DC Drinks

Reviews, rantlets and ribald on all things alcoholic.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Before the Cocktail, They Drank Sangarees

My favorite new drink is a riff on a very, very old one: the Apple Ginger Sangaree*.

The original Sangaree is Madeira, water, sugar and nutmeg. Although they are commonly made with spirits or beer as well. The Sangaree dates back to colonial times and was a favorite of tavern-goers, along with grogs, flips, punches and mulled wines.

Nutmeg is the key. Colonists were such big fans of nutmegs they used to carry their own nutmeg around in a little silver case with grater in tow.

The cocktail, a Johnny-come-lately in comparison, wasn't really a common term until after the 1800s. The "cock tail" is first mentioned in 1806.

I realize Sangaree sounds a lot like Sangria, but its cold and rainy outside so I'm done with boxed wine and chopped fruit. Sangaree does, however, mean the same thing: Blood. I remember reading its origin is in the West Indies.

Anyway, from now on I'm going to be more annoying than a college "indie" radio DJ, "I like their early stuff." All my drinks are going to be pre-cocktail, colonial concoctions. I'm so f-cking cool.

* I substitue White Port and Falernum for Ginger Wine.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

To Shake A Martini

"The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time." - Nick Charles in The Thin Man (1934)

You're determined to shake the Martini. You've heard the purists, such as DCDrinks, denigrate the shaken not stirred crowd, but you still appreciate the cool shards thrown from the shaker as the ice crashes against the tin walls and causes little pools of cool water to form atop the oily skin of the Martini. What we consider an annoyance and distraction, you relish as the only rightful way to cool the gin and vermouth combo. OK, we'll have to agree to disagree, but then we must clear a few things up first.

There is a difference between shaking and stirring. Shaking reduces the temperature quicker and, in the case of fruit juices, sugar and eggs, is a better way to blend the ingredients. Sugar and eggs need to be obliterated in the shaker, as Lonnie mentioned in his last post on the Pisco Sour. Therefore, for fruit juice, sugar and egg drinks, shaking makes sense.

Stirring blends ingredients in a less forceful way, and reduces the amount of water and air added by shaking. Water isn't a bad thing, but overdone can diminish the botanicals from the gin and vermouth. Air voluminizes the beverage creating a frothy top. Who wants frothy gin and vermouth? That's why we stir.

Ice is a big deal, too. To shake, you must start with proper ice cubes. Small, whitish cracked cubes will double your efforts causing a frothy, watery mess. Use large cubes without holes and virtually clear of white blotches. White blotches are pockets of air.

Lastly, never-ever order a Martini "shaken not stirred" unless you're f-ckin' James Bond. Bond originally ordered the Vesper Martini anyway, at least according to the man who wrote the book: Ian Fleming. "Shaken not stirred" comes from the Bond movies and is part of a marketing spiel for vodka. It's as lame as going to Burger King and saying "Where's the Beef?" (See Top Ten Five Mistakes.)

Now you know.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Egg?: Why the Pisco Sour is Fuckin' Awesome

Back in the year 2000, Peru was the first Third World country I'd ever visited. It was the first place I drove at 65 miles per hour wasted out of my gourd, barreling down lane-less highways past trucks with no fenders and fewer headlights. It was a three week haze of lemon-juice-cooked seafood, eye-searing poverty, and altitude sickness.

Regrettably, I dismissed their national cocktail, the Pisco Sour, as a local yokel novelty---akin to stooping gutter level to drink Jägermeister back home.

But Peruvians promote the drink like they would their local soccer team or the resident hippie tourist magnet, the ruins of Macchu Pichu.

It's taken six years and help from DC's newest and, IMHO, best bar to convince me that the Pisco Sour should be ranked among the top cocktails in a mixologist's repertoire.

Normally, DC Drinks considers it a tad passé to list a cocktail recipe, but an exception must be made for our new-found master of drinks. I trust Mr. DeGroff:
Pisco Sour
1½ oz. Pisco Brandy
3/4 oz. Fresh Lemon
1 oz. Simple Syrup
Several drops of Angostura Bitters
One Small Egg White

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a small cocktail glass. Sprinkle a few dashes of Angostura Bitters on the foam created by the egg whites.
I'd add one thing to that: you should shake that shit until your hand bones ache with cold and you have to pry your fingers from the ice-caked metal. Otherwise, you've done it wrong. The raw egg needs to be destroyed, and there's no other way to do it.

This drink is simply amazing and is a fair rival to a well-made margarita. I'm just sad that my prejudicial perceptions of Peruvian backwardness prevented me from enjoying this cocktail for six lonely years.