January 13th, 2008


Mixology Monday - Brandy!

I had so many bad jokes about brandy that I wanted to make, mostly dirty ones, that I didn't want to make - but I do have one joke I will make later, not about brandy, despite the advice of my emergency back-up lawyer Marshall aka tmfiii.

But that'll come later.  It's Mixology Monday time!

Brandy, brandy, brandy.  Brandy really wasn't a spirit I thought much about until just recently when I've started becoming enraptured of its possibilities.  It's such a wide variety of stuff, too: from just "brandy" to cognac and armagnac to Calvados to applejack to pisco.  I'd hoped to get some brandy de jerez - my parents had some when I was down in Richmond for Thanksgiving and I found it very pleasant - but I haven't been able to find any in VA ABC stores in my area.

Oh well.

The first thing I needed to do was look over my brandy selection.

From left to right: E&J VSOP brandy, Captain Apple Jack, Laird's Applejack, Arrow Coffee Flavored Brandy, Hennessy XO, Macchu Pisco, Clear Creek Apple Brandy, Castarede XO armagnac, Busnel Calvados, Remy Martin VSOP cognac.

The coffee flavored brandy is kind of funny.  I read an article about it that was also discussing alcoholism in Maine.  A common drink is, apparently, coffee flavored brandy plus milk.  One wag interviewed in a bar called the drink "fat ass in a glass", referring to the weight that women (the more common of the drinkers of that particular concoction) put on when drinking too much of it.  Said interviewee, if I remember correctly, had a drink dumped on him by a woman drinking one of those.

The Clear Creek apple brandy is good stuff.  I got it from Schneider's on Capitol Hill, where you can't buy individual minis so I had to buy a bunch of them.  I really need to get a full sized bottle of it.

I've also been wanting to get a different kind of calvados for comparison purposes and buy a second bottle of that armagnac.  You can see a bit of the flowery cap on it; when I bought it, unfortunately, the cork was gray and disgusting, and had actually separated from the cap itself.  The armagnac appeared (and tastes) fine, so I just used one of my future sister-in-law's wine stoppers.

So I had lots of choices.  I thumbed through some books - Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails had a few I found interesting, but I decided to stick with a recipe or two (actually three) from The Joy of Mixology.  To make it up to Dr. Cocktail, two of the drinks I picked out were by him, and the third was by David Wondrich, author of Imbibe!.

First, though, I'd cleared out my fridge of my old fruit juice and so went back to laboriously squeezing a bunch of lemons and limes for fresh juice.  This isn't the most fun task in the world, and coupling it with my broken thumb on my dominant hand meant I was literally the embodiment of masculinity and virility while doing it.

Damn, I really gotta get the doctor to sign off on letting me work out.

If you're curious, the beer next to me is Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale, and the shirt is one that Lusk got me from Miche Tavern down in Charlottesville - which I, incidentally, never visited in my ten years in C'ville and however many gazillion trips up the mountain right past it.

Alrighty then - what's first up?  Why, it's a CEO Cocktail, which Gary Regan adapted from Ted Haigh (aka Dr. Cocktail).

CEO Cocktail
2 ounces brandy
1/2 ounce Chambord or creme de cassis
1 ounce Lillet Blonde
2 dashes orange bitters
1 lemon twist, for garnish

I went with the E&J - which I'd originally primarily bought for the purposes of marinating cherries - as well as creme de cassis, since while we do have Chambord, it is literally the only bottle in the house I didn't buy.  Also, I have a rule: if making a recipe from Gary Regan, you use Gary Regan's bitters if possible.

Marshall caught me mixing:


SHAKE  AND STRAIN into a chilled cocktail glass.  Add the garnish.

Because, you know, Dr. Cocktail shakes ALL his drinks.

I'm focused.  Also - I need to work on that chin.  Yikes.  And my gut.  DAMMIT.

I tried to do the twist myself but with the brace and a right-handed channel knife it just made a mess.

It ended up being just "ok" but at first the creme de cassis was just  too much.  Perhaps Chambord wouldn't be so overpowering, or I needed a stronger brandy.

tmfiii sez:  I remember that the first one tasted "off" because of the prevelance of the cassis.

While I sat back to enjoy my cocktail, Marshall got to work on his East India cocktail.  Of course, he'll post about that one, and he has my notes on it.

Next was the cocktail by David Wondrich: the Gotham Cocktail, which according to Regan he created in 2001 for the debut issue of Gotham magazine.  I've never read it - but, then again, I've only been to NYC once.  This one seemed similar to the CEO and so I was interested in how they'd compare.

Gotham Cocktail
2 ounces cognac
1 ounce Noilly Prat dry vermouth
1/2 ounce creme de cassis
2 dashes fresh lemon juice
1 lemon twist, for garnish

STIR vigorously with cracked ice.  STRAIN into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the lemon twist.

I tried to crack some ice, really I did!

I think I have really hard water.

Get it?

Hard water?


Okay, okay, maybe Marshall was right and I shouldn't have bothered with that joke.  BUT I DO NOT CARE!  PUNS == FUNS!

Anyways, back to the drink:

I let Marshall do the twist.

I really liked this one; compared to the previous drink i was incredibly balanced.  I do wonder about trying it with different ingredients.  For instance, using the armagnac instead of cognac.  Whenever I read any recipe that specifies a brand while making it I also wonder what other brands they prefer.  Obviously,  this one calls specifically for Noilly Prat dry vermouth, which is the only kind I own (I don't count the Lillet obviously).  But what kind of cognac?  What about creme de cassis?  I have a feeling I'm using pretty cheap cassis, so I wonder how a better bottle of it would change the drink - would the cassis become more or less pronounced?  What if I used Chambord?  Maybe this is a better discussion for another MxMo...

tmfiii sez: The second was sweeter and the cassis highlighted the other flavors without overpowering them.

I promised y'all three, and I still owe y'all one more from Dr. Cocktail over the residual guilt from not using any from his book (and also from realizing I didn't tag it with his name specifically in my runoknows blog on it).  If you haven't figured it out by now, I go around with a lot of guilt usually.

Haymaker Special
2 ounces calvados
1/2 ounce Dubonnet Rouge
1/2 ounce triple sec
1/2 ounce grapefruit juice
1 lime spiral, for garnish

I decided on this one for a number of reasons: I like calvados a lot, it seems.  I've wanted to make more drinks with Dubonnet in it.  Also, I've had that grapefruit juice for a while and wanted to use it.

Works for me, eh?

Again, Marshall made the spiral lime thingie.

SHAKE AND STRAIN into a chilled cocktail glass.  Add the garnish.

I also really enjoyed this one a lot, too.  Again, it was very balanced, though you could still taste the calvados past everything else.  This is the kind of drink that now that I'm writing this I'm thinking "Why am I not drinking another one right now?"

And the answer to that, ladies and gentlemen, is easy: laziness.

tmfiii sez:  I'm not even sure I tasted that one.
runoknows sez:  yeah 'cause we talked about the taste of calvados in it :-)
tmfiii sez:  well then . . .
tmfiii sez:  still don't remember :-)

So much for that experiment!

It was an interesting experience through three different forms of brandy.  If I get myself really worked up tonight (therefore: doubtful) maybe I'll make myself a "fat ass in a glass" and report back on it.  Don't know how good it'd be on top of that beer I'm drinking right now, though...
Dexter & Stagg
  • tmfiii

Mixology Monday - Brandy!!

 Another Monday, another cocktail . . . they almost make Monday's bearable.  Almost.  This months MxMo is hosted by Marleigh over at Sloshed.  Thanks Marleigh!!!

I'm a lot like runoknows, aka Sean, when it comes to Brandy.  I've never really drank it, didn't know much about it and couldn't tell you the first thing about the rating system on the bottles . . . you know, VO, VOSP, XO, etc etc etc.  After buying a bottle of Armangac and doing a little research, I still don't know squat about the rating system, but at least I know some tasty brandy cocktails and have a much deeper appreciation for the spirit.  

For this MxMo, I headed out to Casa de Sean to work on what I wanted to post about.  Plus I knew he had many more options for brandy than I.

Here is what we had to work with, E&J VSOP brandy, Captain Apple Jack, Laird's Applejack, Arrow Coffee Flavored Brandy, Hennessy XO, Macchu Pisco, Clear Creek Apple Brandy, Castarede XO armagnac, Busnel Calvados, Remy Martin VSOP cognac.

Granted, sitting there and trying a nip from every bottle would quickly lead to a post that said something to the effect of, "Yeah, I <hiccup> like brandy . . . "  So I really felt like I had to do a little research for this.  

Brandy, being one of the most venerable spirits, has quite a number to cocktails for its use.  For example, CocktailDB alone has 1085 cocktail recipes using brandy.  Most bar books contain pages and pages of brandy beverages.  Luckily, at Sean's, I knew I also had a good library of books to consult.  I also brought over two of my own books, The Bartender's Bible by Gary Regan, and Ultimate Bar Book by Mittie Hellmich.  I plan on doing a review of Ms. Hellmich's book in the near future.  I can tell you that it is a compendium of cocktail recipes supplemented with information on barwares, measurements, garnishes, etc. and is laid out very nicely.  Once I get a chance to thumb through the entire book, I'll give ya'll a full rundown.

Here I am consulting a few books.  That's Rizza who is trying to help me out.  I think she likes the Clear Creek Distillery's Apple Brandy . . . 

Even Rizza's brother Master Shake wanted to help.  Actually, knowing Shake, he was trying to steal some brandy for his own nefarious purposes . . . Why else would he be sneaking around like that . . .

Rizza wanted to call in reinforcements (she was a little overwhelmed), but I told her that Sean and I had everything under control . . .

After looking through a lot of pages, I decided on two cocktails, not because I've had them before or because they had an interesting background story and some sort of historical undercurrent.  Granted both might rightly contain a very fascinating history but none was included in the book from which they came.  Instead I picked these two because they were very similar with slightly different proportions and in one case, a small additional ingredient.

The cocktails?  An East India and a Bengal.

East India Cocktail
1.5 oz Brandy (armagnac)
1/4 oz Cointreau
1.5 oz pineapple juice
Dash of Agnostura
Lemon Twist

Shake all ingredients with cracked ice.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

As you can see, I decided to use the Armagnac for this cocktail.  It seemed a little more "exotic" than flat-out brandy and I really like the Castarede XO.  It has a very smooth, mellow flavor.  If you aren't familiar with armagnac, read about it here.

Since I took a picture of Sean mixing, he had to get me back . . . 

The East India was okay.  It didn't blow me away.  The first thing I noticed about this drink was that it seemed very "dry."  I was under the impression that the pineapple juice and the Cointreau would make this a very sweet drink.  In reality, it has a definite pineapple flavor but the armagnac mutes it quite a bit.  The Cointreau actually seemed to get lost in the mix.  I felt that this was just about a tiki drink with the pineapple and replacing rum with brandy.  The bottom line for me is that it was a nice brandy-pineapple drink, but nothing I would make for my friends.

runoknows sez:   A little too much pineapple for me. I felt like it dominated it.

Next up was the Bengal.  The Bengal also contained brandy, pineapple juice and Cointreau.  But it has slightly different ratios and throws a half ounce of maraschino in the mix.  

Ummmm, yeah.  This is where I would have put a picture of the ingredients, but I forgot to take one.  Just imagine the picture above for the East India also contains a bottle of maraschino . . . there that's it.

Bengal Cocktail
1.5 oz Brandy (armagnac)
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz Cointreau
1 oz pineapple juice
2 dashes bitters (I used Agnostura)

Shake all with ice and strain in a chilled cocktail glass.  

Here I am giving it a good shake.

The finished product.

The Bengal was a much better cocktail.  The addition of the maraschino gave it a slightly funky aroma but also served to sweeten up the drink.  I also think using only an ounce of the pineapple (as opposed to the ounce and a half in the East India) helped to sweeten the drink as well.  All of the parts really did add up to something very tasty.  This is certainly a drink I would make my friends.

runoknows sez:  Interesting, complex, "funky"-er but also more subtle than the East India.

Well, there are my two cocktails for this episode of Mixology Monday.  However, since my compatriot gave ya'll three cocktails, and I certainly don't want to be one-upped.  Here is a third.  The drink is called a Virginia Autumn and it was my first attempt at concoctioneering.  Subsequently, I've made this at parties for friends and strangers and have gotten some good feedback.  Sean's father even loves them.  Woot!!!

Well folks, have a nice Mixology Monday and we'll see you around the blogs.  Don't forget to leave a comment if you like.