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A Valentine to Shirley Temple

Today, I woke up to the news that our beloved Shirley Temple Black has taken her final bow on this here third rock from the sun. But she’s left us with a very sparkly legacy.

My mother is a lifelong fan and when I was little, she passed on her love and appreciation for Shirley Temple and all of her gobsmacking talent as a singer, actress and dancer. She was my absolute favorite and made an incredible impact on me as a child. Subsequent years of me singing, acting and dancing followed this childhood fascination with Curly Top, and I blame a lot of my interest in all of that on those early experiences watching her movies over and over. I would have given anything to have my impossibly straight hair curled into fat sausages on top of my head. And I remember, at 6, being so envious when Sue Soto, my neighbor and best friend who was from a huge Mexican Catholic family, got an outfit for her First Communion that I thought was EXACTLY like something Shirley Temple would’ve worn – white patent leather baby doll shoes, lacy ankle socks and a multi-tiered, frothy, crinoline party dress resembling a puffed pastry. I was CRUSHED that my hippy mom didn’t go in for that kind look for me. I was stuck in earth tones and beaded vests.

cherry hearts.jpg
As a tribute to Shirley Temple Black, and with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I thought I’d provide a recipe for the popular, pink-hued, booze-less “cocktail” named in her honor. The origins of this fruity beverage are a little fuzzy, as many have claimed its invention. According to Hollywood lore, however, a bartender from Chasen’s, a historic Beverly Hills restaurant, created the drink especially for the child star in the 30s. This place was filled with these kinds of stories. Too bad it closed in the 90s!

shirley-temple drink
I recently had a horrible version of one of these at the American Girl Store when I had a date with one of my favorite 7 year olds. And, believe it or not, I’ve been wanting to post a recipe with quality ingredients on here ever since! The problem with most Shirley Temples is the grenadine. The store-bought stuff is usually filled with such garbage and more often than not, people are too heavy-handed with it. You only need a dash of the sweet stuff! Especially when you are mixing with an already sweet soda. My version uses ginger syrup and seltzer in place of ginger-ale, so it’s even easier to pull back on the sweetness. And instead of providing my own grenadine recipe, I’m supplying you with the best one I’ve found out there from bartender and cocktalian whiz Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s blog here. It is easy and delicious. Can’t beat that!

All Natural Shirley Temple Recipe from Bit By a Fox Blog
(Makes 4 Glasses)
2 oz Homemade Grenadine
1.5 oz Ginger Syrup
1 oz Lemon Juice
32 oz Club Soda
ice
4 Natural Maraschino Cherries

In a pitcher, mix the syrups, juice and soda over ice. Pour into 4 glasses. Enjoy!

If you DO want to booze this up, you can easily add a few ounces of your favorite spirit. White rum is especially good with this flavor combo. You can also go a little easier on the grenadine and throw in some Maraschino liqueur for a sweet kick!

Rest in peace, sweet Shirley. I’m sure you’re already hoofing up a storm alongside Bill “Bojangles” Robinson on that stairway to heaven!

Caledonia Spirits “Barr Hill” Gin

Attention gin (and honey bee) lovers!
Meet your new, favorite martini ingredient:

Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill GinThe first time I tried Barr Hill Gin, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate this unique, Vermont made spirit. While I thoroughly enjoyed the delicious cocktail painstakingly created by one of the very capable bartenders at the Bearded Lady in Brooklyn, I didn’t realize, at the time, that the lovely, delicate flavor profile was slightly lost on me. My introduction to this gin should have been on its own. And so should yours. The reason? It’s not only incredibly enjoyable by itself, but this is really the best way to pick up on its star ingredient: raw, northern honey.

Locally sourced honey is added during a second distillation, right before bottling, and it lends so much to this London dry-style gin. The aroma is bright and floral and, not surprisingly, reminiscent of honey, fresh out of the hive. The texture is silky and round. The flavors are similar to the aromas found on the nose – floral, herbaceous and bright, with a slight sweetness. Another unusual aspect of this gin is that they only use one botanical during distillation. And it wouldn’t be gin without it – fresh juniper! You wouldn’t think it would be this complex with so few ingredients, but the honey really does impart so much. And it contrasts so beautifully with the sharp, clear juniper.

How did this bee stung gin come to be? Distiller and owner Todd Hardie has been tending bees for most of his life, starting with his first hive at his family’s farm at 12 years old. It was at that time that this magic bond with bees and honey began. And his 30 years as a commercial bee keeper forged his bond with the land, the cycles of the seasons and the rich community of farmers in the northeast. It was five years ago that the idea of creating a honey wine – mead – came to fruition. And another two before they would begin to distill gin, vodka and elderberry cordial on the banks of the Lamoille River in the Northeast Kingdom as Caledonia Spirits. And the rest is history!

I’ll be making an original cocktail just for this unique spirit tomorrow night at Atlantic Cellars from 6-9pm. We’ll also be tasting it on its own, of course. Which I highly recommend! Stop by and taste what all the buzz is about!

12 Days of Cocktails: Day 11 – The Christmas Daisy

Christmas Daisy Cocktail - BBAFThe Daisy is what you call an ‘old school cocktail’. It’s been around since before even Jerry Thomas had a chance to include his version of one in the legendary The Bartender’s Guide published in 1862. “Professor” Jerry Thomas is often referred to as the “father of American mixology”. And since the resurgence of classic cocktails and interest in American drinks history has grown, his stories and the classic cocktails he featured in his seminal book have been getting more recognition in recent years. Much of this is due to the amazingly researched and meticulously documented cocktail bible, Imbibe, by drinks historian, David Wondrich. If you have any interest in cocktails and American drinks history this is required reading. Put it on your Christmas list, stat!

The formula for the Daisy, according to Jerry Thomas, was a Sour – with a base spirit of whiskey, gin, brandy, or rum, sweetened with an orange cordial, and with the addition of some fizzy water. The orange cordial element was the only thing that differentiated it from a Fizz. Grenadine replaced the orange cordial in later renditions and, according to Wondrich, this fruity, pink-ish drink called the Daisy, eventually evolved into a dudes drink! The presentation might have been one of the reasons the gents gravitated toward this tipple, however. It was often served in a crushed ice filled goblet, mug or julep cup. Manly, right?! While I’ve seen Daisies served up or in a Collins type glass, this is how I prefer it! So, if you have a julep cup or something similar, this is the way to go.

Christmas Daisy
2 oz Gin
1 oz Fresh Meyer Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Limoncello
1/4 oz Cointreau Liqueur
2 Sage Leaves
Club Soda

Muddle one of the sage leaves with the Cointreau and Limoncello at the bottom of a shaker. Pour in the lemon juice and gin, add ice and shake until the outside of the shaker is cold and frosty. Strain into a julep cup filled with crushed ice. Add soda. Garnish with sage leaf.

Cocktail Love, Firsts and Favorites

Foxy Friend, Lee Houck takes over Bit By a Fox this week in what may be the beginning of a series of guest blogging posts about important cocktail experiences, favorite tipples and thoughts on drinking. 

Lee in the bathroom

At some point during my mother’s visit to New York City back in April, she remarked, apropos of our evening: “You sure do drink a lot.”  She was here for her birthday, so we’d been to the matinee of Chicago at the Ambassador Theater, and then we all (her, me, my dad and my boyfriend) had a happy hour drink at the Pegu Club — I had the Bayleaf Martini.  Then with dinner at Saxon + Parole, I drank a Chartreuse Swizzle, which is maybe the gayest drink in the history of history.  (About who ordered it, my dad joked, pointing to me when the server arrived, “Eenie meenie miney, MO.”)  I had a second.  With dessert, I ordered a Grasshopper, because, well, it was on the dessert menu and so why wouldn’t you?

Was I drinking a lot?  It didn’t seem like a lot.  “Well, every time you sit down to dinner, you have a drink,” she added.  It’s true.  Every time I sit down to dinner — at a restaurant, that is — I have a drink.  Also sometimes happy hours here and there.  Or a shaken something (let’s be honest, mostly terrible) at home when I’m cooking dinner.

When I moved to New York sixteen years ago from Tennessee, the only drinking I had done was:

1) Tiny sips of whatever the adults were having at parties thrown by my parents.  They like Leibfraumilch in the tall cobalt bottle, and my dad likes good Bourbon.

2) Giant horrible burning gulps of Alizé while hiking mountain trails.  (What?)

3) Half a glass of fruity red while watching the Tony Awards at the home of my theater teacher during high school.  (Yeah, I know.)

4) Three bottles of Zima at sixteen while enjoying the dance floor (read: being groped by older men) at New Orleans’ own “The Parade” after my friend Andrea decided I would look 21 as long as I was wearing dark eyeliner.  (Yeah…I know.)

Once I got to New York, I spent a short time drinking beer, because I had a completely platonic man crush on a straight guy who was really into Belgian wheat beers, and he talked to me about why I should like them.  “Orange peel and coriander,” he always said, and I later used that line to get laid at dive bars in the 90s, or so I like to think.  Then I had a boyfriend for a couple years who was deeply into good wine and he taught me a lot about how to order a bottle for the table, and what I should be looking for in various bottles.

Then — I’m not sure if it was just me, or the general resurgence of the mixologist culture of the last several years — I fell in love with cocktails.  I fell sweepingly, deeply in love with how the right drink for the right occasion with the right mix of friends can feel like the edges of everything are shiny and meaningful.  I don’t think it’s just the alcohol talking.

Lee's cocktails

I love a Negroni on a back porch.  I love a Salty Dog on the beach when it’s starting to get cool.  I love a Sazerac when the jukebox is too loud.  I love a dry martini at the Algonquin.  I love the French 75 at the Read House in Chattanooga.

I love bartenders.  I love Richard Brooks shaking a fruity Southeast Asia-inspired tall icy thing at the Mandarin Oriental on Columbus Circle.  I love Jeff Bell’s diligent, careful mixing at PDT.  I love Kristi Andre at the new Wheated on Church Avenue in Ditmas Park and their insane Cuba Libre.  I love the sugar-plus-Tropicana-plus-red wine Sangria served by bent, ancient men at The Spain Restaurant on 13th Street.  I even love the not-to-be-named woman at another local joint who didn’t know what an Aperol Soda was — she gave it a taste, proclaimed it like “cough medicine for robots” and then charged me $12.  I love a Manhattan with or without a cheeseburger, basically anywhere.

More than all that, however, I love that in the last year — and maybe mostly because I was drinking “a lot” back in April — I’ve transferred that love into a kind of cocktail menu empowerment.  I was having dinner with my mom in Chattanooga at the now-closed Niko’s Southside, and I was able to convince her that the St. Germain Spritz was totally her drink.

“Will I like that?” she said.

“You’ll love it,” I told her.  “Bright flavors, aromatic, perfectly light and drinkable.”

Okay, I don’t remember what I said about it at the time, but that sounds like a description I might have offered, right?  The point is, that’s what happens when you love something like I love a good cocktail.  It feels easy.  You seek out the nuances.  You long for the complex relationships — brief or extended — that a drink can provide.

I’m proud that my mom orders that drink now wherever she can.  Even if she’s in some far-flung Tennessee road house and has to explain what’s in it.

And now, so you never have to wonder what’s in it, here’s the perfect St. Germain Spritz, courtesy of Bit By a Fox:

St-Germain Spritzer

Lee Houck is a Brooklyn-based writer whose work includes essays, stories and poems appearing in numerous anthologies in the U.S., France and Australia, and in his almost-monthly old school printed zine “Crying Frodo.”  His debut novel, “Yield,” was published by Kensington Books. Website: LeeHouck.com

The Gin Fizz

gin fizz“…An early-morning drink with a definite purpose – a panacea for hang-overs,”
– legendary bartender, Trader Vic

Classic cocktails are like Mexican food. (I realize Mexican cuisine is a complex mix of ingredients native to Mexico and those brought over by the Spanish conquistadors, but stay with me here…) Tacos, enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas – the proportions are slightly different, the preparations and presentations vary but the ingredients are pretty much interchangeable for each dish – rice, beans, cheese, maybe meat, guac, sour cream, tortilla…For classic cocktails, the same is true. The basic ingredients for creating a balanced cocktail have made it so there are so many similar types of cocktails. Sometimes it’s just the glassware that is different! There is a reason why even skilled bartenders have a recipe book handy.

The Gin Fizz, for instance: Gin, lemon, sugar and seltzer has the same ingredients as the Tom Collins. Both cocktails date back to the late 1800s, became incredibly popular in America between 1900 and the 1940s, and are essentially Gin-flavored, fizzy lemonades. I’ll take two!

The main difference between these two cocktails is the addition of ice and the size of the glass. A 12 oz. Collins glass, of course, is used to accommodate the ice for the Tom Collins. And the Gin Fizz is traditionally served up, without ice and in an 8 oz. glass. There has also been speculation about the type of Gin used in both cocktails. Old Tom Gin – a slightly sweetened type of gin, a precursor to London Dry Gin, that is difficult to find on the market nowadays, was probably most commonly used for both. Some claim the type of Gin was never specified in earlier recipes of the Gin Fizz and that Hollands Gin, or as we know it, Genever Gin was to be used specifically in the Tom Collins. In any case, the lighter, dry English styles tend to work best with both of these drinks.

Variations on the Gin Fizz:
Silver Fizz – with egg white added
Golden Fizz – with egg yolk added
Royal Fizz – with whole egg added
Diamond Fizz – Sparkling Wine instead of Club Soda. Also known as the French 75!
Ramos Gin Fizz – the addition of lime juice, egg white, cream, orange flower water

Bit By a Fox Gin Fizz
2 oz. Gin
1/2 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
Large Spoonful of Superfine Sugar
Club Soda

Shake Gin and lemon juice over ice.
Strain into 8 oz glass.
Top with Club Soda.
Stir with the large spoonful of sugar to make this drink FIZZ!

The sugar stirring at the end is an old bartender’s trick to make this drink extra fizzy! And who wouldn’t want that? You can also put the sugar in the shaker, but that’s just not as fun.

Enjoy!

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