see above!) and go for our other mode of celebratory drinks, which is more spirit-forward ones. We went to the liquor cabinet and each picked out a bottle of really nice booze to work with. Well, Shaun picked out one and Christa picked out six which she then narrowed down to one. 😉
Shaun immediately went for cognac. Namely the Paul Giraud XO. It’s a favorite and we buy it by the case to ensure we always have it in stock. 😀 It’s a beautiful cognac: rich and fruity with lovely floral notes. The trick of course with expensive booze is to make sure you’re highlighting it without stomping on it with the other ingredients. We knew that St. Germain paired quite nicely with Paul Giraud cognacs. There’s just something about the floral notes and hint of grapefruit that makes them go well together. A quick test proved our memories right. We then both gravitated to orange as a complementary flavor. Christa had the brilliant idea to go with orange flower water, which would add orange while doubling down on the floral notes. Of course the trick was getting just the right amount, as this stuff can be overwhelming if used too heavily. Finally an orange twist tied things together by adding fresh orange and some refreshing bitterness.
Spirit of the Grove
- 2 oz really nice cognac on the fruity/floral side
- 3/4 oz St. Germain
- shy 1/2 bar spoon orange flower water
Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into a glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
- Nose: Lots of layers of orange; orange blossom, orange peel, cooked/caramelized orange. Hints of grapefruit and ripe pear. Rich, fruity cognac notes underpinning everything.
- Palate: Damn! That’s yummy. Palate mirrors the nose pretty strongly. Caramelized orange and grapefruit to start. Really rich floral and fruit flavors of the cognac and St. Germain on the mid-palate along with cooked pear and pastry. Finish is perfume-y orange blossom and a tiny hint of camphor.
Christa went for delicious scotch, deciding to work with the warm, chocolatey flavors of the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban. A variation on a Rob Roy seemed in order. After tasting through vermouths, the darker flavors of the Punt e Mes pulled out the richness of the scotch and gave the drink a great bass line. Instead of orange bitters, we reached for the Aperol to bring both orange flavor and bitterness, as well as some additional sweetness to add body. We did still want some bitters though, and most of the ones we reach for most typically (Angostura, Bokers, etc) weren’t quite the ticket. Spanish bitters were just the thing though, adding a little more citrus plus some gentle herbal and floral notes.
- 2 oz Quinta Ruban scotch
- 3/4 oz Punt e’ Mes
- 3/4 oz Aperol
- 1 dash Spanish bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into a glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry.
- Nose: Chocolate and black cherry. Coffee, wood, and tobacco notes underneath. Hints of oxidized wine.
- Palate: Intro is sweet black cherry and root beer/sassafras. Honey, chocolate, and some interesting tobacco and herbal notes on the mid-palate. Finish is quite unusual with toasted grain, coffee, and bitter root flavors.
Mmmmm, so good. Of course the dangerous part of mixing with expensive booze is that the results can be phenomenal. Thus making you want to have them all the time. 😀 If only. Thanks to everyone who’s followed us through the years. Here’s to another 4. Cheers!
P.S. And make your own brandied cherries, with expensive booze. Seriously, they’re fucking delicious and it requires less booze than you’d think.
P.S.S And don’t get caught up in the quest for over-priced booze. You know what we’re talking about. It’s nice but not that nice. There are many, many offerings that are as good or better for a fraction of the price.