January 3rd, 2008

not end well

well - crap!

While cleaning up on New Year's Eve, having made a number of cocktails (and did vodka shots, which I think helped erase most of the end of the night), I managed to drop my bottle of Fee's West Indian Orange bitters.


So I call Scheider's and they do have it in stock.  That's good, if only that it's still a haul to get down there and back, and other than maybe buying another bottle of that armagnac, I'm not certain if I feel like wandering down there.
I go over to Amazon, where I bought a few of the bitters that I couldn't find there the last time I had gone (errr, time before last, I guess).  Sure, they have it, also, but there's shipping to keep in mind.  Ouch.

But then I thought again.  I was kicking myself for not having gotten myself some orgeat and falernum earlier; why not just add that in?

One problem: while the orgeat from Fee's is listed as being from Kegworks, for some reason, instead of Fee's, it's sold from someone else called "Left of Main".  Which means that it's an additional shipping cost.  I found that I could force the Amazon site to sell it to me via the Kegworks storefront, however.

I plunked around a bit on the Kegworks website, and sure enough, I found that they had it also.  Even better, they had a "Cocktail Mixers Starter Set" - a bottle of the West Indies orange bitters, a bottle of falernum (smaller than the other, natch), a bottle of orgeat (ditto), blue curacao (I already have some, but it'd be interesting to compare), sloe gin (ditto), and curacao-triple sec (ditto again).

It's $29.95 plus approximately $9.31 from Kegworks directly; it's $34.95, reaching $44.10 after shipping, from Amazon.com.  So I ended up going with it from Amazon, as I was buying some other things at the same time and it saved me a bit of hassle.

The smaller sizes will work better for me, I think, as I'm not the tiki drink maker like tmfiii is.  Given that I'm also living with roommates, I have to be more careful about the size of bottles, etc., I get that need to be refrigerated after opening.  I know the bitters don't, but I'm not certain on the rest - and my little dorm fridge is getting crowded with all the stuff that's in there.

Perhaps I should "take care of" that bottle of apple schnapps this weekend...and whatever beers are in there...oh dear, there goes that plan...
Dexter & Stagg
  • tmfiii

New Syrups and such

I want to welcome everyone to a New Year.  Hopefully, during the next 365 days, this blog will continue to improve and you readers (all two of you) will enjoy the journey.

Anyhoo, as I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to make some new syrups.  I love syrups for two reasons.  One, they add sweetness to a drink.  And B, you can pretty much flavor them any way you want.  You can be aggressive with the flavoring or you can be light and just impart a slight essence of flavor.  The downside to syrup making is that if you screw up, you're stuck with what you made and although sugar and water are pretty cheap, your flavorings can get expensive.  I don't know about you, but I really don't want to waste an ingredient if I happen to screw up.

All that to say that I have made two new syrups to help with my concoctioneering.  (To give credit where credit is due, concoctioneering is a term I absconded from Blair Reynolds over at Trader Tiki's Booze Blog.  I love that term!!!!)  It also goes with my "Intoxicologist" shaker . . . 

Anyway, I've got a bit of a photo show that goes with my creations, so here you go.  I've also followed it up with an original cocktail using one of the syrups.

Here are my tools; Cardamom, crystallized ginger, fresh oranges, vanilla beans, and sugar.  You can also see two containers for the finished syrups, a measuring cup and a kitchen scale.  I didn't use the kitchen scale, it was a christmas gift, but it was lonely and wanted to be in the picture . . . 

The first syrup I decided to make, after a consultation with

runoknows, was an orange-cardamom.  If you aren't familiar with cardamom, check here.  It is a spice that is generally associated with middle eastern and african cuisine.  It is kind of spicy, like ginger, but has a very potent and distinct taste.  It plays very well with citrus.

Using the good ole mortar and pestle, I roughly ground up my cardamom seeds.  I then zested one orange.

I used a ratio or 2 to 1 sugar and water.  Bring the sugar and water to a simmer and cook until it becomes clear.  As soon as it clears up, turn off the heat (or better yet move the pan to another spot on the stove.)  Then add in the orange zest and cardamom.  Let this mixture sit for at least twenty minutes and up to an hour, stirring occasionally.  When the mixture was almost a room temp, I added one ounce of 100 proof vodka.  This will make the syrup shelf stable allowing me to keep it in the fridge for a good long time.  Next, you want to get a fine strainer and strain all the seeds and zest out of the syrup.  Once it is free of all the goog, you can bottle it.

Here you can see what it looks like in the bottle.  However, the lighting is off and the syrup looks much darker than it really is.  See the next picture for a better representation of the actual color or the syrup.

You can see that it's a nice gold hue.  The flavor turned out to be like a sweet, spicy (think ginger) burnt orange.  There is a certain . . . caramelized flavor that I'm certain came from the cardamom.  Especially since you aren't cooking the sugar enough to change it's flavor (at least by this amount.)  The syrup is certainly more orange flavored than cardamom, but the cardamom puts a certain something that will make people wonder what that *extra* flavor is.  

The next syrup I made was a vanilla-ginger syrup.  

Here is chopped crystallized ginger and 2/3 of a vanilla bean.  Why not a full vanilla bean you ask?  Well, I knew I wasn't making a lot of syrup so I didn't want to use a whole one, plus I wanted the other third to sit nice and pretty in a container of sugar to impart a subtle vanilla to the sugar.  Yes, a by-product of my concoctioneering was vanilla sugar.  <insert evil laugh here>  Plus, have you ever dealt with vanilla beans???  They are wonderfully fragrant and very very tasty.  But those !@@@#$%^#@#%@#$@!$% little beans get to be a pain.  You'll see what I mean later . . . 

Here is the pan with the ginger and vanilla.  I used the same 2:1 ration of sugar and water, chopped the crystallized ginger into tiny pieces and cut the vanilla bean in half length-wise.  Why did I do that?  Because the vanilla flavor is in the seeds hiding inside the bean.  You cut the bean length-wise and introduce those beautiful little seeds into the syrup.  If you look closely at the picture (click on it for a larger one) you can see the seeds floating around.

This brings me to my little rant about vanilla beans.  Those !@#Q#$!@#$ seeds!!!!  I don't know about you, but when I'm making a syrup, especially one that is going to be used in a cocktail, I don't want little things floating in it.  Do you know how hard it is to strain vanilla seeds?  Huh?  DO YA?  Well let me tell you that YOU CAN'T!!!  I used a fine mesh strainer to get the ginger out.  Then I used some cheese cloth and ran the syrup through that.  It got out about 4 seeds.  So I tried a coffee filter.  That would have worked beautifully if I wasn't an impatient SOB, and had about 24 hours to let it filter.  So I went back to the cheese cloth.  After adding a few more layers, I had a filtering system that was doing the trick.  Next time, vanilla extract may be the way to go. 

Anyway, be sure to add the vodka after the syrup cools for the same reason mentioned above.

Here's the final product.  It is a very pale color.  The vanilla is the prominent flavor with a spicy background.  I think for the next round of this syrup, I'll use fresh ginger instead of crystallized.   That will up the ginger quotient.  

Well, time for a drink!!!  Here is another original that I'm playing with.

Bittermom (Okay, the name needs some work, but I was thinking bitter and cardamom . . . any suggestions, leave in the comments)
2 oz grapefruit juice
1.5 oz gin (I used Plymouth)
1 tsp Cointreau
1/4 tsp Campari
.5 oz orange-cardamom syrup
.25 oz raspberry syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
Orange flower water

Shake everything except the orange flower water with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Put two drops of orange flower water on the head of the drink (do not mix in, this is for aromatics.)  If you don't have orange flower water, this would be the perfect time to use a flaming orange peel garnish . . . damn, now I wish I had thought of that earlier . . .  


One of the things I like about this drink is that is it adjustable.  If it isn't bitter enough, add more Campari.  If it's too sweet, you can lessen the cointreau or orange-cardamom syrup . . . or add more Campari.  HA!  Feel free to play with the ratios . . . and that goes for any and all drinks.  Find something you like.  Cocktail making, like cooking, is about finding what you like in a cocktail.  Use a particular recipe and if you don't like it, tweak it until you have something you like.  

Above all else, try new things and enjoy the ride.