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Coquito: Discover Puerto Rican Eggnog

December 10, 2013

It makes my skin crawl when I go to research a recipe and punch the name of a drink into my favorite search engine to see what I can find, and BAM: the top 5 pages of a drink recipe is dominated by Sandra Lee, Emeril Lagosse, and a bunch of “made easy” cooking sites.  Try it yourself…I don’t blame them or the fact they have better optimization.  I blame the cocktail world for not  being more diligent and getting the right info out there….myself included

This happened when I began researching the history of a very obscure drink ( big surprise, right?) and found absolutely nothing from the bar community.  I know I am not the only person to hear of this drink.  I know because I was introduced to it by my good friends Natalie Rivera and Joe Walsh (no not the guitar player).  The drink?  Coquito aka Puerto Rican Eggnog.

EGGNOG!!!!  You think there would be an entire website dedicated to universal variations of this drink.  A website telling the tale of this ancient flip style drink with legends and myths and tales of traditions.  Or is it just too damn hard to spend 20 minutes making something homemade anymore; that prepackaged crap-in-a-carton is better?  Really?

It’s obvious the Spanish and English brought Nogs to the Caribbean and made do with what was available to them and the recipes would then evolve to include local ingredients.  We see this everywhere and it is no stretch of the imagination that it happened in the islands as well.  In the case of Coquito coconut milk, cream and /or water became involved…….then again so did Condensed and evaporated milk.

“Puerto Ricans LOVE that shit!”‘ Joe exclaimed when I asked him about it.  Another brick wall.

Now the Homemade Coquito that Joe and Natalie gave me was OUT OF THIS WORLD!!!!  Natalie is from a Puerto Rico, and the bottle of Coquito they passed along followed her family’s recipe.  I would never dare ask for it but they did let me in on a couple of secrets that I then worked into a recipe to share.  And yes, I did not escape the evap or condensed milk as these work in substitution for sugar.  Besides, Like Joe said…….

Coquito

  • 1 14 ounce can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1 12-ounce can Evaporated Milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • 4 cups coconut milk
  • 1/2  cup cream of coconut
  • 2 cups Don Q Gold  Rum (the rum of choice in PR)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Canela  (cinnamon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon clove

In a mixing bowl beat the egg yolks to the color of butter, add the salt, canela and clove and continue to beat until full incorporated (otherwise the spices  will separate).  Next whisk in the condensed milk evaporated milk, the coconut products in the order of cream, milk then water.  Finally add the rum.  I use my stand mixer and the whisk attachment for the whole operation, and yes the bowl gets full quick!

Bottle and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.  Enjoy chilled without ice.

So enjoy a little twist on your holiday celebration this year and enjoy a little nog from a different part of the world where Santa an elf hat…….he rocks a fedora!

Ramos Ramones

November 21, 2013

No this isn’t a unknown member of my favorite punk band.  And no this iphoto (20)sn’t the creator of the Ramos Gin Fizz.  Do you remember the old  Ramones logo? Look what Billy VanDuyne at Cock Tees NY ingeniously did with it..

imageI have more booze shirts than I can count, but when I saw this shirt on Facebook, it was a must have item. And being a lover of The Ramones and The Ramos Gin Fizz I thought the play between was the most creative and imaginative shirt I ever saw.

The T shirt is soft, fits well, and is available for purchase for $25 plus shipping via Paypal through the link above ( I bought two!!)

This a a great Holiday gift for any cocktail geek or old punk  like myself.  Supplies are limited so don’t wait!

The Cider Delighter

November 21, 2013

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it now; I love Autumn cocktails.  This time of year puts some of my favorite-flavors in the forefront of celebrating. Apples, pears, and all the “holiday spices” make me smile as the weather transitions to the cool months of Fall.

For years now I have made it a policy not to publish recipes that were not my own, but Vikingford Vodka came up with one that I had to share.  Vikingford is an award winning 5 time distilled potato based vodka from Norway that exclusively uses glacier water.

The recipe caught my eye because of two unique ingredients: Allspice Dram and Apple Bitters.  YUM!

ciderCider Delighter

  • 1 1/2 oz Vikingford Vodka
  • 1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 oz Allspice Dram
  • 1 1/2 oz Sparkling Apple Cider
  • 1 dash BAked Apple Bitters

Combine all but the sparkling cider in a shaker with ice and shake.  Strain into a Old Fashioned Glass filled with ice and top with apple cider.  Garnish with an apple slice.

(This recipe also can work in bulk as a punch style)

There are ca couple of commercially made Allspice Drams (also called Pimento Dram) and one Baked Apple Bitters, both of which are easily searchable.  What in intrigued me about this recipe is I had just made a homemade Allspice Dram,  and make Apple Bitters at Secreto.  The bitters take time so go ahead and buy them online at your favorite bitters supply place but let’s make the Dram…..

Allspice Dram

  • 2 cups good dark rum
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar (if you  are REALLY daring use sucanat sugar)
  • 1/2 cup whole allspice
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick

combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a very soft boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool to  room  temperature.  Cover the saucepan and let sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours. Strain, bottle and refrigerate.

Happy Season and Celebration!

Understanding Absinthe

October 12, 2013

There is no absence of malice when  it comes to understanding absinthe (absinthe of malice….?). In fact I hear more wives’ tales, misconceptions, and some just flat-out propaganda that rivals the crap that almost got absinthe banned worldwide.

WORMWOOD AND THUJONE

thujoneAbsinthe is an herbal liqueur that originated in Switzerland and is named from its primary herb Artemisia absinthium aka wormwood along withanise, fennel and many other herbs.  Wormwood like many other plants contains a chemical called Thujone.  Thujone is a Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) inhibitor meaning that it blocks GABA receptors in the brain and in extreme doses can cause convulsions.  Other herbs that contain thujone are oregano and sage.

No absinthe in the history of the world has contained enough thujone to inhibit brain function!  I mean it!  But we will get back to this in a minute

STYLES OF ABSINTHE

There are three  basic styles  of absinthe:

Swiss is the original as I said, then there is French and Czech.  Swiss is a milder balanced style where the anise flavors are not as prominent.  French is typically more anise forward and colored green and tends to be a sweeter in flavor.  Czech “absinth” is artificial and should be avoided as is it usually just high-proof booze with macerated wormwood only and not a distilled as traditional absinthe.  It is more like bitters actually. Czech or Bohemian “absinth” even drops the “e” from its name.  Whether that be a language thing or an omission to dodge European regulation try to stay away from any bottle of absinthe without an”e” on the end.

HOW TO DRINK

Again three ways to do  this:

spoonAbsinthe lends itself to high-proof and  is intended to be watered down, and some sweetened with sugar. Why add sugar to a liqueur?  Well keep  in mind in absinthe’s hay-day, the average palate preferred their drinks sweeter than we do today.  Also wormwood like many other herbs and in turn bitters, liqueurs, and spirits were prescribed by pharmacologist and traditionally one would take their medicine with sugar and water (remember what Mary Poppins taught us?)

The absinthe “ritual” is the same between Swiss (Suisse) and French with one exception.

swissTake a fluted glass and on top of the glass place a slotted spoon (Absinthe spoons are remarkably similar to julep strainers……I did say medicinal!).  Atop the spoon place a sugar cube, however depending on the sweetness of your chosen absinthe and your personal taste, sugar may not be necessary (the ones I have at home are 1/2 sized cubes for this very reason).  But let’s go with the sugar for now.  Pour one ounce of absinthe over the sugar cube into the glass. Now here  is where we distinguish styles.  For Swiss style you would now ignite the absinthe soaked sugar cube to caramelize the sugar.  For French leave you lighter in your pocket.  One is neither better or more proper other than maybe matching the style of drinking to the style of absinthe.  Next is cold water.  You can buy an Absinthe drip that regulates the speed of ice-cold water dripping over the sugar cube or you can do what I do at home and use an old pint bottle with a pour spout.

fairy glassNow its time to watch.  Your absinthe will begin to change, morphing from its clear, pale or green self into a rich milky goodness.  This is called the Louche and mystically referred to as releasing of the Green Fairy.  The louche is the release of the essential oils in the absinthe and will tell you many things about the quality and flavor of your absinthe.  Depending on the proof of you absinthe anywhere from 3 to 5 ounces of cold water should do you.

The third style  of absinthe prep, oddly comes from our Czech friends.  And it is called “the Huff” or “Huffing Ritual’.  Take a glass that you can fit your palm over.  Pour absinthe into the glass and ignite the absinthe itself.  Wait about 20 seconds the cover the glass with you hand tightly which will create a vacuum between your palm and the glass.  Lift the glass o your mouth between your thumb and forefinger.  Break the seal, huff the fumes, then drink the shot. You see a pattern forming here?  This, like Czech absinth, is designed for a single purpose and that is not the appreciation of a spirit.  Not saying I haven’t participated in the style of drinking before.

REAL ABSINTHE IN THE U.S.

Yes it is real.  Remember the thujone thing earlier? Absinthe contains anywhere from 5 to 35 parts per million (ppm) of thujone.  Even the stuff pre-prohibition was around this amount.  In 2007 the U.S. began allowing absinthe to be imported that they consider “thujone free” which is 10 ppm or less.  Some, however, would have you think that free means zero, and the more thujone the better the absinthe (wanna guess who…?).  Again there is not enough thujone is any absinthe to set off your GABA receptors.

SO WHY DO I FEEL DIFFERENT DRINKING ABSINTHE THAN OTHER BOOZE?

Well specifically with absinthe it is probably the anise either green and especially star anise along with the other herbs that make up the flavor.  remember herbs have medicinal qualities and between the distillation process and the louche enhancing the essential oils, we  are taking in stuff that affects the body differently than other spirits.

There are other liqueurs that affect the body as well:  Chartreuese, Ouzo, Sambucca, and Jagermeister to name a few.

ABSINTHE AND HALLUCINATIONS

picassoNope.  Not at all.  Again this is leftover propaganda from a hundred years ago where teetotalers and the temperance movement published “facts” stating that absinthe was more addictive and dangerous than opium.  Add this to extreme examples of heavy alcoholism in people like Van Gogh, Picasso, and Hemingway, and you got yourself quite a smear campaign!

Later I shall share the story of the history of all these little myths, but for now sit back and enjoy a great absinthe cocktail.

For more info how absinthe please visit

Absintheology

The Wormwood Society

Absinthe Buyer’s Guide

Homemade Lime Cordial

September 18, 2013

Summer season is slowly coming to an end here in Santa FE, which means I might actually have time to get some work done. But I am not ready to give up on some sensational summer sippers.  One of my favorites being the Gimlet.

Back in the 1867, Luchian Rose came up with a way to preserve lime juice without the use of alcohol.  That same year the Merchant Shipping Act passed Parliament requiring all ships to carry a daily ration of lime for its sailors.  Rose’s Lime  Cordial was used because it was lighter easier and wouldn’t spoil.  This is by the way why British sailors.

The Gimlet (meaning sharp or piercing) first popped up in the 1920′s, and as always the debate began of what a true gimlet was.  But that’s another story for another day.  We are here about the lime cordial

Though Rose’s is still pretty natural  sans the high fructose corn syrup), I decided I wanted to come up with my own Sweetened preserved lime juice.

Chris’ Lime Cordial

  • 8 limes
  • 6 oz sugar
  • 12 oz water
  • 1 teaspoon Citric Acid
  • 1 teaspoon Tartaric Acid

Peel all eight limes, then juice the enough limes for 1/2 cup of juice.  Next combine sugar and the acids.  Pour water into a medium saucepan and add sugar mixture.  Over medium high heat completely melt the sugar then bring to a soft boil.  Add lime peels and lime juice.  return to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes.  The time doesn’t have to be exact ( I usually go smoke a cigarette during the simmer).  Remove from heat and let stand for 12 hours.  Bottle label and refrigerate.

Couple tidbits here…

Lime Cordial and fresh lime juice are in NO WAY interchangeable so you have to use Lime Cordial in your Gimlet.  Using fresh juice and sugar are just not the same.

The original Cosmopolitan recipe used Lime Cordial and was simply a Kamikaze using citrus vodka and a tiny splash off cranberry.

Though some debate that the Gimlet includes soda, I have to disagree by etymology of the name alone as adding soda diminishes the “sharp” or ‘piercing” qualities of the drink.

What is the right proportion? There is no way to tell, early recipes were equal parts gin and lime where others were 4:1.  The  International Bartender’s Association has no official recipe for this one ( yet some they have sanctioned…..yikes)

So, like always play with it til you find what works best for you palate.  Happy Sipping

Bar Products for your new Bartender

August 30, 2013

One of the things I see that lacks in the bar and restaurant business ( and many other professions) is passage rites: a public recognition by peers mentors and students of status, change and position   This is changing with programs like the USBG Master’s Accreditation Program, but let’s say you have a barback that is a dedicated worker who is promoted and is completing their basic spirits and mixology training.  They should get some kind of recognition by their trainer, mentor, manager etc and not just handed next weeks schedule.

This is the kind of program that I am developing for my bar as well as the parent company in which I work.  And my good friends at BarProducts.com are helping me out with this.

The idea is to award the newly trained bartender with something they can be proud of and hold as their own.  I personally carry all my own bar tools and I am a firm believer that any serious professional bartender should do the same.  So why not take your novice bartender and give them a starter kit of tool to get them shaking.

BarProducts.com carries one of the largest selections of bar tools and equipment in the U.S. including a “Master Mixology” page of good professional gear.  

ImageBut our trainee isn’t quite there yet…… So let’s start them with a basic tool kit like the 13 Piece Bar Well Kit that includes a shaker, cheater cup, strainer, pour spouts, bar blade and a wine key.  It’s simple and affordable!

Add to this an all in one plastic jigger with measurements from 1/4oz -3 oz for ease of service.

ImageAnd finally a citrus press, optional at one time but now a requirement behind almost any bar.  Your new bartender is set and ready to go on their first shift with confidence and a collection of tools given to them by their boss all at under $60.  That’s a small investment that will pay itself off in no time as you have done more than give them a gift.  You have given something to be proud of.

Classic Cocktail The Ramos Gin Fizz

August 13, 2013

ramosThe year  is 1888 in the Vibrant Southern town of New Orleans in a place called the Imperial Cabinet Saloon.  Henry Ramos began mixing one of the city’s many iconic drinks originally called the New Orleans Fizz.

Now the Gin Fizz had been around for a while and today is frequently confused with the Tom Collins tell that story another time).  But Ramos upped the ante with his creation so much so that its production time was anywhere from 12 to 15 minutes done right and employed up to 32 shaker boys to make happen.  Even then the team had a hard time keep up with the demand for this creamy glass of heaven.

Growing up in the South myself, I’d heard of this drink but never had one while I was there.  When I got serious about serious drinks (this being a seriously serious drink), I began to dig around on the recipe.  And like so many recipes, there were variation after variation and trying to distinguish the ‘original” was a fun challenge.  I am not claiming to have the original but I will say that the most controversial parts of the recipe I do have an opinion on.

Ramos Gin Fizz

  • 1 1/2 oz Gin (Old Tom if you can)
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 oz heavy cream
  • 5 drops vanilla
  • 7 drops orange flower water
  • Soda water

Combine all ingredients except orange water and soda in a shaker without ice and shake until your arms are about to fall off.  Pass to the next person and have them do the same thing  Traditionally this drink shaken dry for twelve minutes.  Afterwards add ice and shake again!  to chill.  Strain into a Collins glass with out ice top with soda,give it a little stir and op with orange flower water.

Now the controversy:

  1. Old Tom Gin was the gin in use in 1888.  London Dry style was coming around but wasn’t the standard call as it is today.  Old Tom is available in available in some markets, but those who are stuck without can use another style but it just doesn’t work the same
  2. No bar these days has time to do the original shake time on this drink.  And if they did the drink’s cost would be astronomical.  The solution, do the best you can with the staff you have (we make a game of it at Secreto Lounge), or use an emulsion  blender either hand-held or counter top.
  3. Vanilla… Some recipes omit other say it  is an option.  I say it is an integral part of the drink adding the depth and dimension.  It is the music of this drink!
  4. Orange Flower Water:  if you don’t have it, don’t try to make this drink.  PERIOD!  There is no substituting here.  Not Curacao, not triple Sec, not even orange juice.  Just don’t

When is the best  time to enjoy a Ramos?  Brunch or for a hangover is most common, I think the Ramos is good anytime of the day.

Cheers Y’all

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