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Friday Cocktail Blogging: New Orleans on mah mind

with 9 comments

The SuperBowl to be played between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday, will have at least a few certain winners from the city of New Orleans. If the Saints win – the connection is obvious, and the French Quarters will erupt. But even if Indy wins, Peyton Manning happens to hail from NOLA, as does his father – who spent a long career playing with the home team (back in the dark days when the team was mocked as the ‘Aints).

So anyhoo, all this is a long lead up to say that I’ve always had a sort of romantic longing for NO, especially after reading ‘A Confederacy of the Dunces‘ (easily one of the more underrated gems). A city with a laid back attitude, rich musical heritage, spicy food, and a number of classic cocktails does absolutely fine by me.

Of course, being a lazy ass has meant I’ve kept putting off the trip down there (In fact –  totally useless piece of personal trivia –  we we had almost made bookings for the weekend that Katrina stuck NO, and some work  made us cancel it). Oh well.

But in the spirit of celebrating Orleans, here’s the most famous cocktail from the city – and apparently, the very first cocktail to be ever invented. There are several versions of the drink , but I really liked how this one was written, so I pretty much followed the directions:

1/2 teaspoon absinthe, or Herbsaint (a New Orleans brand of anise liqueur)
1 teaspoon of simple syrup (or 1 sugar cube or 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar)
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1 small dash, a scant drop, of Angostura bitters (extremely optional; some feel it helps open the flavors, but traditionalists may leave it out).
2 ounces rye whiskey. (I used Old Overholt Rye)
Strip of lemon peel

And I followed the traditional method outline there, using the Herbsaint, which I was lucky to find at the local BevMo:

The traditional method: Pack a 3-1/2 ounce Old Fashioned (rocks) glass with ice. In another Old Fashioned glass, moisten the sugar cube with just enough water to saturate it, then crush. Blend with the whiskey and bitters. Add a few cubes of ice and stir to chill. Discard the ice from the first glass and pour in the Herbsaint. Coat the inside of the entire glass, pouring out the excess. Strain the whiskey into the Herbsaint coated glass. Twist the lemon peel over the glass so that the lemon oil cascades into the drink, then rub the peel over the rim of the glass; do not put the twist in the drink. Or, as Stanley Clisby Arthur says, “Do not commit the sacrilege of dropping the peel into the drink.”

It takes while to make this drink, but the effort is quite well worth it.

Edited on the morning after: I made about 6 of these last night, and seems like a good idea to go easy on the sugar. For me, about half teaspoon of sugar hit the spot.

So here to the Saints (or the Colts) and the weekend in general. Cheers.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

February 5, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Posted in Food, Fun, Personal

Tagged with , ,

Friday Cocktail Blogging: The Manhattan

with one comment

I blogged about the Manhattan before, but lately I have developed a renewed affection for this drink.  (Also, in that earlier blog, the drink was more of an after-thought – wanted to expand on it a bit).

This renewal of affection came about  possibly during the trip to Boston earlier this year, when fellow connoisseur BH led me to this wonderful watering-hole in a Cambridge alleyway. Over the stretch of a Friday evening, the extremely sympathetic barman treated us [1] to an array of Manhattan variations, the names of which I fail to recollect, but various other New York city subdivisions were involved.The variations mostly involved using different kinds of whiskey, bitters and vermouth (well duh!).

The other reason is the discovery of Gentleman Jack, a double charcoal filtered, extremely mellow Tennesee whiskey that seems ideally suited for this drink .

Note that the kind of Manhattan you prefer, like Martinis, is a personal choice: the type of whiskey, on the rocks or straight up, dry or sweet and cherry or not. etc are some of the options one is faced with.  Couple of ground rules though. First, the obvious – never use expensive whiskey like single barrel bournbons, or single malt scotch. Second,  even if you partake a cherry – don’t add the syrup – the drink will be too sweet. For the rest, go by your own taste.

The Manhattan hasn’t yet replaced the dry Martini as the pre-dinner drink of choice, but it is running close. This is the way I prefer it now, especially on summer evening after work:

  • 2 parts Gentleman Jack
  • 1/2 part Dry vermouth
  • 1/2 part Lillet
  • Dash of Blood Orange Bitters (or Angostura)

Shake in a cocktail mixer with lots of ice and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.  Optional cherry garnishing (best way to do this: add the cherry – sans the syrup – to the bottom of the glass and pour the drink over it).

As you can see, I prefer straight up. Unlike the Martini, where on the rocks is a definite no, a Manhattan is okay over ice. However, I recommend that you use ice a bit more fine than usual for this.



[1]: No, we paid for the drink, but the barman possessed that ideal quality so severely lacking in many of the profession: anticipating our next drink -both in terms of when we needed one next, and what we would enjoy. In a Friday-evening crowd, that is a fine

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

August 14, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Friday Cocktail Blogging: The Importance of Ice and Water

with 6 comments

Haven’t had time to try anything especially new, hence just a couple of links for this weekend.

There are numerous cocktail related blogs and web-sites out there, but most simply rehash recipes and are rarely useful or enjoyable to read. However, The Art of Drink by Darcy O’Neil is a welcome exception. Darcy’s a chemist by training (and possibly continues to hold a day job in that profession) and a cocktail expert by soul. He uses his chemist’s expertise and fluid prose to provide great insights into various cocktails, spirits and beers.

In his latest blog-post he stressed the importance of good ice, something I have mentioned earlier in a FCB-post; however he explains it in a much more logical manner, touching on the why highball drinks are served better with bigger ice-cubes.

The obvious part about ice is that it is simply there to chill the drink. It is true that a really cold cocktail taste better, and that’s because cocktails have a different flavour balance than wine or beer. Your standard megabrew beer has a low alcohol content (5% ABV) so serving it even lightly chilled will remove any traces of the alcohol flavour. When you get into vintage wines, they can have an alcohol range from 12% to 15.5% so the alcohol is more apparent. If the wine is served too warm, then the alcohol will take over and make the wine “hot”. This is not good. But cocktails can have an even higher percentage of alcohol, think martini, so they need to be much, much colder to avoid that “hot” alcohol sensation.

Do read in full if you are interested in making good cocktails at home.

While on the topic of water, the ‘molecular gastronomy’ blog, khymos, offers an interesting perspective on the old question of whether water releases the aroma of whiskey. Once again, and not surprisingly, chemistry is involved. Must read for geeky scotch lovers.

Cheers !

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

June 22, 2007 at 5:03 am

Posted in Martinis

Friday Cocktail Blogging: Back with a Bundy

with 5 comments

I have complained earlier about the high cost of liquor in Australia, which is party due to high duties. But, if as the wise man said, death and taxes are the two certainties of life, then surely alcohol is its lubricant. Therefore undaunted, we shall continue with our quest of featuring refreshing alcohols for your weekend pleasure with the return of Friday Cocktail Blogging.

I am usually not a big fan of rum (although I have enjoyed the Brazilian rum, cachaca) as I find it coarse and hard on my taste buds. But since I am in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, home of the famous Bundaberg Rum (Bundy to locals) and I happened to like its smooth flavor (not to mention I got it cheap at the duty-free), a few drinks based on this rum will be featured today and the coming weeks.

Today’s cocktail is basically a simple variation of generic Highball/Moscow Mule type drinks. You need:

  • 3 parts Tonic Water
  • 1 part Bundaberg Rum
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Bit of Sugar Syrup (use finely granulated sugar if you don’t have the syrup handy)

As usual, make sure you are using fresh lime and good quality ice. In a highball glass, add ice to the top and then the rum, lime juice and sugar syrup. Stir a bit (especially if you are using sugar – stir enough to dissolve it). Top off with the tonic water and add a dash of the bitters. Garnish with a slice of lime.

Once again, nominations are welcome for naming the drink. My choice is (unimaginatively) the Brisbane Zinger.

I happened to use Schweppes Indian Tonic water (so called because it contains a small amount of quinine and was made popular via the old British Raj habit of using quinine with their drink to ward off malaria) for this – which is supposedly bitter by itself – but I needed the added bitterness of Angostura. If you are using regular soda water – remember to compensate with sugar and bitters. You can use lemon in place of lime as well. Btw, if you make a virgin drink without the rum, basically it will be a Bitter Lemon.

As the locals would say, ‘no wrorries, mate – ‘cheers’. Enjoy the weekend

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

June 15, 2007 at 4:36 am

Posted in Martinis

Friday Cocktail Blogging: The Martini Debate

with 19 comments

A cold one....

“I like to have a martini

Two at the very most —

After three I’m under the table,

After four, I’m under my host.”

— Dorothy Parker

Till a couple of years ago, when I was a poor graduate student, alcohol (the drinkable variety) was just alcohol – didn’t really matter what variety it came in: cheap, or preferably free with the fewest strings attached, and simply getting drunk was all that counted.

Martinis belonged to a separate planet. It was something James Bond sipped while impressing all those sexy women, and cost near about a dinner meal to order. I remember the first experience trying to order a Martini in the snappy Bond-ish style, but messing up as the bartender kept asking me all these questions about what brand of liquor etc till I was reduced to a blabbering slob. And then I didn’t even really like the drink that much !

Thanks to a better pay-check, strong personal interest in the art of mixology, and experimentation with many bottles of gin and vermouth, I am in a much better position today to appreciate the drink. Not only can I order without making a fool of myself, but I can fix Martinis (and quite a few cocktails) at home much better than many professional bartenders. Note that in enjoying your Martini, and I will stress this again later, ‘better’ often depends on your taste. Still, some bartenders mix the drink in manners that are Not Done. But I digress.

This sophistication has also meant that I now need to have a Position in the Martini Debate, namely what constitutes Martini ingredients, ‘vodka or gin’, how ‘dry’ and ‘shaken or stirred’ ? I have touched on this briefly before, but here is a more detailed analysis.

Ingredients: I am a purist (or, depending on which way you look at it, a snob) and insist that anything outside of gin, vermouth, perhaps bitters and garnishing, cannot constitute a martini. All those colorful drinks with fruit-juices and tropical rain forests hanging out that are part of a ‘martini menu’ just because they are served in Martini glasses, are simply cocktails, not Martinis. Period.

Vodka or gin: Gin – see above. Vodka martinis, supposedly popularized by Ian Fleming through James Bond, should be called vodkatinis. Case closed.

Dryness: This is where there is flexibility depending on personal taste. Dryness, which depends on the amount of vermouth used with less corresponding to dryer, is a slightly misleading term. Vermouth is an aromatic wine, and as such adds sweetness to the drink. So a dryer Martini will have less sweetness imparted from the vermouth.

The quest for dryness in Martini is stuff of legends and apocryphal stories. Sir Winston Churchill, perhaps the most famous of Martini-lovers apparently simply looked at France (or across the room, depending on the version of the story) – the birthplace of vermouth while mixing his martini.

‘Hawkeye’ Pierce, the sardonic surgeon from M.A.S.H, while not brewing the stuff in his tent was always in the quest for the driest of all Martinis: “I’d like a dry martini, Mr. Quoc, a very dry martini. A very dry, arid, barren, desiccated, veritable dustbowl of a martini. I want a martini that could be declared a disaster area. Mix me just such a martini.” he said.

The way I prefer it, I fill up roughly quarter of the vermouth bottle cap, add it to the glass portion of a shaker filled with ice. Swirl a bit so that the vermouth mixes with the ice and coats the inner surface of the glass and drain away the rest.

Shaken vs Stirred: Another one that can be debated endlessly and as one web-site calls it, a question on the theological level. Shaking the gin/vermouth mix with ice obviously cools it much faster than gentle stirring. Proponents of stirring however (the ‘Bond got it all wrong’ camp) are fond of saying that shaking causes the gin to ‘bruise’. What that means is anyone’s guess – because I am not sure the gin’s feelings are being hurt either way. Somerset Maugham, another famous Martini-lover, apparently made this intriguing statement on the topic: “Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other”. Maugham’s way with words is unparalleled, but I am not sure how sound this statement was chemically. However, shaking does introduce fine chips of ice and tiny air bubbles into the drink. The ice-chips cause dilution of the drink with water which affects taste. The bubbles make the drink look cloudy, not an aesthetically pleasing outcome and according to some, screws the taste as well.

Personally, I prefer stirred. Its not a big difference, but overall seems to provide a more pleasing sensory experience.

Garnishing: They can range from one to three olives to onions to lemon twists. Some people also prefer a splash of olive juice (making it a dirty Martini) to make the drink saltier. I personally frown on the practice, and prefer two olives.

Lost in these debates is the most important factor, and I have noticed it is often missed even at regular bars, that is to make sure that the drink is cold, cold and cold. Warmth kills the taste of the martini. I really get irritated when they forget this basic principle at bars (happened just this week at a fairly classy restaurant). While some people actually keep their gin in the freezer, it is not necessary as long as you pre-chill your glass (by keeping it in a freezer or filling with ice and soda) and properly mix the drink in ice. Speaking of ice, always use good quality – not the ice that has been lying in your freezer for the last few years under the fish and the pile of steaks you forgot to cook. If possible fresh ice made with filtered water. You could go overboard and use bottled water for making ice – but unnecessary.

Hopefully, armed with these tools, you will be able to pass yourself as a snobbish sophisticated man/woman about the town while ordering a Martini, or making one for your guests. Not to mention enjoying the cold one at the end of the week at home.



Also of interest, a New York Times article on Martini tasting – they talk of similar gin-snobbery, and this helpful FAQ on Martinis.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

May 4, 2007 at 11:03 am

Posted in Martinis

Tagged with , , , ,

Friday Cocktail Blogging: Back to bitters and 300th

with 12 comments

After last weeks flirtation with a sweet cokctail, we are back to bitters. I am gradually growing to love the taste of bitters in my cocktail. So I tried this drink which is similar to the Negroni but uses whiskey instead of gin.

Its a small variation on the Old Pal, which calls for Canadian rye whiskey, whereas I used Jack Daniels. I guess you could call this ‘Ole Pal Jack‘, or something.

  • 2 parts Jack Daniels
  • 1 part Campari
  • 1 part Dry Vermouth


Add ingredients to cracked ice in a mixing glass – stir gently and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a twist of orange. The original recipe also uses equal parts of whiskey, Campari and Vermouth – but I toned down the bitter a bit.

Incidentally, this is my 300th post. Its mere piffle,both quality and quantity-wise, with respect to most blogging giants (like this dude), but certain amount of personal satisfaction comes when I think back on how this blog has grown. And I will drink to that. Cheers !

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

April 20, 2007 at 11:59 am

Posted in Blog, Martinis, Personal

Friday Cocktail Blogging: Old link Edition

with 2 comments

FCB had to be skipped last week due to the flu, during which the closest I came to anything with a booze-like quality was the sedating effects of Vick’s NyQuil shots.

Actually, still not recovered fully from the flu – amazing how these tiny bugs, acting concertedly, can take you down: even after a week after most of the symptoms are gone, am feeling pretty weak physically. Anyhow, all that has rather placed a dampener on regular cocktail experimentations.

So for this week, I am simply posting a recipe I had written about earlier.

It’s semi-original recipe (a slight variation on the Cosmopolitan theme). And, be warned, the drink is bit on the sweet side. Recommendations welcome for a suitable name.

As usual, chill a martini glass in the freezer or by filling with crushed ice and soda. You will need:

  • 3 parts Vodka (Ciroc is ideal for this)
    2 parts Cointreau
    1 part Hpnotiq liqueur
    0.5 fresh lime juice (roll the lime on a table before squeezing)
    Dash of Blue Curacao
    Marchiano cherrys
  • Add everything except the cherries with ice in a shaker. Shake – give it a nice wristy motion – strain into pre-chilled glass. Add one or two marchiano cherrys and a bit of the cherry syrup for a good measure (especially if you like it sweet). The red color of the syrup will settle at the bottom providing a red and blue drink – pleasing both to the visual and taste sensors.

    Cheers and drink responsibly.

    Written by BongoP'o'ndit

    April 13, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    Posted in Life, Martinis

    Friday Cocktail Blogging: A Bitter Drink and DC

    leave a comment »

    I know, a day early (but it is Friday already somewhere in the world – so there you are). I will be off to Washington DC tomorrow for the weekend, doing touristy things like taking in the Cherry Blossom blooms, gaping at the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and such like. Also hoping to to enjoy any nightlife offered by the city, especially in the Georgetown area [1].

    Anyhow, don’t have time for any lengthy discussion and will quickly come to the cocktail. Recently, I have been experimenting with bitters in my cocktails (e.g the Manhattan and what I called The Bitter Rose in previous editions of FCB). In the really old days, bitters – which are usually some extracts from various plants and herbs – were employed as medical potions. They are supposed to aid in digestion and therefore form the ingredients for many aperitifs and digestifs. On those lines, this week’s recommendation is a classic cocktail, The Negroni, a gin based concoction that is great as a pre-dinner cocktail (cleans the palate, wets the appetite etc).

    You will need:

    • 2 parts Gin
    • 1 part Sweet Vermouth
    • 1 part Campari
    • Lemon twist for garnish

    Pre-chill a martini glass with ice and soda water. Add all the liquor ingredients to a tall glass (or the glass section of a Boston shaker) filled with crushed ice. Stir gently a few times and strain into the pre-chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. If you want you can also squeeze the oil of a small orange peel over the drink. If you do not like the bitter taste that much – I would reduce the Campari to 0.5 parts.

     This recipe is copied almost verbatim from the following video that shows how the drink is made. It tells the story of the origin of the drink (which I suspect, like most cocktail stories, is apocryphal) and also demonstrates many important bar techniques such as chilling a martini glass, making a lemon twist garnish, proper stirring etc.

    Cheers, have a good weekend and drink responsibly.


    [1] – Recommendations are welcome for a good place to get kebabs in the area (most probably for a take-out). And anyone in the DC area wanting to meet up pliss to e-mail.

    Written by BongoP'o'ndit

    March 29, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    Posted in Martinis

    Friday Cocktail Blogging: The Culture of drinking …..

    with 17 comments

    ………. according to this (slightly old) article, appears to be as ancient as the Egyptians:


    Today, it sounds like a spring-break splurge on the order of "Girls Gone Wild": Drink huge quantities of beer, get wasted, indulge in gratuitous sex and pass out — then wake up the next morning with the music blaring and your friends praying that everything will turn out all right.

    But back in 1470 B.C., this was the agenda for one of ancient Egypt’s most raucous rituals, the "festival of drunkenness," which celebrated nothing less than the salvation of humanity.


    "We are talking about a festival in which people come together in a community to get drunk," she said. "Not high, not socially fun, but drunk — knee-walking, absolutely passed-out drunk."

    Cool !

    On a somewhat related note, I have wondered about the strongly negative cultural connotations that drinking carries in India society. I do not necessarily mean getting into drunken orgies or sloshing yourself silly, and I understand that in many areas of India there is a severe problem of chronic alcoholism with the side effects of wife beating and all. However, considering that a host of gods in the pantheon of Hindu religion indulge in alcohol (Somras – the nectar of god and all that), it is strange that even moderate social drinking never evolved into a social custom in India.

    Japan has its sake, Russia has vodka and most countries in the world drink wine or variants and have traditional toasts etc for most social occasions. Not in India. Even when you try to buy alcohol legitimately, you need to talk to this person behind heavy metal bars, making you feel as if you are indulging in the worst kind of sin. Moreover, even if men can drink, the consumption of alcohol by women is highly frowned on (it is supposedly contrary to the sati-savitri image of Indian women)! While Hindi films are not the exact mirrors of society, they do depict this twisted morality – the villain and vamps drink unabashedly, hero does so only in response to unrequited love or rebelling against society and at best the drunk is a comic caricature (Keshto Mukherjee made a living out of it).

    Our ancient practices of sexuality were supposedly put in wraps by Victorian prudishness. Considering the English penchant for downing a few pints, you can’t blame our abstention on them (although it could be that drinking was considered a British/Western practice and hence not adopted). Post-independence, the government has played a role by pandering to Gandhian prohibitionism and taxing the hell out of liquors, especially foreign ones. This has ensured that drinking good quality alcohol remained the rich elite’s preserve, leaving the poor to consume cheap, unregulated stuff (often with tragic consequences). By making alcohol a forbidden fruit aura, it has also ensured that when people do get their hands on the stuff, the worst kind of excesses are indulged in.

    Of course, among the current generation with its disposable income and mushrooming of bars and pubs around the country, drinking is not just socially accepted, but possibly considered cool as well.

    Of course, I might be just talking through my hat here. More erudite comments welcome.

    [Coming up in future editions: Do drinks have genders ? ]

    Finally, today’s drink recommendation – nothing fancy or new, but the old and dependable Manhattan. It is a good drink to make when you have cheap whiskey (never use good quality scotch/bourbon to make this drink). As usual, there are variations all over the place. The way like it, is closer to what is called the ‘Perfect Manhattan’.

    • 2.5 parts Whiskey (Canadian Rye/Bourbon/Jack Daniels etc)
    • 0.5 part sweet vermouth
    • 0.5 part dry vermouth
    • Dash of Angostura Bitters
    • A Maraschino cherry

    Add the whiskey, vermouths and the bitters to a glass shaker with crushed ice. Lightly stir the mixture (best way it to gently rotate the shaker itself rather than using a stirring spoon) and strain into a chilled tumbler glass. Add a piece of cherry (not the syrup). Some recipes call for squeezing a slice of orange peel over the drink and around the sides of the glass.

    Update: For those Indian fans who are emotionally (and perhaps $-wise too) invested in the team’s fortune in the World Cup, let go of formalities, and gulp down the whiskey neat. Yeah – that might help.

    Enjoy and drink responsibly.

    Written by BongoP'o'ndit

    March 23, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    Posted in Life, Martinis, Personal, Trivia

    Friday Cocktail Blogging: St Patty’s Day Edition

    with 3 comments

    Happy St Patrick’s Day to everyone …I know it’s tomorrow, but advance wishes in case I am too sloshed (also note the temporary image header for the occasion). Unless we go as far back as those days in Africa, I would really be hard pressed to find traces of Irish ancestry in me. But as I said last year, any celebration that involves drinking is good enough for me. Besides, one of my favorite beer is Guinness and I love Celtic music (especially this group), so perhaps that gives me licence to be Irish for a day (or two). Certainly, there could not be a better theme for Friday Cocktail Blogging.

    There are numerous ways of indulging in drinking sessions with an Irish theme. You could simply partake some stout Irish pints, or choose a green beer (ie regular beer with green food color, not quite recommended) [1]; then there is the classic Everybody’s Irish cocktail; or simply add dollops of Bailey’s and/or Irish whiskey to your coffee or hot chocolate. My own recommendation for the day is the following cocktail, which doesn’t really use Irish ingredients, but is green in color! It is a slight variation on what the common people call the apple martini or Appletini (JD’s favorite drink in Scrubs, also Jennifer Aniston‘s character in The Break-Up) . I call it……..

    The Original Sin

    • 2 parts Vodka
    • 0.5 part Brandy
    • 1 part Sour Apple Pucker
    • Dash of apple juice (optional)

    As usual pre-chill the martini glass with ice and soda. Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice, shake well and strain into the pre-chilled glass. For garnishing, try to cut a very thin slice of green apple and float it on top of the drink (you can measure your state of drunkenness by the ease with which you can achieve this) – failing which, simply stick it to the side of the glass or dunk it in the drink.

    Variations: You can try adding different amounts of Cointreu and fresh lime juice for a sweet-sour balance (please do not use pre-made sour mixes). Also try adding a drop of Midori for more green color.

    In some ways, using Apple Pucker for the green color is a cop-out. I wanted to go more natural to get the color e.g. say by muddling some kiwis and straining to get rid of the seeds and such. Then use the juice in the cocktail above or with cachacas in a variation of caipirinha. Perhaps I will try that later this evening and update.

    [UPDATE2]: Yeah – muddling Kiwi works. Make sure to use a ripe, soft Kiwi and strain a bit after muddling (unless you do not mind having small black seeds in your drink. Its green, its its refreshing, its delicious. (Suggestions for naming the drink welcome)

  • 2 parts Vodka
  • Juice from muddled Kiwi
  • 0.5 part Creme de Menthe
  • dash of brandy
  • Shake with ice and strain into martini glass – garnish with slice of Kiwi.

    Cheers and drink responsibly.


    [1]: Do check this variation of the green beer though.

    [UPDATE1] see below the fold

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Written by BongoP'o'ndit

    March 16, 2007 at 11:15 am

    Posted in Food, Fun, Martinis

    Friday Cocktail Blogging: Caipirinha

    with 12 comments

    Few things in life can beat the simple pleasure of relaxing, after a week’s worth of hard work, on a Friday evening. The satisfaction from just sitting back, listening to music or vegging out in front of the TV with Seinfeld re-runs can be immense. For the more socially active souls, or dare I say those of younger disposition, this is just a prelude for further adventures later in the night, while the more domesticated are left to peruse their Netflix queue !

    Either way, the mood is not quite complete without the perfect drink in hand. As regular readers will know, this is usually a dry martini in my case. However, today I would like to recommend the Caipirinha, a highly refreshing sweet-n-limey cocktail, which happens to be the ‘national drink’ of Brazil. Apparently the drink is also quite the rage in Europe and is catching up in popularity in the US too. I first had it at a Brazilian Churrascaria (where they serve unlimited meat Rodizio style, or in other words, heaven; but that is another story) and have since made it several times at home.

    Basically, the drink is a form of mojito, but uses the Brazilian liquor Cachaca (pronounced Ka-shah-sa) instead of rum. The main difference between cachaca and rum is that the former is made directly from sugarcane juice, while rum is made from mollases.

    There are couple of ways of mixing the drink – but I prefer the shaken method (and was also recommended by a Brazilian dude I know). You will need fresh green lime, fine (caster) sugar, old-fashioned glass, a muddler (or a pestle will do), crushed ice and of course, the Cachacas (more details on the liquor below). The directions:

    • Roll the fresh green lime for a few seconds on a flat surface or dip in warm water for about 30 seconds.
    • Slice the lime into four quarters, and the cut V-shaped wedges in each quarter to remove the hard pith (this will ensure that there is no tart aftertaste of the lime). Further cut each quarter into two or three pieces.
    • Place the small lime pieces (I usually use about half to three quarters of the lime for each drink) into an old-fashioned glass tumbler (see picture below). Add two teaspoons of fine sugar (or more if you like it sweeter).
    • Muddle the lime and the sugar – if you do not have a muddler, use the pestle in your kitchen – put some effort to ensure good mixing.
    • Add crushed ice and 2-3 oz of Cachaca. Now, transfer the mix to your shaker or place a glass with a larger mouth diameter over the tumbler and give it a few shakes.
    • Pour everything back into the old-fashioned, garnish with a wedge of lime and serve with a stirrer-straw.

    The drink obviously goes very well all kinds of meat and like I mentioned before, has a very refreshing quality.

    The one problem in preparing the cocktail at home is that Cachaca is still not widely distributed in the US. In our state, where the liquor stores are run under the strict aegis of the government and notoriously lack variety, I was lucky to find one brand called Gandaia (which has a slight banana flavor). I have been told that the best brands are 51 Pirassununga or Mae De Ouro, which are available in some northeastern states. I have substituted white Bacardi rum for the Cachaca once, and the taste was fine (although the drink is then basically a mojito without the mint!).

    Cheers and have a great weekend !

    (note: in the picture, you will see I have used cubed ice since I was too lazy on the day. Ideally you should use crushed ice).

    Written by BongoP'o'ndit

    March 2, 2007 at 10:23 am

    Posted in Food, Life, Martinis

    FCB: Gourmet 50’s Cocktails – Frangipani

    with 3 comments

    Not sure if it is related to their upcoming demise, but Gourmet magazine online is doing a feature where they publish their 20 favorite cocktails of each decade, starting from the ’40s. They are upto the 90s now.

    Simply gazing at the wonderful photos are probably worth the time by itself, but it is wonderful stuff for any cocktail connoisseur and additionally, a good lesson for aspiring mixologists.

    Being Gourmet magazine, they also obviously get their preparations right:  Martini is  to be stirred (not shaken), the vermouth is ‘to taste’ (and they stress this fact) with nary a mention of vodka. We can but only appreciate.

    All the other cocktails similarly exude class and style  – no tropical forests hanging out of brightly colored, over-sweetened drinks calling for 10 different liquors!

    So suitably inspired, I have got it into my head now, of trying out all the cocktail recipes posted on the site and then blogging about it!. Of course, given my record in such matters, ‘all’ might be rather stretching it. But this is alcohol we are talking about – so I will give it a fair go.

    I wanted to start with a drink I’ve never had before and settled upon this rum-based recipe from the 50s: Frangipani. A combination of being intrigued by the name and the fact that it used gold rum, which I have rarely tried before, and Maraschino liqueur, which I wanted to try out for a while, made me go this one.

    Image from Gourment

    Image from Gourment

    I had this theory that there might be some sort of  Sanskrit roots to the word Frangipani (pani = water and all that), but as far as I can find out, Frangipani refers to a tropical flower (and a few other stuff). How that relates to the cocktail, I have no idea and the web is sparse on details.  The only other mention of it as a cocktail has a very different recipe. As Gourmet put it, the drink  is a variation of the Hemmingway daiquiri:

    A cynical cocktailian might look at this as a dumbed-down Hemingway Daiquiri (or Papa Doble, as it’s sometimes called), but substituting more grapefruit juice for the lime and the sugar actually results in a very different drink. Look for Luxardo’s maraschino liqueur.

    This is how I made it, based off the Gourment recipe :

    • 1 part Golden Rum (I used the Dominican brand Ron Matusalem)
    • 1 part Pineapple Juice
    • 3 dashes Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo, as suggested in the recipe, I was lucky enough to find it at BevMo)

    Give it a few nice hard shakes jig in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a pre-chilled martini glass.  The toughest part of making this drink was getting the Maraschino Liqueur right: three dashes mean dashes – pour a bit too much and the drink is overwhelmed by the honey-almond taste of the liqueur.

    In terms of taste, it is indeed a very different drink from the Hemmingway Daiquiri – and much sweeter as expected with the pineapple juice. I also  thought that the juice and the Maraschino liqueur hid the taste of the rum (but then perhaps I need to get myself a better quality or a  more aged rum).  Overall, even though I don’t like my alcohol too sweet,  I can picture myself drinking this while relaxing outdoors on a weekend afternoon. The drink could be a a nice after-dinner cleanser as well.

    As such, I also made my own version of the drink by increasing the portion of run to 1.5 parts and then adding a dash of lime juice (in the form of clarified Key lime) to have a bit of balance.

    Not looking as tempting as the image from the magazine; Photography skills still need work :Pp

    Not looking quite as tempting as the image from the magazine; Photography skills still needs work 🙂

    Not a bad start really. Cheers.

    Written by BongoP'o'ndit

    October 16, 2009 at 2:38 pm