I’ve been avoiding this recipe for a few reasons. First of all, everyone has their own way of making a Bloody Mary and is sure to take issue with almost everyone else’s recipe. Secondly, I’ve honestly only recently settled on what I think makes for the perfect Bloody and, finally, it’s one of my favorite cocktails - so I wanted to make sure I didn’t screw it up.
As Spring seems to be beginning to take root here on the East Coast, however, I think now is the perfect time to take on the endeavor of this mythic and potent drink, cultural artifact and fabled hangover cure. Without further adieu, you’ll need:
2 oz (a little over 1 jigger) premium vodka (Ketel One does nicely)
1/2 cup good tomato juice
The juice of 1 whole lemon
A liberal dashing of Worcestershire Sauce
2 spoonfuls (at least) of premium Horseradish
Hot sauce to taste
Celery, cocktail olives, salt, pepper and lemon wedges to garnish
Before I suggest how to assemble this cacophony of ingredients, a word on some of my reasoning. First of all, most recipes would call for less vodka - but with such strong and possibly overwhelming flavors going on in the Bloody Mary, I think it’s important to make sure that vodka “bite” is still at least slightly noticeable. Secondly, some people will yell and scream that Tabasco just has to be in a Bloody and no other type of hot sauce. This just isn’t true and, in fact, I prefer some other more smoky hot sauces to Tabasco. Finally, in my mind, the horseradish is the golden ticket here. Use a lot of it. Add some, taste the concoction, and do not hesitate to add more if you feel like it. Make sure to use fresh horseradish, none of that horseradish sauce stuff.
OK - onto assembly. I find the easiest way to make a Bloody is sloshing all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker (including the olives, and maybe even a little bit of their brine), mixing together diligently with a large spoon until the horseradish has dissolved and the liquid takes on that familiar red, speckled aesthetic of the classic Bloody Mary. Pour into a high ball glass piled with ice and garnished with a large sprig of celery (be dramatic here - make it big and fancy) and a wedge of lemon.
This recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc. and whipped up into a large pitcher for serving as well (which sounds good to me). Remember - this drink should be tangy, salty, spicy, smoky, a little bitter and everything in between. Indulge, enjoy and don’t fret if a flavor seems off - just keep adding more until the cocktail seems balanced. Or pour on the vodka and hope people get too drunk to notice.
Yes, Dan Aykroyd does co-own this vodka but, honestly, if he had any part in the design process then I have a newfound respect for the man. Crystal Head has been around for awhile now and is definitely in that category of ultrapremium vodkas that depend a lot more on image than they do on quality. As I have stated before, I really don’t think there’s any difference between most vodkas besides being ultrapremium or economy, so next time you’re looking for a Belvedere or Grey Goose-level spirit, consider swinging towards Crystal Head.
As with most expensive vodkas, the product is excellent and - more importantly - the bottle is absolutely stunning. For those of us who are more inclined towards the maccabre, once the liquor has been drained, the glass skull makes an excellent vase, case for spices, olive oil, coins, etc. It’s a little crazy to have as much brand affinity as to request Crystal Head when out at a restaurant or bar, however, when entertaining at home or merely looking for a luxury vodka for one’s own bar - Crystal Head certainly has that “wow” factor. Skull motifs have been popular for a few years and can certainly border on the tackier side of branding, however, this is an example of an excellent case of design.
A witty take on a traditional design by venerable house Stranger & Stranger, Compass Box’s “Lady Luck” offering is one of their most expensive and exclusive. A blend of two ancient Caol Ilas casks and a 1995 Imperial single malt, Lady Luck has a distinctly complex flavor of smoke and citrus. The label is what makes this product special, however, as Stranger has crammed in as many omens of good luck as possible onto one basic rectangular front image. If you look hard, you can find dice, rabbits, the number 7, four-leaf clovers, the Ace of Spades, keys and more.
Even though I am an adamant supporter of organic, locally-sourced and environmentally sustainable products, I generally find it kind of gimmicky to base an entire brand (from name to packaging) on eco-friendliness.
Alternative Organic Wine, however, does just that with sensational results, proving once again that basically any concept can always be executed better, more elegantly and in new and creative ways. Designed by The Creative Method (the same shop behind Smirnoff Ice’s packaging), the bottle takes cues from materials found in nature, such as cork, bark, wax and the obvious leaf motif found in the logo as well as on the bottle-casing.
A great foray into eco-friendly design in the realm of wine and spirits, one of the few consumer product categories that has yet to fully embrace organic and sustainable production (if not marketing). Imbibe responsibly.
I love the idea of the infographic - from showing weather patterns to explaining historical events or putting statistics together in a coherent and easy-to-look-at package, it’s a medium that I don’t think has gotten nearly enough attention over the last few years. With publications like FastCompany and the New York Times Magazine embracing the infographic as an ideal and aesthetically-appealing form of getting their messages across, however, all that might be changing soon. As seen here with designer Fabio Rex’s cocktail infographics, the concept is being applied to more and more fields daily…and that’s a trend I’m happy to endorse.
PS - yes, they’re in Spanish, but the information isn’t too hard to figure out.
This pricey offering from the venerable Highland Park brand will run you close to $17,000 (yes, that’s three zeros). It’s deemed to be “worth it,” however, by whiskey aficionados due to its incredibly limited run and unique (if not, in my opinion, kind of ugly) packaging options. There will only be 275 bottles of this 50 year old cask-strength liquor available on the market, part of Highland Park’s five refill oak cask series, all of which were distilled back in 1960. The intricate weave on the bottle is pure sterling silver, and it comes encased in a hand-carved oak box complete with matching silver porthole. You’d think for the price, maybe they would’ve sprung for gold or platinum?
Although you probably haven’t heard of them, Stranger & Stranger is a venerable design firm based out of New York and London that specializes in the packaging of liquor and fine spirits. From 1800 Tequila (of Sopranos-endorsed fame) to Kraken Rum (which has been featured on Imbibe) to the more widely-distributed Three Olives Vodka, they’ve designed over 100 packages and labels since their inception in 1995.
Every year for the holiday season, Stranger concocts distinctive single-batch specialties, brands them appropriately and sends them out to family and friends as a truly exciting gift. This year the firm outdid themselves by taking on a special project only recently made legal in the United States - absinthe.
As the 12th and most recent of their Christmas design series, this bottle of Stranger & Stranger absinthe is, indeed, a sight to behold laden with intricate and charmingly devilish details. From what appears to be a foreboding eye of the Illuminati on the top of the cork, to the optical illusions on the label’s main body and the choice of a clear bottle in order to place emphasis on the beautiful, light-green color of the liquid - it’s a product that Stranger & Stranger should most definitely be proud of. The quote inscribed on the matte black paper surrounding the cork describes the drink best:
"Nectar, bittersweet - like the last kiss on the lips of a discarded mistress, is the secret charm of my existence; green as the moon’s light on a forest pool it glimmers in my glass; eagerly I quaff it, and, as I drink, I dream.” Marie Corelli, 1890.
A refreshing, elegant and classic concoction to help ring in any new year is the St. Germain Cocktail. It’s easy to make, crisp, cold and bubbly - so get to it and celebrate the end of 2010 in style. Here’s what you’ll need:
2 parts dry Champagne (use a Brut, like Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial)
1.5 parts St. Germain Elderflower Liquer
1.5 parts club soda
1 lemon wedge to garnish
Mix the club soda and St. Germain thoroughly in a tall glas filled with ice. Top with champagne, drop in a slice of fresh lemon and enjoy.
Great marketing materials and package design from a fledging brewery proves that just because it’s beer doesn’t mean you can’t take a brand position that is witty, colorful and sophisticated while maintaining a bit of that sophomoric humor that beer brands are so famous for endorsing. Hobson’s is also environmentally conscious and uses mainly locally-sourced ingredients, bringing a bit of eco-awareness to a side of the spirits industry that rarely promotes sustainability.
As part of their “Blending of Art” project that has encompassed collaborations with musicians such as A-Trak and Steve Aoki as well as visual artists Dust La Rock and Spaceknuckle, Hennessy has released a slew of limited-edition conceptual works using their iconic bottle as a canvas. Although not a particularly creative idea in terms of branding, Hennessy’s execution on this project has been particularly impressive.
Let’s talk about warm drinks for the Winter months. Doesn’t it feel lovely to curl up on that fur rug by the fire with your Hot Toddy? Or Hot Buttered Rum? Or piping Irish Coffee?
No, it doesn’t. Because hot alcoholic drinks are, quite frankly, kind of gross. This time of the year, and every year without fail, magazines and blogs and restaurants start touting recipes for ridiculous hot alcoholic drinks - and they’re all nasty. I’m sorry, but alcohol is meant to be drank cold or at room temperature. There’s a reason why “on the rocks” is part of our American vernacular but very few people have a code word for “please microwave that martini for me.”
So - are you freezing from this cold snap that’s raging outside? Go home, change into a robe, take a hot shower and pour yourself a nice single malt scotch or glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and I guarantee that you’ll find yourself uncannily warmed-up, without the need for melted butter or cloves of cinnamon floating around in your beverage.
I’ve been holding off on this recipe for awhile since it’s a little complicated and such an infamous drink that I wouldn’t want to spread any misinformation about the proper preparation. However, recently the Sazerac has become my cocktail of choice. In the world I currently inhabit, one of pre-fabricated neo-speakeasies, Lower East Side tiki bars and copious Milk and Honey knock-offs - every cocktail I encounter tends to cost at least upwards of $12. This fact is ridiculous, yet I must accept it as a truth of fine drinking in New York City. Thus, I like a little more “bang for my buck,” drinks that require actual effort to mix and don’t just taste like a $15 Cosmopolitan alternative. The Sazerac provides exactly that. The drink is exotic, comes with a ritual and rich historical narrative as well as incredible potency. Without further adeiu, this is what you’ll need:
1 1/2 oz Rye Whiskey
1/4 oz Absinthe (St. George or Lucid will do) OR Herbsaint
3 dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters
1 lemon peel
1 sugar cube
Now for the preparation. Take one heavy, crystal old-fashioned glass and fill it with cracked ice. In a second glass, muddle the sugar cube with the bitters. Allow to sit for a moment before pouring the Rye into the sugar/bitters mixture. Now, empty the first glass of ice and quickly pour the absinthe in, swirling it around vigorously to coat the sides of the glass with the liquor and then discard the remaining absinthe. This is called an absinthe (or Herbsaint, if you’ve decided to go the less dangerous route) “wash” or “rinse” and will give the glass a distinct taste and smell of the notorious green fairy without overpowering the cocktail. Now, pour the rye into the glass, run the twist of lemon along its rim and then drop into the cocktail, served up (the drink will be cold due to the ice that has previously chilled the glass).
Substitutions for this cocktail, which has often been debated as the world’s first, include the obvious use of Herbsaint (an Anis-flavored liquer) if absinthe isn’t available and the use of Cognac if Rye doesn’t sit well with you. No matter how you do it, as long as you use quality ingredients and keep the proportions correct, this drink is incredibly complex, rich and delicious - a true cocktail.
Wine is one of those categories of spirits and liquor where it seems like almost everything has been done. From the college-oriented 2 Buck Chuck white wine at Trader Joes to magnums of the finest cabernet sauvignon, it’s a market wherein such a vast range of flavors, origins, narratives and (of course) brand positions exist that it’s certainly tough to differentiate yourself as a vineyard. Here’s three examples of companies that have done an excellent job:
Yellow Tail. That’s right. It’s not very expensive, and many people would agree it’s not particularly great - however, this Australian winery managed to break onto the American scene with great force and presence due largely in part to their branding and design perspective. All their bottles and advertisements are clean, crisp and colorful. They draw attention instead of shame when out on the bar of a family member or friend, despite their rather low price point. It seems almost cliché now, but what Yellow Tail did back in 2000 was pretty revolutionary, and explains why the brand has grown 10 times larger in the last decade.
Burn Cottage. This winery is literally brand-new, but their modern-gothic aesthetic is a perfect differentiator in the super-clean, color-saturated market that has emerged since every brand has started attempting to be the next Yellow Tail. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this wine sitting next to a patron at Freemans or such a trendily anti-establishment downtown NYC spot.
Francis Ford Coppola. It makes sense that such a revolutionary and artistically-talented media figure would launch one of the best-curated, well-branded wineries of the last few years. The range is extensive, yet all of Coppola’s offerings have a certain classic California air of luxury to them that makes them ideal for gift-giving, drinking casually or splurging for a special occasion. The bottles conjure up an evening in Napa, watching the sun set in the brisk but comfortable California twilight. They look expensive and of high-quality without trying too hard, a balance which is always tough to pull off.
Avoiding a Godfather-themed ad campaign must’ve taken a lot of discipline for old Francis, but his gamble on clean, simple and elegant design has most certainly paid off.
Well, this is an old standby. Nonetheless, people don’t tend to mix themselves up classic margaritas these days. Everything is frozen, or passion fruit, or pomegranate or fancied-up with Mescal or…you get the point.
So here’s an appeal to the logical side of all the drinkers out there - there’s no better margarita than the classic, mixed up carefully with quality tequila and poured over ice into a salted glass. You don’t need to do shots. You don’t need to be outside or at some tropical location or a theme party. You just need to be in the mood for a potent and refreshing margarita. Without further adieu, a recipe:
2 parts ultra-premium blanco tequila (I prefer Don Julio)
1 part Cointreau (not Triple Sec)
1 part freshly-squeezed lime juice
A dash of sugar to sweeten
Salt and lime wedges to garnish
It’s easy, but it’s also easy to screw up by using cheap liquor. I always preach that one should spoil oneself with fine booze at all times possible, but when it comes to tequila it’s actually of utmost importance not to use the bad stuff. Tequila packs quite a punch in any form, but in order for the smoothest and most refreshing margarita, expensive blancos should be used so that there’s no unpleasant “bite” or aftertaste.
Chill a glass in the freezer (I like to use tumblers to class-up the joint, in lieu of those tacky margarita glasses), run a lime around the lip of the cup and dip into a plate of coarse salt. Fill with cubes of ice, pour the mixed margarita in and enjoy.
Striking and attractive packaging from a traditional French absinthe brand. “The concept behind the brand,” according to Tenneyson Absinthe Royale, “was to successfully blend the Art Nouveau time period with the modern feel of present day. The result is a design that is both masculine and feminine; organic and precise.” Apparently the flourishing leaf pattern embossed on the bottles are inspired by the wormwood plant itself - the notorious green fairy’s natural source material. Either way, the stuff looks nice and, I’m sure, tastes even better (although I’m not sure whether it’s available in the US or not).
The famously eccentric Brit punk-rock designer has teamed up with Chivas to swathe it’s 18-year old offering in a creative wrap-around casing just in time for Holiday 2010. Despite the seemingly random nature of the collaboration, this is certainly a conversation piece to have on your bar come Christmas time.
Also known as the Double Standard Sour, this drink’s not only pretty (and impressive to make), but it also packs quite a punch. Make sure to get the proportions right on this one, for overloading it with any particular ingredient (something I tend to do) can easily push this cocktail over the edge and into “too strong” territory.
Here’s the recipe:
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar
3/4 oz rye or Bourbon whiskey (depending on your taste)
3/4 oz gin
1/2 oz grenadine or raspberry gomme*
Shake all ingredients together in a cocktail shaker loaded with ice, strain and garnish with an orange slice and maraschino (or home-candied) cherry.
What’s this raspberry gomme thing, you wonder? Well, it’s not particularly hard to make and does, indeed, make this cocktail perfect - however, it’s hard to put together when raspberries aren’t in season. The gomme is merely lots of fresh raspberries muddled in simple syrup - almost a homemade grenadine, but a lot less saccharine. The gomme adds a really nice sweet and sour finishing punch to the drink, so if you can get your hands on the goods, I’d recommend trying to whip it up.
As always, use good-quality liquor for best-quality results.
Moet & Chandon teamed up with Verner Panton, one of the most classic furniture and bar-wear designers of the past 50 years, to create this special re-incarnation of their 1963 “Bar Boy” storage system in order to celebrate the release of their Grand Vintage champagne. This luxurious Bar Boy is swathed in classic matte black lacquer and lined in a buttery-soft beige leather.
The Bar Boy’s three departments - the bottom one for cooling and holding champagne, the middle one to harbor and chill flutes and the top one left empty (at the discretion of the owner) - provide more than enough room for an evening of high-class entertaining.
This sumptuous mobile bar, which comes pre-stocked with bottles of the 2002, 1992 and 1982 Moet vintages, can be yours for a measly $5,000.
I recently stumbled upon this online banner ad for a new, limited-edition Heineken bottle and became intrigued. Heineken has done some interesting collaborations in the past (including some as high-tech as a Krups partnership designed to promote their mini-keg), but such blatant press for a design-fueled promotion online is new to Heineken, and to the realm of beer marketing in general. Limited-editions are always a great way to spur interest in a brand from design snobs and elitists alike, so this glow-in-the-dark Heineken bottle, with its stark, modern and aesthetically pleasing design (reminiscent of these recent Coke bottles - http://tiny.cc/jj6m2) may be just the right tactic to lure some of the hipster market away from staples like PBR and microbrews and over to the beer giant’s side of the fence.
I’m curious to see what these bottles are like in real-life, and will remain on the lookout in my neighborhood. Heineken’s not exactly gourmet, but it’s not too bad either. Imbibe responsibly (if you can find it).
Black never goes out of style - so it makes sense that the folks over at Johnnie Walker have chosen to initiate a wide-release of their Double Black Label offering starting in March of 2011. Up until now, the blended scotch was only available in a select few duty-free spots around the globe. So what, exactly, makes this label so decadently dark? Well, according to Johnnie Walker and the lucky few souls who have tasted the product - it’s created by taking their standard Black Label, adding some extra peat malts to the mix and aging it in deeply-charred oak casks.
To be honest, I don’t particularly like super-peaty whiskies and I consider Black Label to be one of the more perfect Johnnie products ever made, so I’m a little skeptical about whether or not I will take a liking to the new Double Black variety.Nonetheless, I look forward to tasting it come March.
Since October has come around I figured that it’s time for some spooky-sounding, Halloween-themed drink recipes. My good friends over at Alizé (which happens to be a fruity liqueur made up of a blend of French vodka, passion fruit and a variety of other exotic flavors) sent me a few recipes for the season and this one is particularly easy-to-make and refreshing. Without further adieu, the Passion and ‘Pagne (‘Pagne like Champagne, get it?):
3 parts Alizé Red Passion
3 parts Tattinger Champagne
It’s that easy. Pour in the order above into a chilled champagne flute (this is serious, make sure you serve them cold since there’s no ice involved) and garnish with a lemon peel. This blood-red concoction is super easy to make, tropically delicious and affordable so it’s ideal to put together for parties. Just don’t spill on your beige carpet.
One spirit I happen to love that doesn’t get much attention in the package design and branding department (outside of all those heritage-driven cylindrical gift packages they often come in) is single malt scotch whisky. As one of the more sophisticated and expensive liquor offerings on the market, it’s surprising to me that more single malts haven’t embraced some form of high-design or quirkiness. Even Johnnie Walker (a blended scotch, mind you) has a slightly off-kilter label.
Anyway, I’ve never had Glenhaven, as it’s certainly not one of the more publicized or widely-available scotches, yet I’ll definitely keep an eye out for this 19-year old offering strictly because of it’s unconventional and elegant packaging. Yes, I’m an easy sell.
How do you make a Jeroboam (that’s twice as large as Magnum, for those who aren’t well-versed in ridiculous liquor bottle sizes) of Moet any better than it already is? How about preparing it for the Holiday season by commissioning a Parisian jeweler to completely encase the bubbly monstrosity in gold leaf? That’ll work.
As a bit of a eulogy for Summer, I present you with one of the most simple and refreshing classic cocktails around - the Moscow Mule. Created in Manhattan’s Chatham Hotel in the 1940s as part of a movement of the upper-crust cocktail types towards vodka-based concoctions, the Moscow Mule perfectly brings together sweetness, spice, citrus and (of course) the loving embrace of alcohol. An interesting fact is that the Mule was traditionally served in copper mugs (almost like a Julep), yet this serving method had absolutely no grounds in history or mixology. It was, indeed, a complete marketing gimmick, designed to add an extra injection of aesthetic appeal to the cocktail in image-obsessed markets like Los Angeles, where it became particularly popular. The Moscow Mule’s trademark was a success, and the recipe helped to usher in an era of vodka-based drinks during a time of nearly total gin supremacy.
It’s this simple:
1-2 parts vodka
1 part fresh lime juice
2-3 parts ginger beer
I happen to think that 2 parts of vodka to 3 parts of ginger beer is fine in a Moscow Mule, as ginger beer is a particularly strong flavor - but to each his own. Garnish with a slice of fresh lime and, if entertaining, throw some muddled limes in the glass for a little extra flare. As always, use only premium ingredients for the best tasting results.
Not to be outdone by Dom’s multitude of art and fashion collaborations, the house of Perrier Jouet has tapped artist Kareem Iliya to help create a series of prints in celebration of their Fleur de Champagne cuvee. The theme of the collaboration is the Dandy Ball, the type of event frequented by one of Perrier Jouet’s original biggest fans, Oscar Wilde. Ever the dandy, Wilde and his extravagant friends would often gather, decked out in their most luxurious fineries, and celebrate life with bottle upon bottle of bubbly. Sounds good to me.
My favorite beer is Delirium Tremens. It’s branding is dead-on - an obviously Belgian pale ale with a rich history of over 20 years under the Delirium name, rooted in the beer-making tradition of past generations that also manages to exist as perfectly modern and provocative.
The name of the brew comes from the withdrawal symptoms experienced by alcoholics - a charming mix of hallucinations and uncontrollable shaking. One of the most storied hallucinations experienced by these unfortunately-circumstanced drinkers is a vision of pink elephants - and thus Delirium Tremens found its mascot and logo. The brand’s name was so offensive that it broke liquor laws prohibiting the promotion of binge-drinking and had to be sold under the name “Mateen Triple” when first imported to the USA and Canada. Delirium further differentiates itself with a ceramic-coated bottle and champagne-like cork opening system - adding class and intrigue to the already-controversial product’s image.
Despite getting away with a brand position that most hard-liquor companies (especially those based out of the USA) would still have quite a difficult time executing - Delirium also delivers on the product front. It has been noted as the best beer in the world by several different panels since its inception in 1989 and it stands out from the crowd with its high alcohol content (8%-9%, nearly twice as much as the pale beer we’re used to drinking here in the states) and living-yeast fermentation process. This unique form of beer-making allows the ale to continue to ferment once bottled in its signature ceramic-coated casing - adding an additional depth of flavor and complexity.
When served cold out of the bottle and into one of its signature pink-elephant balloon glasses or, if you’re lucky enough to find it, on draught - Delirium is arguably one of the best and most refreshing beers on the market today.
In the world of classic cocktails there is one ingredient that pops up continuously, almost regardless of which base spirit one is working with - bitters. We all know that they’re very potent, come in small apothecary-styled bottles (Peychaud’s and Angostura being the leading brands) and have been lauded as a treatment for stomach ailments (just plop some in a glass of soda water for a truly medicinal-tasting concoction). Yet the majority of people have little-to-no idea as to what bitters actually are. The answer is that they’re simply a spirit base infused, over a long period of time, with a myriad of herbs and spices. Some common herbal components include wormwood, lavender, tree bark, burdock root, black walnut leaf, birch leaf and dandelion (among others). Spice-wise, bitters often include cinnamon, coriander and cloves.
So, here is an incredibly basic but also undeniably refreshing recipe using bitters as the secret ingredient:
The Perfect Gin & Tonic. First served to me at the Bowery Hotel but actually an old British recipe, this merely calls for your favorite high-quality gin (I’d go for a more herbal gin in lieu of my favorite Hendrick’s to avoid mixing too many powerful flavors), tonic water and a splash (let’s say 2 or 3 drops) of Angostura bitters. Combine over lots of ice and garnish with a lime wedge. The result is a slightly pink-hued gin and tonic with an exceptionally smooth finish and uniquely flavorful bite.
Remember, whatever you may be whipping up with this potent cocktail cure-all, only use a few drops!
The Bramble may not have as storied a history as the Sidecar or Old Fashioned, but it’s a modern classic - refreshing, bittersweet and slightly exotic. Although popular in England as a tart alternative to a Cosmopolitan, the Bramble has not gained a particularly high-profile here in the US. This is a shame, as it very well may be the most perfect Summer gin drink around (the New York Times agrees with me, as they recently profiled the drink in their magazine section). Here’s the easy recipe:
2 parts gin
1 part freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 part simple syrup
1/2 part creme de mure OR 1 batch fresh, muddled blackberries
Lemon and blackberries to garnish
Although the traditional recipe does call for creme de mure, I prefer to muddle blackberries in its place. The liqueur is a bit heavy and tends to weigh down and sweeten the drink past my liking. So, instead, muddle a bunch (use your judgement on how many) of blackberries in a cocktail shaker and then add ice and the rest of the ingredients. Shake the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup together with the berry pulp until freezing cold, then drain into a rocks glass of crushed (or at least cracked) ice.
If you can’t find fresh blackberries, or don’t want to take the time to muddle them, you can drizzle creme de mure on top of the Bramble right after shaking and strainng it into its glass. What’s creme de mure, you wonder? Even though it sounds rather fancy and difficult-to-find, it’s really not. Creme de mure is simply a blackberry liquer and can be located nearly anywhere fine spirits (and their even finer accoutrements) are sold. Once again, traditionalists would probably add creme de mure in addition to freshly muddled berries, but I just find this to be overkill.
There are two things that I must stress about making a Bramble. First of all, every ingredient has to be fresh and the gin has to be good - as the starring spirit of the drink, a strong and potent gin can make or break a Bramble (I’d reccomend Hendrick’s, Bombay Sapphire or Aviation Gin - nothing too herbal, nothing too cheap). Secondly, the ice should really be crushed to maximize deliciousness. I’m talking really, seriously crushed. Little Branch in NYC makes one of the most perfect Brambles I’ve ever had and I’m convinced that their secret is the abundance of crushed ice - it makes a Bramble extra cold and almost reminiscent of a frozen italian ice, but for grown-ups.
About one year before their adventurous alliance with the Andy Warhol Foundation, Dom Perignon tested the waters of artistic collusion by tapping the iconic Karl Lagerfeld to produce a series of photographs for them. The theme of the collaboration was an ode to Dom’s flagship champagne - the Oenotheque (which means “library of wines”). Merging narrative storytelling, classic French decadence, Karl’s sumptuous eye for fashion and Dom’s historic pursuit of quality and craftsmanship - the resulting campaign was certainly both an aesthetic and branding success.
My review for Hendrick’s itself is pretty straightforward. This is a liquid that is refreshing and botanical, like most gins, yet boasts an uncommon smoothness and added flavor through the infusion of cucumber and rose petal. Their distillation process is special and the gin comes out of Scotland, an area obviously known more for their whiskies than gins, yet in the end it comes down to this: it tastes really good.
So, what’s so special about Hendrick’s if not solely the taste? The answer here is branding, something so many liquor companies get wrong.
First off, there’s the bottle - modeled off of a classic apothecary container, it is modern, beautiful, stoic and old-fashioned all at the same time. You want it on your bar - but you also kind of want to throw some flowers in it or make up a story about how you stumbled upon it at an antiques dealership in a far-off, exotic locale.
Secondly, amid a cacophony of praise and awards, Hendrick’s launched an ad campaign celebrating the unusualness and peculiarity of their brand - differentiating themselves with humor and heritage in a sea of blue-hued perfume bottle gins calling out “hipness” and nightlife credentials. Hendrick’s even took their label a step further by proudly declaring that, in fact, “it’s not for everyone.”
Their website launched recently - adding the same old-school fun and flair to the digital world that they first brought to the realm of print a few years ago. So, pour some over ice with tonic water, garnish with a lime (or cucumber, as they recommend) and have faith that you’re imbibing a gin with both a great taste and image.
Despite their slogan, it’s worth a try for everyone.
Worth a buy for lovers of the unusual (and of gins that don’t taste like Christmas).
One of my favorite drinks in the world is the Sidecar - a cocktail with a rich history that is sweet and tangy enough to serve as a complex and refreshing piece of mixology, yet strong enough to ease away the anxiety of tough day. It’s also quite simple to prepare.
As with most classic drinks, the origins of the Sidecar are rather mysterious. As one of the six cocktails covered in David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, we know that this concoction has been around since at least 1948. Myth dictates, however, that the Sidecar was born at the glamorous Ritz Bar (now called the Hemmingway Bar) at the Ritz-Carlton in Paris during World War I. Apparently, an American Army captain who was stationed in the City of Lights during the war dictated that the bartender mix a peculiar cocktail for him, yet it was so well-recieved that the creation made its way onto the bar’s menu. Since the captain was obviously in no state to drive, he was chauffeured nightly back and forth from the Ritz in a motorcycle’s sidecar, hence the name of the drink.
Unlike an Old Fashioned or Martini, the standard recipe for a Sidecar doesn’t deviate much from the original, which required the following:
1 part fine brandy or cognac
1 part Cointreau
1 part fresh lemon juice
Granulated sugar and/or lemon twist to garnish
Triple Sec (or any other orange liquer) can be substited for the Cointreau. Furthermore, the “British school” of making this drink calls for 2 parts brandy or cognac rather than 1, making it a bit more alcoholic (Embury would have agreed with this recipe, as he originally called for 6-8 parts of cognac - a little strong I think we can all agree). I actually think that the British school gets the Sidecar right, as this is a drink that benefits in flavor from a little high-proof punch.
Fill a shaker half-way with ice, pour in the ingredients and shake vigorously.
If you want to be contemporary, prepare a cocktail glass by dipping the rim (which should be moistened with the juice of a lemon) into a bowl of sugar. If you want to be traditional, merely drop a twist of lemon into the glass to garnish. Strain the ice-cold cocktail into its glass and, voila, you have a Sidecar.
As a final note, not enough bartenders know how to make this drink. I have a friend who went through a phase of ordering Sidecars everywhere he could, yet no one seemed to know how to whip one up properly. Disheartened, he has now turned to drinking single malts alone in the dark, yearning for the days of 1910s Paris when he could’ve patroned the Ritz Bar and been driven home via motorcycle.
It’s simple, it’s easy, it’s historical and it’s delicious - so step your game up people.