Thursday, June 3, 2010
It's true: Vodka has gained both credibility and acclaim behind the bar again. It's nice to see a spirit rescued from disparagement, and while it's still relegated to the unsophisticated drinker, aka those who want to mask the taste and complexity of more pronounced potables, there is a way to do it right. A recent article from Imbibe magazine chronicles its rise:
Tonight, however, I'm slumming it and bringing a flask full of homemade cosmopolitans to celebrate this:
Posted by B. Esplin at 1:47 PM
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
There are three physical factors at work in a well-made cocktail: water content, ingredient distribution and temperature. While some spirits require only a stir to achieve a balance of these factors, others can only attain true cocktail Nirvana with a shake. And, as we learned, a mixologist's shake is like a thumbprint—no two shakes are the same.
According to Joaquin Simo of New York City’s Death & Company, “A shake should wake up a cocktail. Its function is to make it greater than the sum of its parts.” For Simo, shaking is necessary to combine different textures into one.
What types of cocktails need shaking? “Any drink that contains an element that can cloud up a drink,” says 2007 New York Rising Star Jim Meehan of PDT, citing citrus, egg whites and cream as the most commonly shaken ingredients.
The theory behind the shake holds that the back-and-forth motion drives an ice cube to chip at the corners, breaking off bits that dilute and chill the liquid. The remaining chunks of ice further chill the liquid as the cocktail becomes aerated and blended.
Mixologists agree that different cocktails call for different shakes. Recipes call for varying levels of dilution and temperature, depending on how they are to be consumed. A shaken cocktail served up should get a long and hard shake in order to achieve a nice, frothy consistency, as it won’t have ice to keep it cold. Conversely, for drinks served on ice, the shake should be modified accordingly. In the end, it's about what you’re trying to achieve with the cocktail.
All shaking technicalities aside, mixologists will always be front-of-the-house employees, at the service of his/her guests. Where cocktails are taken seriously, the shake itself is an integral part of the entertainment factor in the dining/drinking experience. “A shake should be pleasant to watch,” as Meehan puts it. And he’s right. Regardless of how hard the shake is, or who is shaking the drink, patrons will always turn their heads when they hear the familiar "ka-chunk, ka-chunk" sound sailing out from behind the bar.
Posted by B. Esplin at 3:53 PM
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Great article in The Times today chronicling the rise of home-distilled spirits, and the new, clear choices.
White dog, or white whiskey, is, basically, moonshine. It’s newborn whiskey, crystal-clear grain distillate, as yet unkissed by the barrel, the vessel that lends whiskey some or all of its color and much of its flavor. And white dog is currently having its day.
“Aging in wood has many beautiful effects on a spirit,” said Tad Carducci, half of the cocktail consulting duo known as the Tippling Brothers. “But it does tend to disguise whatever the base spirit is. When you strip that away, you’re getting a real sense of what wheat offers, or rye or corn.”
Unlike vodka, in which the source grain is often purposefully purified to a vanishing point, white dogs are pungently fragrant, with a chewy sweetness to them.
Posted by B. Esplin at 5:43 PM
Friday, April 30, 2010
The mint julep is renowned as the traditional beverage of the Kentucky Derby, a position it has held since 1938. Each year almost 120,000 juleps are served at Churchill Downs over the two day period of the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby. For over 18 years, the Early Times Mint Julep Cocktail has been the designated "official mint julep of the Kentucky Derby". Have one on Saturday in style!
6–7 fresh mint leaves
1 Tbsp. simple syrup
2 oz. bourbon
Glass: silver julep cup (or highball)
Garnish: mint sprig
Combine mint leaves, syrup and bourbon in a glass. Using a bar spoon, crush the mint to release its essence into the liquid. Fill the glass with ice. Gently press the spoon into the ice, shaking it to incorporate the bourbon-syrup mixture. Garnish generously with mint
Posted by B. Esplin at 1:26 PM
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Here at JiggerWocky, we delight in any shred of culture Las Vegas has to offer, and we'd be remiss not to acknowledge our rich aviation history. No one did more for this sinful city than a certain eccentric billionaire.
Howard Hughes cultivated his image as the playboy filmmaker who discovered Jean Harlow and Jane Russell; the daredevil aviator who broke speed records in airplanes he designed. After his round-the-world flight of 1938, he became a national hero on par with Charles Lindburgh.
In 1946, while test-piloting the XF-11 photo reconnaissance plane, Hughes crashed the plane in Beverly Hills, Calif. He wasn't expected to live. The crash broke nearly every bone in his body, and doctors administered morphine liberally to ease his intense pain, beginning a lifelong addiction to opiates.
Even so, he remained a regular visitor to Las Vegas casinos during the 1940s and '50s, seen occasionally at the tables, more often escorting a gorgeous young woman into a restaurant or showroom.
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons maraschino liqueur, preferably Luxardo
1/4 ounce Crème de Violette
Lemon twist, for garnish.
Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake to chill well, then strain into a cocktail glass. Drizzle the Crème de Violette into the glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
Posted by B. Esplin at 12:50 PM
Friday, April 2, 2010
The Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender is finally here, and aside from hearing legends like Wanda Jackson and Chuck Berry, it also gives me the chance to be with burlesque photographer extraordinaire, Don Spiro. Although Don and I have been to many other Tiki Bars throughout the U.S., this was the first adventure in my own back yard:
The interior of Frankie's was built by Bamboo Ben, the world's foremost tiki bar designer and grandson of Eli Hedley. Eli is remembered as the original beachcomber, scavenging from the sea to create the decor at such fabulous destinations as Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, and the Las Vegas other classic, Aku Aku at the Stardust.
Also, in true Vegas form, it's 24 hours!
Posted by B. Esplin at 9:51 AM