"drinks"

The Suburban Cocktail

This is an old but quasi-lost cocktail which I was introduced to not by my favorite local craft bar, Singlebarrel in San Jose, but by BB’s Restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida. Really. It’s a clear cousin to the Manhattan, and was apparently invented in the late 1800s at the Waldorf-Astoria.

The Suburban Cocktail

  • 1.5 oz. rye whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. dark rum
  • 1/2 oz. port
  • dash orange bitters
  • dash aromatic (Angostura) bitters

Stir with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The restaurant used a gentler bourbon which I think I might actually have preferred—the original recipe clearly calls for rye, though. Of course, I’m cheating by using a California Madeira rather than a true port, and used Coruba rum, which I might swap out for something a little more complex and assertive next attempt.

Corn & Oil

Yes, I am a slow blogger this month. I shall try to get better—although probably not before next month.

However, it is worth mentioning a drink which I first had at Smuggler’s Cove and have, after a bit of cursory searching, recreated at home. It is the first drink that I’ve found that successfully uses Cruzan Blackstrap Rum.

What makes Blackstrap difficult? See, a lot of “dark” rum is dark amber, or sometimes even gold. The darkest rum I usually use is Gosling’s Black Seal. That’s pretty dark. But Cruzan Blackstrap is black. It’s like Kahlua. Except that—as the name suggests—it tastes strongly of molasses. I’ve read one review that suggests the best use for this is as a pancake syrup.

While I wouldn’t go that far, there’s the damnedest thing you quickly notice about this stuff. Use it in any cocktail in place of normal rum, and the cocktail now tastes like Blackstrap. And nothing else. Piña Colada? poof! Molasses. Hurricane? poof! Molasses. Daiquiri? slap! Don’t be a fucking idiot.

The Corn & Oil, though—somehow it’s different. Note that in addition to Blackstrap, this requires falernum, a lime-and-spice syrup from the Caribbean. There are exactly two brands of falernum I’m aware that you can find: Fee’s, a non-alcoholic version, and John D. Taylor’s, an alcoholic one. I’m told this drink is better with Taylor’s, but the only I have on hand is Fee’s and it works just fine.

Corn and Oil

  • 2 oz. Cruzan Blackstrap Rum
  • ½ oz. falernum
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • One lime quarter

In a tumbler filled with ice, add the rum, falernum and bitters, then squeeze in the juice from the lime quarter, twisting it to get some lime oil in there, too. Swizzle it good with a bar spoon.

Spiced Rum

Spiced rum has a great reputation among college guys and lazy people pouring it in their Coke, but it has a… we’ll say a spotty reputation among rum fans. This is because most spiced rum is, in fact, lousy. It mostly tastes like (artificial) vanilla and maybe something vaguely citrus, in about the same way that Mountain Dew tastes like something vaguely citrus. There are brands that don’t suck—Sailor Jerry is the most widely available good one, and I’ve heard good things about some new ones like Kraken—but this is one of those things you can make at home easy. This is the recipe I used last weekend and it may be the best damn spiced rum I’ve had.

  • 1 750ml bottle gold rum
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 whole allspice berry
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 1 piece fresh orange peel, roughly 1 inch square

I used Appleton Special for the rum—you want something inexpensive but still good, so I’d recommend the Appleton if you can find it, Cruzan if you can’t. (Don’t use Bacardi—their cheap stuff is crap and their expensive stuff is better than you need.) You want to scrape as much of the white pith off the orange peel as you can, and you just need to cut the vanilla bean in half—don’t mess with it otherwise.

Get a Mason jar or a similar container—something big enough to put the rum in—and put the rum in it. Then put everything else in it, seal it up, give it a few gentle shakes, and let it sit on a counter out of the light for 24 hours or so.

"Just 24 hours?" you might ask. Yep. You can go longer if you want, but taste it after a full day and you’ll be surprised how strongly spiced the rum already is. Longer infusions are probably good for vodka, which doesn’t taste much like anything to start with, but you still want to be able to taste the rum here.

And do this just once, and you will never bother with the Captain again. Trust me.

For the record, while it may be good in Coke, it’s incredible in coffee. (For mixing with Coke, you really want to make a Cuba Libre anyway. Different post.)

Vermouth

I have been somewhat remiss in the cocktail blogging aspect of Coyote Tracks, for which I apologize—it’s been a busy last couple of weeks.

So I’d like to talk to you about vermouth.

People don’t think about vermouth as anything but a mixer, and one to be used sparingly at that. And a lot of vermouth is—well—nasty. It’s like “cooking wine”—that cheap wine that’s sold along with the vinegars and oils at the grocery store. Crap that you’d never drink straight. But any good cook will tell you that you should never cook with wine that you wouldn’t be willing to actually drink. I’m here to tell you that the same should be true for any cocktail ingredient: if you wouldn’t be willing to take a sip of it straight, you probably don’t want to sip it, period.

While the sad state of the martini today is usually blamed on Sean Connery’s refusal to drink gin in the Bond movies—thus starting the trend toward vodka—I think crappy vermouth is in part to blame as well. Cocktails are about balance, and the original martini is about the balance of gin and vermouth. It became fashionable in the early 1900s to keep backing off on the vermouth—making the “martini” closer and closer to straight gin. A lot of people, it turns out, don’t like straight gin. Yet rather than restore the martini to its original balance, we replaced the gin with vodka, that most character-free of distillations. It’s hardly a wonder we’ve ended up with “dirty martinis” and any vodka-based drinks that have nothing to do with the martini other than being served in a cocktail glass: we’ve been trying to add back flavor.

The wonders of gin are a whole separate topic—most people have only been exposed to the London Dry style, and not to the best examples—but here are good recipes for the two most canonical vermouth cocktails, the martini and the Manhattan. The brands I mention aren’t requirements but they work well. Since the whole point of this exercise is to have good vermouth, though: get good vermouth. I really like Vya, but another terrific sweet (red) vermouth is Carpano Antica. You’ll notice that both Vya vermouths are different from the cheap stuff immediately: the dry “white” is straw-colored (and actually somewhat sweet), and the sweet “red” is more mahogany, the color of sherry.

Note that while the bitters are helpful in the martini, they’re essential in the Manhattan. If you don’t have the barrel-aged bitters you can use another “aromatic” bitters (like Angostura), and you can leave out either that or the orange bitters if you’re stuck—but a few dashes of bitters are a must.

A few years back Jim Coudal wrote a charming treatise on how to make a perfect martini, whose only flaw is that it’s completely wrong. I don’t blame Coudal—it’s a product of our anti-vermouth, anti-gin times. But the record must be corrected. You don’t use vodka. You don’t just rinse the glass with vermouth. You never shake a martini. This has nothing to do with “bruising the gin.” Liquids don’t bruise. Martinis are a clear drink, and you want them to stay clear: shaking splinters the ice and clouds them up.

Also, Jim: “Noilly Prat.” One T. And don’t put your booze in the freezer; yes, the ice will melt a little when you mix, but the water is part of the recipe. Really. The only alcohol you should ever store in the freezer is Jägermeister, because seriously, it’s Jäger, and you can’t even remember why you have it, do you? You don’t even remember that night. Because it’s fucking Jäger.

But I digress.

Coyote Martini

  • 2 oz. Beefeater 24 gin
  • ½ oz. Vya dry vermouth
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Jalapeño-stuffed olive for garnish

Combine all the ingredients (no, not the olive, smart guy) in a mixing glass with plenty of ice cubes—enough that the ice is well over the top of the liquid in the glass—and stir for at least thirty seconds. Strain into the glass and garnish with the olive.

Coyote Manhattan

  • 2 oz. rye whiskey (Rittenhouse Bonded or Wild Turkey)
  • 1 oz. Vya sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Regan’s orange bitters
  • 1 dash Fee’s barrel-aged bitters
  • Brandied cherry for garnish

Make as above. You can use a maraschino cherry for the garnish, but a brandied cherry—even an ugly one on a toothpick—blows its doors off.

Ugly Brandied Cherries: Take a bag of dried cherries, put them in a mason jar, add about a cup of brandy, then add a couple tablespoons of sugar syrup. Shake it all up and leave it in the refrigerator for a few days. (You can probably make pretty brandied cherries by using fresh ones, but I haven’t tried that, yet.)

The Coyote Standard Margarita

The classic margarita recipe involves tequila (duh), orange liqueur and lime juice, in a 3-2-1 proportion. This has virtually nothing to do with the concoction you’ll be served at T.G.I. Applechili’s, which is pretty much just spiked limeade. The classic is a fine way to make a margarita, although it’s been accused by some—most notably celebrity food nerd Alton Brown—of being a Tequila Sidecar that should never have had the Cointreau in there at all. And indeed some restaurants that take their tequila Very Very Seriously make a mix of lime juice and agave nectar.

No. No, no, no. Take out the orange and you’ve got a Tequila Daiquiri. Alton compounds the problem by offering a misbegotten mishmash of muddled lime and oranges; this switches out weakly spiked limeade for high-octane citrus punch. That’s an improvement, but it ain’t a margarita.

Back off the orange liqueur to highlight the lime, sure. But don’t get rid of it. Instead, try

The Coyote Standard Margarita

  • 2 oz. 100% agave blanco or reposado tequila
  • 1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ oz. Patron Citronge orange liqueur
  • ¼ to ½ oz. light agave nectar

Do not use a tequila that is not 100% agave—you might as well be using turpentine. You can get good brands like Cazadores or Gran Centenario’s Azul for around $20. Do not use juice from one of those little plastic limes, or Nellie & Joe’s Key Lime Concentrate, and do not even look at Rose’s Lime Juice. Get a real lime. Squeeze it. If you don’t have Citronge, you can use a clear curacao or even triple sec. But just buy the damn Citronge. You can use simple syrup instead of nectar if you’re a wimp.

Put it all in a shaker with plenty of ice, shake the hell out of it, then taste it. If you need to, add a little more nectar for sweetness. Then pour it into a cocktail glass; salt the rim first if you insist. If you really insist, put it in a tumbler over ice. If you put it in a blender and turn it into a slushie, I’ll punch you right in your Jimmy Buffett.

This is strong. Do not have more than one, unless you have tequila left.

Antilles Punch

Hi there! I’ve spent this evening—like last night—at Smuggler’s Cove, the best rum bar in the world. A night or two here and Darby wouldn’t be an Angry Drunk anymore. (At least temporarily.) The one downside of a night at Smuggler’s Cove is that it makes it somewhat more difficult to write thoughtful articles about technology.

But it does make it appropriate to share with you an original rum drink recipe, in the style of classic tiki drinks. If you don’t know that style, it does not mean “Hawaiian punch spiked with cheap rum,” despite what T.G.I. Applebee’s wants you to think. No, it means “a lot of ingredients, at least one of which is bafflingly obscure.”

Antilles Punch

  • 1½ oz Martinique rum
  • ½ oz Lemon Hart 151-proof Demarara rum
  • 1 oz pineapple juice
  • ½ oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • ½ oz falernum
  • ¼ oz cinnamon sugar syrup
  • a dash or two of Angostura bitters

Pour everything into a cocktail shaker and add plenty of crushed ice (enough so that the ice is as high as the liquid). Shake maniacally. Empty unstrained into a rocks glass, adding more crushed ice if necessary. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

(If you’re not a cocktail nerd, you may be asking, “Do the kinds of rum matter?” Yes, they do. You may be asking, “Are bitters really important?” Yes, they are. You may be asking, “Will Bacardi 151 work?” No it will not do not ever mention it again.)

After I sober up, more tech stuff—probably to come out late Friday afternoon, when nobody’s reading this. If only I had bad quarterly earnings to report! Dammit!

At Smuggler's Cove, a rum bar

  1. Me: I should get something Irish.
  2. Bartender: How about a Mai O'Tai?
  3. Me: A mai tai with Jameson?
  4. Bartender: Yes, exactly.
  5. Me: Dude.

Reboot

Yes, it’s time to reboot the weblog. Every so often you just have to clear out the cobwebs—particularly if you haven’t used the site in the last two years.

The “new” Coyote Tracks will be something like the old one was if I keep going with it (big “if” there, I know), but I’ve been thinking off and on about starting a tech blog and even made feints at it a couple times elsewhere. Now I’m trying again.

First, though, I thought I’d share with you what I’m going to be drinking in a moment: a Manhattan. But a good Manhattan. This is not the crap they’ll give you at a brass and fern bar. You want an assertive whiskey, and you want a good vermouth, of which there aren’t that many. (Carpica Antica and Vya are great vermouths. Noilly Prat and Martini & Rossi are “good enough” vermouths, but just barely.)

Coyote’s Manhattan

  • 2 oz. Sazerac brand rye whiskey
  • 1 oz. Vya sweet vermouth
  • 1 dash Fee’s Barrel Aged Whiskey Bitters
  • 2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters

Put in a mixing glass with plenty of ice cubes and stir for at least 30 seconds. No skimping. Garnish with a brandied cherry.