Sherry Three Ways

We talked about sherry in the latest installment of our occasional podcast, but I felt compelled to write out my thoughts here, too. These gorgeous old liquor decanters we have came with three tags: sherry, brandy, and scotch. These are three types of liquor that we hadn’t really explored.  Scotch never goes out of fashion, and through this project we’ve discovered an affinity for its smokiness in certain drinks, and a deep and abiding love for a nice glass of Lagavulin (Chris likes it neat; Liz digs a single ice cube). And we’re on record thinking brandy doesn’t get its due: sidecars are among our favorite drinks, and and Paul Masson is cheap and drinkable. Sherry seems like it might be on the edge of a modern day renaissance.

A quick Google search reveals guides from Serious Eats and the NYTimes, and Punch went so far as to publish proclaim a “sherry revival” back in 2014. I’m not sure how we missed this revival; I suspect it must have happened in some really stodgy corners of the bar world, because we haven’t encountered it in our extensive drinking. And it makes sense to us that sherry wouldn’t necessarily have the same appeal as scotch and brandy. For one thing, it’s not actually a liquor but a Spanish fortified wine, and it’s available in a daunting number of different varietals. We bought a La Garrocha Amontillado on the recommendation of our liquor store guy.  Pameladevi Govinda at Serious Eats says the Amontillado varietal “starts out as a fino and the flor eventually dies, exposing the wine to oxygen.” We have no idea what this means, but it’s not overly sweet, and worked nicely in a cocktail that called for dry sherry wine, and another that called for just “sherry.”

The Amontillado by itself tastes a little like a fruit and nut trail mix, with a slight mustiness at the back end that Liz finds slightly off-putting, but Chris really enjoys. It’s not as warming as whiskey or scotch, but it has a sort of special richness that feels autumnal. We tried it in three cocktails that are all worth visiting. La Garrocha tasted good in all these preparations. We want to try a Fino-style next, which the NYTimes says is a little yeasty and pairs nicely with food.

Since we were exploring a new spirit, we made a trio of sherry drinks over a few days. See recipes and quick takes below.

Adonis (p. 2) 20171112_182714

  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1 1/2 oz. Dry Sherry Wine

Stir well with cracked ice and strain into 3 oz. cocktail glass.

Liz’s Quick Takes: This drink is the  ostensible subject of our ramble-y podcast, hence the microphone in the above pic. We used Martini and Rossi sweet vermouth in this drink. This one is okay, but the sweetness of the vermouth and the sherry make this cocktail feel a little unbalanced to me, and I’d be unlikely to order this again.

Chris’s Quick Takes:  So, Sherry is my new thing. Fair warning, ladies and gentleman, from now on, if you invite me and Liz out to the bar, I’m going to ask what sort of Sherry they have. I might have a little conversation with the bartender about it, like some kind of big shot (at least in regard to sherry.) If you’re going to roll your eyes, please wait while I’m not looking, which will be when I’m busy enjoying sherry. I’m generally giving all these drinks rave reviews. They’re light, complicated, and easy to drink. Go for it, and then we can have ridiculous conversations about sherry.

Bamboo (p. 4) 20171111_202426 (1)

  • 1 1/2 oz. sherry wine
  • 3/4 oz. Dry vermouth
  • 1 dash orange bitters

Stir well with cracked ice and strain into 3 oz. cocktail glass.

Liz’s Quick Takes: We used Channing Daughters in this drink, which was my favorite of the bunch. The briny, floral dry vermouth balanced the sweet sherry and dampened its mustiness a little. I would order this at a bar or make this one again.

Chris’s Quick Takes: Orange bitters are a champ. Generally easy to buy (we got ours in a double-pack, with regular Angostura bitters) it can really perk up any old favorite that asks for bitters. This cocktail lets it shine. And because it’s sherry, it’s not too heavy. Have a couple and watch Jeopardy, why don’t you?

Sherry Cocktail (p. 89)20171114_191039

  • 2 1/2 oz. Sherry Wine
  • 1 dash bitters

Stir well with cracked ice and strain into 3 oz. cocktail glass. Twist of orange peel and drop in glass.

Liz’s Quick Takes: An orange peel makes any drink look and feel classy. This is a nice way to showcase the sherry, and the bitters complement the fruity undertones really nicely. I’d like to try this again when we buy a new sherry.

Chris’s Quick Takes: This was great, but I’m guessing that a lot of the taste is going to come down to the sort of sherry you use. As stated above, I’m totally willing to have that conversation, loudly if necessary.

Sherry: A Tentative Verdict: Liz wants to try more kinds of sherry. She’s particularly intrigued by descriptions of fino as mineraly and yeasty, two things she generally enjoys in a drink. As of now, the jury is out. Chris is all in.

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Piccadilly (p. 73)

20171102_184156Listen to us talk about the very pink Piccadilly cocktail here! Here’s the recipe:

  • 3/4 oz. Dry Vermouth
  • 1 1/2 oz. Old Mr. Boston Dry Gin
  • 1/4 tsp. Absinthe Substitute
  • 1/4 tsp. Grenadine

Stir well with cracked ice and strain into 3 oz. cocktail glass. 

Notes on prep: We used Channing Daughters, Pernod absinthe, and Grenadine. Liz used our inexpensive Seagram’s gin because she thought the Hendricks might overpower the absinthe and vermouth. Chris sort of wishes she’d used Hendricks.

Hear more by listening to our podcast.

20171102_183216 (1)

Gin and Tonic (p. 40)

Hey, this is Chris, taking over the mic for this installment because the gin and tonic holds a special place in my heart. Elizabeth introduced me to the classic drink when we first started dating, because it’s an old standby in her family. It was love at first sip. Best bracingly cold, with a wedge of lemon or lime, easy to make on a hot summer day. We used to sit out on our stoop in Bed-Stuy and read our books, sipping our generous drinks, forgetting the impending return to work.

The drink has a fascinating history. If you ever wondered why it has such a medicinal name, it’s because it was intended as a medical treatment. Tonic was developed in response to malaria, a common ailment among the filthy limeys that occupied India at the turn of the century. During their ruthless pillage, someone, probably a tory brute, noticed that the bark of a tree acted as an anti-malarial. This was quinine. Throw that in a little soda water, and you’ve got yourself a tonic. Problem is, none of the Brits would drink the stuff without gin, the swine. Thus, the gin and tonic was born.

Given its international origins, it’s no surprise the drink has followed us around the world. Several years ago, we went on our first trip abroad. Our first stop was in Barcelona. We’d spend just under a week there, much of that time spent feverishly (drunkenly?) attempting to sort out the logistics of expatriating. One of the most hilarious surprises was finding that the biggest food craze in 2014 was an American-style hamburger, served with a long, tall glass of gin and tonic. As a matter of fact, the trend had driven one of our Air BnB hosts out of the restaurant industry, his culinary pride unable to withstand the indignity of the Anglo-Americanization of his national culture. Which is weird, because he was from the Czech Republic. Neither Liz or I managed to try a gin and tonic there, which was is probably for the best.

Here’s the recipe, if you can call it that: 20171108_193658

  • 2 oz. Old Mr. Boston Dry Gin
  • Cube of Ice

Fill glass with quinine water and stir. Use 12 oz. Tom Collins glass. 

Notes on prep: We used Hat Trick gin, a small-batch artisan type, and otherwise followed the recipe to the letter (down to the single ice cube).

Liz’s Take: It’s a gin and tonic. What’s not to like? Chris already waxed poetic here, so I’ll try and speak to the taste of the drink itself. Tonic water is bittersweet and bracing; it plays nicely against every gin I’ve tried. The tonic tends to overpower a lot of the more complex botanicals, and I’m kinda cheap, so I usually order it at a bar with well gin. I once tried a G&T with Hendricks, and I couldn’t really taste it. It cost me like $10. I’ve since stuck to Seagram’s at home, and whatever no-name shit they stash under the rail at my local bar. I could taste this Hat Trick gin. It has a slight witch hazel undertone, which I find a little challenging, but a G&T is pretty much impossible to mess up. I drank two.

Chris’s Take: I loved it, but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. The other day on Facebook, the arbiter of truth, that enjoying bitter flavors had some correlation with psychopathy or sociopathy. Some kind of pathy. This stuff had a unique bitter finish that I really enjoyed. I only wish we’d had a more complex tonic. This stuff was on a shelf next to Tropical Fantasy orange soda.

Our Ratings:

Prep: Easy

Price: Cheap- don’t waste the good stuff

Ingredient Accessibility: Easy- buy tonic at the bodega, whatever gin you like

Taste: Bittersweet, refreshing

Final Verdict: Chris has ordered, and will continue to order, a gin and tonic at all the bars. Ditto Liz, but she’ll ask for a wedge of lime.

Bachelor’s Bait (p. 5)

On Election Day last week, Chris found a schmancy artisanal liquor store, and was taken in by a pretty bottle of Hat Trick Gin. Liz accidentally bought an extra dozen eggs at the supermarket. It was time to try another egg white cocktail. The Bachelor’s Bait has a cute name, and we figured something pink and frothy would photograph well. Here’s the recipe, as written by our old pal Mr. Boston:20171107_192323

  • 1 1/2 oz. Old Mr. Boston Dry Gin
  • White of 1 egg
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 1/2 teaspoon Grenadine

Shake well with cracked ice and strain into 4 oz. cocktail glass.

Notes on prep: We used Hat Trick gin; the other ingredients, we used exactly as directed. The allure of the egg white cocktail is the creamy, thick head. In the past, we have failed to create it. We read about the dry-shake technique, so we tried it this time. It failed again. Liz made a second round of the drink, following Old Mr. B’s less stringent method. It worked a little better. Chris suspects there’s some art to the egg-white cocktail that we have yet to master. Liz assumes it’s science, and she failed science.

Liz’s Take: The first variation, with the minimal froth, was disgusting. The first sip I took had the consistency of dish soap, and the vaguely medicinal botanicals in this gin enhanced that quality. I couldn’t finish it. I made it a second time, using the mellower Seagram’s gin, and trying out the simpler shaking method. This looked a bit prettier and tasted slightly less disgusting. I still didn’t finish it.

Chris’s Take: I really wanted to like this drink, but this gin doesn’t play well with others. There’s a lot of stuff going on, and none of them harmonize with the sugary-sweet grenadine. Combined with the broken egg white, and it was a little like sipping a protein shake. Sadly, no gains, bro.

Our Ratings:

Prep: Challenging- we still haven’t managed to master this egg white thing

Price: Cheapish

Ingredient Accessbility: Easy-ish (not sure about orange bitters- we bought ’em on Amazon)

Taste: Bitter, astringent, soapy

Final Verdict: Liz wishes that she could belly up to the right kind of bar and order a ‘Bachelor’s Bait,’ but it’s fucking vile. Chris would totally order it if the bartender had mastered the wizardry (no other explanation) of egg white foam.

 

 

Rum Highball (p. 84)

Some New Yorkers ran the marathon today (including a few of our ambitious pals), but we had a quiet, lazy, drizzly Sunday. It’s also the end of daylight savings time, and the early nightfall has us feeling a little out of sorts.  This drink reminded us of Dark ‘n’ Stormies, which felt apropos. Here’s the recipe as written: 20171105_200447

  • 1 cube of Ice
  • 2 oz. Old Mr. Boston Imported Rum

Fill 8 oz. highball glass with ginger ale or carbonated water. Add twist of lemon peel, if desired, and stir.

Notes on prep: We used Kraken rum and Bruce Cost’s spicy, dry ginger ale. We used a twist of lime instead of lemon, because Liz thought that sounded better.

Liz’s Take: Highballs are always among my favorite types of drinks. In Old Mr. B’s world, they’re just a base spirit, ice, optional citrus, and some sparkling water or ginger ale. It’s  a great chance to showcase the taste of an interesting spirit or soda, and in this case, it does both. Kraken rum is deeply flavorful, full of warm and wintery spices, and they’re complemented really well by the dry ginger ale. The best part? This sophisticated cocktail takes about 30 seconds to prepare, and can definitely stand up to an imprecise/lazy pour (i.e., no real need to measure– you can eyeball this one).

20171105_201336Chris’s Take: It’s a good drink, spicy. It’s the kind of drink you want to sip while standing on a covered porch, watching the rain fall.

Our Ratings:

Prep: Easy

Price: Medium (if you want nice ginger ale, it’s gonna cost ya)

Ingredient Accessibility: Medium (you often have to hit up a fancy store for fancy ginger ale, but we’d say it’s worth it)

Taste: Refreshing, lightly sweet

Final Verdict: Liz would order this on a late-season, rainy beach day. Or just make it at home on a drizzly autumn night. Chris would definitely order, but only if they had a dry ginger ale. Too much sugar and it’s a root beer.

Piccadilly Cocktail (p. 73)

20171102_184156We did another recorded version of our blog, since a few of our friends liked it, and we enjoy hearing ourselves ramble. Listen here, as we discuss the Piccadilly cocktail and proper bar etiquette. Here’s the recipe in writing:

  • 3/4 oz dry vermouth
  • 1 1/2 oz. Old Mr. Boston dry gin
  • 1/4 tsp. Absinthe substitute
  • 1/4 tsp. Grenadine

Stir well with cracked ice and strain into 3 oz. cocktail glass. 

Notes on prep: We used Channing Daughters vermouth, Seagram’s gin, Pernod (actual) absinthe, and random grenadine. We shook instead of stirring.

20171102_183216

Headless Horseman (p. 46)

Halloween is one of our favorite holidays, but this year we just haven’t gotten our shit together. We’ve both been slammed at work, and we didn’t get invited to any parties, so we’re making our own party-for-two at home. We started out with this aptly named drink. Here’s the recipe as written: 20171028_203729

Into 12 oz. Tom Collins glass, put: 

  • 2 oz. Old Mr. Boston Vodka
  • 3 dashes bitters

Add several cubes of ice, fill with dry ginger ale, and stir. Decorate with slice of orange. 

Notes on prep: We used Tito’s, of course, Angostura bitters, and Bruce Cost dry ginger ale.

20171028_204441Liz’s Take: This ginger ale is spicier than it is sweet, so it makes for a refreshingly biting cocktail. The warm spice pairs nicely with the orange slice. Maybe next time- I will make this again– I’ll try it with orange bitters to up that flavor punch. It’s nice. Like an easier, more autumnal Moscow Mule.

Chris’s Take: Last year, we scheduled a tattoo appointment in Asbury Park, New Jersey. It was the off-season, and pretty damn cold by the beach. And yet, inexplicably, when we arrived we saw that the beach was covered in tents, even while almost-frozen water crawled in waves just a few feet away. When we arrived at our appointment (at the awesome Old Glory Tattoo) our buddy told us that it was a hippie jam-band thing that they did every year. Sure enough, when we made it back to the beach, it was a sea of white dreads and cozily nasty baja sweaters. The Headless Horseman would make being among these goddamn hippies somewhat bearable. Peppery and warm, but still refreshing, it would would fit in perfectly on a chilly beach. Though, it wouldn’t do much to mitigate the crunchy grooves.

Our Ratings:

Prep: Easy

Ingredient Accessibility: Medium. If you want to use schmancy ginger ale, you’ll have to hit up a schmancy store. If you’re down with Canada Dry, then easy.

Price: Medium (the fancy ginger ale ain’t cheap)

Taste: Spicy-sweet, refreshing, light

Final Verdict: Liz will make this again. She sees no need to order it anywhere because it’s so easy to make. Chris would hesitate because if they used a really sweet ginger ale (like the vast majority of ginger ales,) it might be a sugary mess.

 

 

Deep Sea Cocktail (p. 30)

Our friend went to Channing Daughters vineyard on Long Island and brought us back some of our favorite dry vermouth. Thanks, Nathan! We wanted to showcase it in a special cocktail, and we found this one, which looked like a doozy. It didn’t disappoint. Here’s the recipe as written: 20171026_191647

  • 1 oz. Dry Vermouth
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Absinthe Substitute
  • 1 Dash Orange Bitters
  • 1 oz. Old Mr. Boston Dry Gin

Stir well with cracked ice and strain into 3 oz. cocktail glass.

Notes on Prep: We obviously used the fancy vermouth, along with Pernod Absinthe (so substitutes here!), and Hendricks gin.

20171026_192409Liz’s Take: There is a gorgeous bar hidden in Grand Central Terminal called the Campbell Apartment. It was the actual apartment of some robber baron, and they have outrageously expensive cocktails. I think they are delicious, but I was usually too busy kvelling over the gorgeous environs (and, okay, panicking slightly over the prices) to notice. I think this drink would be served there. With ingredients like these, how could it be bad? I can’t believe how far such a small amount of absinthe goes. The anise scent was really distinct, but it didn’t overpower the briny and fresh-tasting vermouth. I did find myself wondering how this would be with vodka instead of gin– it might enable the vegetal flavors of the vermouth and absinthe to shine through even more– but this is special.

Chris’s Take: Both Liz and I have been a little bummed out about missing a lot of the Halloween festivities this year. Sure, we went to Atlas Obscura’s “Into the Veil,” which was great, but we didn’t get to dress up as ghosts or anything. We both love Halloween. I’ve told (cringe) told co-workers that it’s my favorite season because, for just one month, the world looks like the inside of my head. There was a lot of awkward head-nodding. We’re not going out this year, so it’s a good thing that this drink is a celebration of Halloween…at least in Liz’s world. She terrified of spending money, and this monster would cost thirty bucks. Boo!

Our Ratings:
Price: Expensive!

Taste: Expensive! Herbaceous, complex.

Ease: Easy

Ingredient Accessibility: Rather challenging (absinthe isn’t everywhere, neither is fancy vermouth)

Final Verdict: Liz would order this in a very fancy place, or serve this to a very special guest (maybe one who bought her a bottle of vermouth).  Chris would hope they serve it with a little pickled pearl onion.

Manhattan Cocktail (Dry) (p. 62)

20171015_183022 (1)Have you ever wondered what we sound like singing country drinking songs, waxing snobbish on vermouth, and musing on the perils of gentrification? Well, wonder no more.  Chris bought a fancy microphone to record wonky political conversations with his Utah bff, Shawn, and Liz wanted in on the action. You can hear us here.

The opening tune  is ‘Beer Bottle Mama,’  an old hillbilly song which Chris first heard when he worked at Western Spirit with some other music nerds. We think it’s from around 1950, but Google doesn’t know much about it. The song at the end is ‘Tennessee Whiskey,” is a David Allan Coe tune from 1981. It’s not a mid-century song, but it fit the apparently really challenging bill– we just wanted drinking songs that weren’t cautionary tales or breakup sagas.

Here’s the recipe we discussed: 20171015_182428 (1)

  • 1 dash bitters
  • 3/4 oz. dry vermouth
  • 1 1/2 oz. Old Mr. Boston Whiskey

Stir well with cracked ice and strain into 3 oz. cocktail glass. Serve with an olive.

Notes on prep: We used Old Overholt, our fave Channing Daughters dry vermouth, and Angostura bitters.

Link is, once more, here if you’re curious about the drink’s taste (underwhelming) or our singing voices (we’ll let y’all be the judges).

Vodka Gimlet (p. 104)

Chris and Liz, for very different reasons, were surprised to find how much they enjoyed vodka martinis, so it seemed like time to adapt another gin-based classic. The vodka gimlet is basically the same as the gin gimlet. See the old recipe for proportions.

Notes on prep: We used Tito’s vodka, RealLime, and some Domino’s superfine sugar.20171024_190937

Liz’s take: Just like with the gin, I think this is a little too sweet, and I want to add some seltzer. I also feel like the lime flavor is a little too pronounced. Vodka is so neutral that, really, all I taste is limeade here. It might as well not be booze, and I like booze. I think the gin adds a level of complexity that’s missing here. Vodka has its limitations, I guess.

Chris’s Take: It’s very sweet. The only thing I’d serve this at is a 21st birthday party for a particularly uncomplicated young person.

Our Ratings:

Prep: Easy!

Ingredient Accessibility: Easy!

Price: Cheapish- it’s worth it to get a decent vodka. It’s really not very expensive.

Taste: sweet and sour, not boozy at all

Final Verdict: Liz would recommend this to a beginning drinker, but would not order it a bar.  Giving this to a beginner is just begging them to end up loving “cupcake” wine. Avoid.