Take It Easy

Don't Be SorryLower proof cocktails are increasing in popularity; enough so to be one of the important “cocktail trends of 2013.” Since you’re reading a cocktail blog, I assume you like drinking. Lower alcohol cocktails allow you to have an extra one or two. I like these after dinner.

Don’t Be Sorry
2 oz sweet vermouth (Martini & Rossi)
½ oz allspice dram (St. Elizabeth)
4 oz club soda
Build over large cubes or ice spears in a tall glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon or orange peel, if desired.

This one clocks in around 6.5% alcohol by volume*, which is similar to an IPA. (For comparison, a Manhattan is around 36% abv.)

Enjoy a couple.

*roughly estimated using this.

Do the Bunny Hug (or maybe don’t)

Do you like a bunnyhug mit me, vot?

It is not unusual to see The Savoy Cocktail Book on a shelf behind the bar in a craft cocktail establishment. Many of these cocktails aren’t made in bars anymore (and one wonders how often they were made at the Savoy.) Some of them, like Bunny Hug Cocktail, have humorous notes following them:

Bunny Hug recipe

The exact same recipe is listed later in the book with a different name and note:

Earthquake recipe

How could I resist?

Right away I could tell this wouldn’t be well balanced. The combination of gin and whiskey in a cocktail raises an eyebrow and absinthe is as dominant an ingredient as Fernet Branca.  But still, I had to try it.

Bunny Hug (or Earthquake) Cocktail
3/4 oz gin (Beefeater)
3/4 oz whiskey (Evan Williams Single Barrel)
3/4 oz absinthe (Kübler)
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Bunny Hug

It’s not terrible, though it is very dry.

The gin and whiskey pretty much disappear in the absinthe. I figured the whiskey would get lost at a mere 86.6-proof to the absinthe’s 106-proof. If I was to make this again, I’d use a cask strength whiskey.  I might also try it with Scotch since the Savoy is in England and the recipe doesn’t specify.

As for the gin, I would try something either Navy strength or perhaps an Old Tom to counter the dryness of the absinthe. Or maybe try genever, though probably not with Scotch.

While I probably won’t try it again, it was an interesting experiment. For science!

Maker’s Mark and the Manhattan

Essential update below.

I received an email from Maker’s Mark. An excerpt:

Lately we’ve been hearing from many of you that you’ve been having difficulty finding Maker’s Mark in your local stores.  Fact is, demand for our bourbon is exceeding our ability to make it, which means we’re running very low on supply. We never imagined that the entire bourbon category would explode as it has over the past few years, nor that demand for Maker’s Mark would grow even faster.

We wanted you to be the first to know that, after looking at all possible solutions, we’ve worked carefully to reduce the alcohol by volume (ABV) by just 3%. This will enable us to maintain the same taste profile and increase our limited supply so there is enough Maker’s Mark to go around, while we continue to expand the distillery and increase our production capacity.

We have both tasted it extensively, and it’s completely consistent with the taste profile our founder/dad/grandfather, Bill Samuels, Sr., created nearly 60 years ago.  We’ve also done extensive testing with Maker’s Mark drinkers, and they couldn’t tell a difference.

In an effort to meet demand for their product, Marker’s Mark is watering down their bourbon.

This is surprising and disappointing. Why not raise the price? That’s how supply and demand works, right? I don’t want to take the cynical view and think they’re rushing a less potent product to market just for the money, but they don’t mention a price reduction. The email goes on to say that they are expanding production and aging facilities, but according to Bourbon Blog this is a permanent change.

Why all of the hullaballoo? Why does a higher alcohol content matter? Am I just mad because it’ll take more to get drunk? No. Alcohol content may not be noticeable when drinking Maker’s neat or on the rocks, but proof matters in cocktails. Cocktails are about blending and balancing ingredients.

Since Maker’s is specifically reducing their bourbon down from 90 proof to 84 proof, I thought I’d share something from David Wondrich’s drinks column from the February 2013 issue of Esquire. I remembered the following line as soon as I heard about the reduction:

A whiskey in the 90- to 110-proof range makes a better Manhattan than an 80- or 86-proof one.

Sadly, using the new 84-proof Maker’s will make a weaker and less flavorful Manhattan.

Maker’s Mark, I loved you. No matter what bar I was in, you were there too. You were a safe bet. I often order a Manhattan before dinner and when asked what kind of whiskey, I knew I could confidently, without looking over at the bar, say “Maker’s Mark.” If the bartender was remotely competent, I’d get a decent drink. Now what do I do? Probably order a Negroni.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the Maker’s Mark Ambassador program. In fact, I’m a Senior Ambassador. That means there is a barrel in one of their warehouses bearing my name and the name of nine friends. When that batch comes due, I was hoping to get everyone to meet in Kentucky and hit the Bourbon Trail together. I’d stil like to do that, but it’ll be a little less sweet. And a little more watered down.

UPDATE:

Maker’s Mark has listened to their customers and reversed their decision. Here is an excerpt from Maker’s Facebook post:

Since we announced our decision last week to reduce the alcohol content (ABV) of Maker’s Mark in response to supply constraints, we have heard many concerns and questions from our ambassadors and brand fans. We’re humbled by your overwhelming response and passion for Maker’s Mark. While we thought we were doing what’s right, this is your brand – and you told us in large numbers to change our decision.

You spoke. We listened. And we’re sincerely sorry we let you down.

So effective immediately, we are reversing our decision to lower the ABV of Maker’s Mark, and resuming production at 45% alcohol by volume (90 proof). Just like we’ve made it since the very beginning.

Read the whole post here.

Thank you, Maker’s Mark. I hope to come visit you again. Let us never speak of this again.

Yes, making cocktails is more like baking.

On a similar vein, whats the one bartending tool you can’t live without?

I’m not the best free pourer in the world, so for me, the tool would have to be something to measure with. … Bartending is a lot more like being a pastry chef than anyone wants to admit, where it’s like, these little measurements, you cook it with ice, and it comes out of the oven.

via Mixing it Up with Teardrops Bar Manager Sean Hoard – The Barkeepers – Eater PDX.

A softer drink.

Sometimes people can’t drink alcohol. For example, maybe a lady is pregnant. Maybe she’s your wife. That’s cool. That doesn’t mean she should have boring beverages.

The most difficult thing with non-alcoholic cocktails is balance. It’s all too easy to go sweet with juices and syrups. I find that spice is a good counter to sweetness. Bitters are too.

Autumn's Reward

I’m also trying to launch a career as a hand model.

Autumn’s Reward
2 oz apple cider
½ oz orgeat (B.G. Reynolds’)
2 dashes aromatic bitters
3 oz ginger beer (Reed’s Extra Ginger)
nutmeg
Shake cider, orgeat and bitters with ice and strain over fresh ice in a double old-fashioned glass. Top with ginger beer and two twists of lemon. Grate fresh nutmeg over the top.

Note: Many bitters contain alcohol. If this is a concern, consult your doctor or your sponsor or consider non-alcoholic bitters such as Fee Brothers.

A plea for Simplicity.

I’ve been spending more time looking at other people’s cocktail recipes lately. Certainly more so than creating my own cocktails, as evidenced by the lack of posts on this blog.

I’ve been re-reading David Wondrich’s contemporary classic Imbibe! on the origins of cocktails and the drinks of Jerry Thomas. I’ve been studying bar menus. The excellent Dutch Kills in Long Island City, NY posts their menu as a pdf for download here. And recently, I came across this video:

Even more than making me want that Caipirinha, one thing stuck with me. Andrew Bohrer (whose smart and angry Cask Strength cocktail blog is required reading) states the simple truth:

THE BEST DRINKS HAVE 3 INGREDIENTS.

Here are some 3 ingredient cocktails off the top of my head that you may recognize: Manhattan, Negroni, Margarita, Daiquiri, Caipirinha, Whiskey Sour, Old Fashioned, Moscow Mule, Cuba Libre, Champagne Cocktail. (No, I’m not counting ice or garnishes as ingredients.)

When I look back through this blog at drinks I’ve made, the least successful ones have more than four ingredients. So, I’ve been making, drinking and most of all enjoying simple drinks with three ingredients. You should too.

Or sometimes four; I can’t give up Sazeracs.