|The War Bird|
As it appears in Beachbum Berry’s Remixed, the Jungle Bird recipe goes like this:
|The War Bird|
As it appears in Beachbum Berry’s Remixed, the Jungle Bird recipe goes like this:
|Lost Over Jamaica|
Of all the classic Tiki drinks (and I can seriously wonk out over the 1944 Mai Tai), a well-executed Jet Pilot with its mix of falernum, rich cinnamon syrup, and Jamaican rum funk is Tiki Valhalla. A descendant of Don the Beachcomber’s “Test Pilot,” the name personifies the ethos of the jet-age 1950s, but also conveys the slight preemptive warning that this drink “goes to 11.”
Continue reading “Lost Over Jamaica – Jet Pilot inspired Tiki”
Recently Mrs Wonk and I were at Seattle’s Staple and Fancy Mercantile for dinner, and I ordered an interesting sounding drink with pisco and strawberry shrub. My first sip was so good that I immediately knew I was going to make my own strawberry shrub, then reverse engineer the recipe and start making my own twists on it. A shrub in this context has nothing to do with big leafy plant in your backyard. Rather, it’s just a mixture of fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Yeah, vinegar. Keep reading – it’s delicious.
Shrubs are one of those trendy ingredients that pop up in a fair number of drinks at craft cocktail bars and restaurants. Pok Pok restaurant in Portland has built a buzz around their “drinking vinegars” which are delicious, but really just shrub with a more descriptive name. A lot of folks are unfamiliar with shrubs, and to be honest, even after a lot of reading about shrubs, I hesitated to dive in and make my own. With several different shrubs and interesting cocktails under my belt now, I can without hesitation recommend making your own shrubs for cocktail experimentation.
Any number of great web sites and blogs out there talk about making shrubs, the history and theory behind them, and interesting recipe variations. What I do well (or so I’m told…) is take vast quantities of information and boil it down to the essentials so a curious person can start building their own understanding. Here’s my “just enough to get started and make your own” introduction to shrubs and using it in a really tasty cocktail.
The making of shrubs goes back hundreds of years and really took off in colonial America. Before the advent of refrigeration, fruit was soaked in vinegar to make it last longer before it spoiled. After straining out the preserved fruit, the remaining liquid was mixed with sugar to form a sort of syrup that’s both tart and sweet.
Shrubs have three great properties that are ideal for making at home:
Today, shrubs are made in a variety of different ways. Some use heat, some don’t, but the essential elements remain the same: Fruit juice extracted from fresh fruit, sugar, and vinegar. There’s somewhat general consensus that “cold process” shrub has the best flavor. In very simple terms, it goes like this:
Expressed in the simplest possible terms, cold process shrub is this:
Expressed that way, there really shouldn’t be any trepidation about making your first shrub. While fruit and sugar are pretty hard to mess up, the one variable you need to be aware of is vinegar selection. There’s a ton of different types of vinegars out there. In general, distilled white vinegar should be avoided as it can be harsh. Beyond that, use your brain and your taste buds. I’ve successfully used apple cider vinegar, coconut vinegar, and white wine vinegar. Some folks even use balsamic vinegar. If you’re making your first shrub, white wine vinegar is a good, safe (and cost effective) choice.
For the cocktail below, here’s what I used for the batch of shrub:
Yields about 2 cups of shrub.
To the cocktail!
Because of the vinegar and sugar content, shrub can be a pretty intense flavor. For that reason, I tend towards 2 part of a base spirit to 1 part of shrub, with assorted accent flavors. While nailing down the pisco/shrub cocktail, it suddenly occurred to me that American whiskeys (bourbon, rye, etc…) can go really well with strawberry. A bit of lime juice pushes things nicely towards the tart side, and then the cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) blends with the strawberry flavor to bring it all home. If you use a less sweet cassis, you might need to add a wee bit of simple syrup to match the sweetness to your particular palate.
Kentucky Strawberry Bush
Build in glass, fill with crushed ice. Garnish with mint.
The day after the Iron TikiTender competition at TikiKon 2014, Mrs. Cocktail Wonk and I had an afternoon to spend in Portland. We made the requisite trip to Pok Pok for amazing Thai food, and the rest of the afternoon was spent at the Pearl Specialty Market and Spirits, as well as several distilleries. Portland has become a hotbed of small producers, and six of them are close enough to have banded together as a collective known as Distillery Row. On this particular Sunday, we had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at Eastside Distilling with the owner, Lenny Gotter. At the end of our visit, Lenny generously provided me with bottles of the Below Deck Silver Rum and the Burnside Oregon Oaked Bourbon. In this post I’ll cover the Silver Rum, while a subsequent post will cover the Oregon Oaked Bourbon.
|The Eastside Distilling stills|
Although Eastside Distilling is only six years old, they have a fairly large and diverse product line. Most of their operations including fermentation, distilling, and bottling fit within a medium-sized room at the back of a single-story industrial building. There are numerous big blue plastic vats containing mash and distillates that take up a big chunk of the room. Eastside has an interesting, locally built still setup utilizing 100, 35 and 8 gallon kettles. In addition there’s both pot and column still “heads” which can be fitted to any of the kettles. The output from one head can be fed into the kettle of another to create a multi-still configuration.
|Section of Eastside’s column still|
The Silver Rum is distilled using a pot still configuration up to 65% ABV before being bottled without aging. Lenny told me that he has aged some of his rum, but not yet released any as of yet. As it is now, his existing barrel space is primarily devoted to whiskeys, but he’s considering the future release of an aged rum after he acquires more space for barrels.
To my taste, the Silver Rum is on the slightly sweet side relative to other silver rums and has a subtle fruity essence. To validate my initial tasting notes, I had a friend blind-taste the Eastside Silver Rum, Bull Run Distillery’s Pacific Rum (also from Portland), and Cana Brava, an aged, filtered white rum from Panama which I’ve covered recently. Although these three rums are substantially different in how they’re made, they are good representations of the spectrum of the non-blended white rum used in cocktails. My friend and I agreed that the Eastside rum was the sweetest of the three and was smoother than Pacific Rum. Separately I put it side by side with the well-regard Plantation 3 Stars Silver Rum and was surprised at how similar they were. At $18 per bottle, I’ll happily use the Eastside rum in daiquiris, mojitos, and similar cocktails.
|Eastside Distilling’s bottling station|
|Some of Eastside Distilling’s vats|
To take the Silver Rum out for a spin, I chose a daiquiri variation I particularly enjoy, using both a spiced-infused syrup and maraschino liqueur:
Shake over ice, strain into a chilled coupe.
While you could use 2:1 simple syrup here, the Sirop de Canne makes it substantially better, and it’s worth the effort to find it at around $15 per bottle. The Clement website describes it thusly: “…fresh pressed sugarcane juice is slowly reduced down over a low temperature with a maceration of crushed rolls of cinnamon, pulverized cloves, and cracked vanilla beans to make our spiced sugarcane syrup.” In short, yum! You need this!
Besides the Silver rum, Eastside also offers other rums that start from a base of the Silver–Spiced, Ginger, and Coffee. I found their taste to be pleasing and nicely restrained in sweetness, i.e., they weren’t sugar-bomb liqueurs. I could easily picture experimenting with them to come up with some interesting cocktail recipes.
Eastside Distilling currently has distribution within Oregon and Washington State, and their spirits are offered in a number of restaurants and bars (listed on the Eastside web site). And as mentioned earlier, stay tuned for a post covering Eastside’s Burnside Oregon Oaked Bourbon.
|The Strike Two cocktail (recipe below)|
Yes, this is certainly starts out like a Tiki concoction – Just add a couple ounces of rum and we’re off to the islands. Except…. What’s this Becherovka? This isn’t rum! In fact, Becherovka is nowhere close to rum. Becherovka is a 76 proof herbal-bitter spirit from Czechoslovakia, made from a secret recipe of 20 spices and only the finest water with impeccable credentials, if you believe Becherovka’s marketing.
Back to our recipe – We have nearly a classic Tiki recipe, except that we’ve replaced rum with an herbal, after-shavey Czech spirit. Believe it or not, the end result is magical. The herbal bitters balance out the sweet orange and cherry components. While a ¼ ounce of Allspice dram can sometimes overwhelm a drink with clove, in the Punchy’s First strike the Allspice Dram plays nicely with others. At Tavern Road, the bartender told me they set out to create an “Adult Hawaiian Punch.” From that perspective the recipe really works – A little on the sweet side without going overboard. If you’ve ever needed an excuse to buy Becherovka this drink is a perfect reason. And if you decide to not go the Becherovka route, keep reading for a non-Becherovka variation.
When making this drink don’t skip or skimp on the Peychaud’s bitters. Use five healthy dashes at the end after the drink is ready to go in a full glass of crushed ice. It gives the drink a dramatic look, and if you don’t immediately stir it the Peychaud’s stays on top till you’ve consumed most of the drink, after which you get a nice uptick of flavor as you draw out the last few sips.
Lately I’ve been tinkering with the bones of this recipe to make something else a bit different. My efforts have focused on switching out the Becherovka for something else interesting using a bit more mainstream ingredient. The key thing I wanted to retail while replacing the Becherovka was the warm, spicy, Christmas-like element.
My first stab was to use Chairman’s Reserve Spiced rum as it has a lovely cinnamon-forward spice flavor that I thought would work well. However, with only ¾ oz of the Chairman’s Reserve the spice got lost in the orange and Cherry Heering Flavors. Next, I tried Fernet Branca as the stand in for Becherovka. If you’re down with the mouth-full-o-wintergreen-lifesavers aspect of Fernet Branca, it’s interesting but not as accessible as when using Becherovka.
|Experimenting – Punchy’s First Strike at left, Fernet Branca version at right.|
Bitter, sweet, and very, very red! I’ve dubbed my version the Strike Two:
Dry shake, pour over crushed ice in a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with lemon slice.