Tama What? -- The Tamarind Fizz

Tamarind is the fruit from the tamarind tree, which is common in South Asia and Mexico.  It is tart and sweet.  I discovered tamarind when I had it in sauces on food in Thailand.  After savoring a Tamarind Fizz at Aqimero (great drinks, gorgeous decor) at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Philadelphia, I now appreciate using it in a cocktail.  This is the adaptation I made at home.

Tamarind Fizz2 ounces cachaça or light rum (see below)
1.5 ounces tamarind juice or soda
.5 ounces agave syrup or nectar
Juice from 1/4 lime
1 egg white

With tamarind juice, combine everything in a shaker with ice, shake as if you have a tart and sweet nature, and strain into a chilled glass.  Want a challenge?  Use a reverse dry shake to shake shake shake your egg whites. With tamarind soda, put the soda in a chilled glass (not the shaker; I know this is obvious but I figure I'd say it anyway), put everything else in a shaker with ice, and follow the same process.

The Tamarind Fizz has a lot of unusual ingredients.  You can get them pretty easily.  Cachaça is a clear liquor from Brazil.  It's similar to rum, but cachaça is distilled from fresh sugar cane juice and most rum is distilled from molasses (basically boiled sugar cane juice). You can find tamarind juice or soda in Asian and Latino grocery stores.  Agave nectar, an ingredient in the Kentucky Sunshine, is in many grocery stores.  Depending on how sweet the tamarind juice or soda is, you might want to cut back or cut out the agave nectar.

In a way the Tamarind Fizz is reminiscent of a Pisco Sour. Both have clear base spirits, and they include egg white and lime juice.  Of course, the big difference is pisco comes from torched Dutch grapes, and cachaça or rum comes from sugar cane.

Sometimes a little effort can lead to a big reward.  Making a Tamarind Fizz is one of those times.


Drinking Like Royalty

Drinking Like Royalty 1Despite the cocktail I created for her, the Whiskey Queen (Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den) is not actually a queen, and I'm not a king.  That didn't stop us from briefly living like royals during a recent vacation in Ireland.  We stayed two nights in Waterford Castle.  That's right, a castle.  On a private island. Cool, right?  My exact words on seeing the place: "Holy (rhymes with mitt), this is awesome!"

Drinking Like Royalty 2What made the experience even more amazing is that Waterford Castle has a top notch cocktail program.  We had no idea until we got there. It turns out Ilario Alberto Capraro, this year's National Cocktail Champion of Ireland, is the driving force behind the program.  We had the pleasure of meeting Ilario in the Fitzgerald Room bar.  Ilario is pleasant, a gentleman, and makes a hell of a good cocktail.  He also trains his people well, as we had a good time meeting John, a newer bartender, our first night at Waterford Castle.  The Fitzgerald Room, like Waterford Castle, isn't as big as it seems.  The atmosphere is elegant without being stuffy.

All of the drinks at Waterford Castle are excellent, but I thought the standouts are Ilario's creations such as the Sweetheart Stout (main ingredients are Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and Guinness beer), the Oscar Wilde (you know, the Irish writer who coined the wonderful line "work is the curse of the drinking class"), the Originale (includes Irish whiskey, amaretto, lemon juice, and egg white), and the Donna Maria (if you like dark rum, you will love this one .... trust me).

As we discovered when we stumbled into Kol in Reyjavik, Iceland earlier this year, you never know when and where you might find a great cocktail. Now you know you can find one (ok, more than one) in Waterford Castle.  All hail Ilario!


"The Best (And Sort Of Anti-Nazi)" Drink -- The Bee's Knees

The phrase "bee's knees" was Prohibition era slang for "the best."  So how is this simple cocktail anti-Nazi?  Frank Meier, the creator of the modern Bee's Knees, was the head bartender at what is now Bar Hemingway in the Ritz Hotel in Paris.  He included the drink in his 1936 book "The Artistry of Mixing Drinks."  During World War II Meier was a French Resistance operative, undermining the efforts of the high ranking Nazis who patronized his bar.  In this respect Meier was much like Felix Kir, who created the eponymous Kir.  Gives new meaning to the phrase "liquid courage," doesn't it?

Bee's Knees (edited)2 ounces gin (I used the Botanist)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
.75 ounces honey syrup (see below)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the confidence of being the best at something, and strain into a chilled glass (preferably coupe).  Lemon peel garnish optional.

Making honey syrup is so easy even I can do it (see A Thief In The Night). You may want to adjust the amount of syrup depending on the type of honey.  When I made the Bee's Knees I happened to use buckwheat honey syrup, which has a richer taste than regular honey (it's also why the drink in the photo is darker than a typical Bee's Knees).

It's not clear who originally created the Bee's Knees, which in a way is similar to a gin based version of a Whiskey Sour.  San Francisco bartender Bill Boothby referred to it in his 1934 book "World Drinks and How to Make Them."  However, his version also contained orange juice.  I prefer Meier's take on the Bee's Knees. It doesn't overpower the cocktail with citric acidity.  More importantly -- it's tasty and refreshing.

You want to be the best?  You want to be anti-Nazi?  Then have a Bee's Knees.


Unsung Cocktail Heroes -- Bitters, Vermouth, and Liqueurs

Reading about unsung cocktail heroes is good, but why read when you can listen?  Eric Kozlik, the CEO of Modern Bar Cart, interviewed me for his podcast.  It was a great experience. Here's our conversation about bitters, vermouth, and liqueurs (it's episode #8).        

Modern Bar Cart podcast 2Eric has interviewed a lot of really interesting people about some great cocktail subjects, so I encourage you to listen to the other episodes. I've learned a lot by listening to them. You probably will, too.  The podcast is a wonderful example of connecting over cocktails.  Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den and I met Eric at the Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans, and we reconnected at an event in Washington, D.C. earlier this year.

Our podcast episode (you can listen below) covers a lot of topics such as how James Bond disrupted the Martini, and what I would order if I could drink with my late grandfathers. We also discussed general cocktail categories such as amari (bitter liqueurs), and specific cocktails like the Manhattan, the Ward 8, and the Derby.

If you listen to the episode, keep this in mind -- I wasn't kidding.  I have walked alone through the yard of a maximum security federal prison.  No, I was not incarcerated. Want to the hear the story? Buy me a good cocktail.


Emerald Isle Cocktail -- The Intense Irish

Intense IrishDrinking in Ireland means beer and whiskey, right?  Not always. As Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den and I recently discovered, the cocktail scene in Ireland is growing. The most common one you'll see is a combination of Jameson whiskey, ginger ale, and lime. Using Barrow's Intense ginger liqueur (full disclosure -- I am a small investor), the Intense Irish is my twist on this ubiquitous Irish cocktail.

2 ounces Irish whiskey (I used Jameson Caskmates)
1.25 ounces Barrow's Intense
Juice from 1/4 lime

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the thrilling intensity of speeding through an Irish roundabout on what seems to be the wrong side of the road (if you're American), and strain into a chilled glass.

Generally speaking Irish whiskey is a little smoother and less peaty than its more well known counterpart from Scotland. Find one you like and use it.  The Barrow's Intense is indispensable.  It packs a much stronger punch than ginger ale, both in ginger flavor and alcoholic potency. The Intense Irish is sort of similar to the Mamie Taylor, except it has fewer ingredients. 

To paraphrase Bono and Obi Wan Kenobi (yes, I can tie U2 and Star Wars together) -- you've found the Intense Irish, and it is the drink you're looking for.

 


Cold as Iceland -- The Icelandic Sour

The wonderful country of Iceland is the polar opposite of the person who's the subject of the Foreigner tune Cold As Ice.  As foreigners who recently traveled to Iceland, Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den and I had a great time seeing the sights and meeting people. The Icelandic Sour is my adaptation of the Whiskey Sour served at Loftid in Reykjavik.

With vitamin C and protein, the Icelandic Sour is a relatively healthy cocktail.
Containing Vitamin C and protein, the Icelandic Sour is a relatively healthy cocktail.

2.5 ounces rye
1 ounce super simple syrup
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 egg white
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash aromatic or Angostura bitters

Combine everything except the egg white into a shaker, add ice, shake with the force of water cascading over the majestic Gulfoss falls in Iceland, strain everything into a glass, toss the ice from the shaker, pour the contents of the glass back into the shaker, add the egg white, shake as if you're hustling to make your connection in Keflavik airport (don't ask), and strain into a separate chilled glass.

Why the complicated preparation? The reverse dry shaking process described above works really well for any drink with egg whites, e.g. the Pisco Sour (click on the Protein category for other examples) because it enhances the flavor and results in more foam.  If you don't want to reverse dry shake, just put all of the ingredients and ice into a shaker and shake away.

The Icelandic Sour is another example of the Whiskey Sour's versatility.  Other variations include cocktails such as the Midnight Train. All of the ingredients for the Icelandic Sour are easy to obtain, and you end up with a tasty and balanced drink. 

If you want paradise, pay the price with an Icelandic Sour.


Eyes and Cars -- The Blinker

Your eyes and the turn signal in your car are blinkers.  The Blinker probably has nothing to do with either of them, as the cocktail's origins are unknown.  Patrick Gavin Duffy, a New York City bartender in the late 19th century and pre-Prohibition 20th century, mentioned the Blinker in his 1934 book The Official Mixer's Manual. 75 years later Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh resurrected the Blinker and put his own spin on it.

Blinker2 ounces rye (Bulleit or Rittenhouse won't make you blink)
Juice from 1/8 grapefruit 
.25 ounces glorious grenadine or raspberry syrup

Combine in a shaker with ice, be like the Cars and Shake It Up (1980s music fans like me get it), and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon peel garnish optional.

The sweetener is the real variable.  The original Blinker uses grenadine, and Haigh's version uses raspberry syrup. I tried the Blinker both ways, and I preferred it with grenadine.  It's simply a matter of taste.  If you want to make your own raspberry syrup, start by making a batch of super simple syrup.  Mash raspberries into the mixture when you remove it from the heat source, then strain the solids out after the mixture cools down. 

The Blinker is a little spicy (because of the rye and grapefruit juice) yet refreshing. The result is very drinkable. If you have too many you'll channel some Blink-182 tunes, forget All The Small Things, and ask What's My Age Again.  If you have one or two you'll channel the Cars tune and let the Good Times Roll.  Blink-182 makes good music, but I grew up with the Cars. Regardless of your taste in rock n'roll, you'll enjoy the Blinker for much longer than a _____ of an eye.


Iceland Iceland Baby -- Apotek and Loftid

Ice in Iceland -- an ice cave in Surtshellir.
Ice in Iceland -- an ice cave in Surtshellir.

Even though Reykjavik, Iceland isn't a big city, it has a lot of great eating and drinking options. Apotek and Loftid are two of them. Friends highly recommended Apotek to me and Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den, and we discovered Lotfid while walking around the neighborhood. 

Like Kol, which is the subject of a prior post (link), Apotek is first and foremost a restaurant.  Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den thinks the lamb filet we had there was the best lamb we've ever had (I agree), and I could go on all day about the fabulous fish, e.g. arctic char and minke whale.  But you're not in the Den to read about food.  The cocktails are excellent and creative.  I applaud Apotek for incorporating Icelandic spirits into the drinks.  Some of the spirits are familiar to many, e.g. Reyka vodka, and some are not, e.g. Brennivin (a clear liquor, technically an aquavit, also known as "Black Death"). Our first meal in Iceland happened to be at Apotek, and we enjoyed our experience so much we had our last meal in Iceland there, too.

Even the soap dispensers at Apotek are alcoholic.
Even the soap dispensers at Apotek are alcoholic.

Unlike Apotek, Loftid is a bar and club.  Interestingly, you have to be at least 25 years old to enter the place. Presumably it does this to keep out younger drinkers (apparently Reykjavik has quite a party scene) and entice "classier" (?) drinkers like me and Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den.   We went there on a Sunday night so it was pretty quiet.  The bar is well stocked, and the drinks on the handwritten list on the wall (there is no printed list) are good.  They aren't nearly as complex as those as Apotek.  This is not surprising, as Lotfid is set up to operate as a high volume bar.

The highlight of Loftid was meeting a young bartender named Johann.  He clearly has the desire to succeed and the potential to become a great bartender.  He just needs more exposure to classic cocktails, e.g. he confessed he never made a Manhattan, so we walked him through the version we prefer.

Our experience at Loftid involved the three Cs I love about the world of cocktails -- creating them, communicating about them, and connecting with people through them.  If I can do that in Reykjavik, you can do it anywhere.


What's Your Sign? -- Zodiac Drinking At Bars

Whether you believe in horoscopes or not (I don't), they can be fun to read.  Could they indicate what type of bars you like or your drinking habits?  Who cares?  More importantly, do you want to have some fun and laugh?  Of course you do.  Click on the links in the second sentence and enjoy.  Thanks to my friends Danielle of Barrow's Intense Ginger Liqueur (full disclosure -- I am a small investor) and CJ of the forthcoming travel site Wanderonomy (full disclosure -- Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den and I will be contributors) for telling me about these articles.  

According to these articles, I'm best in a tiki bar, level headed, and want everyone to have fun.  Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den is best in a corner bar, a good wingwoman, and won't bow to peer pressure. Are these drinking horoscopes accurate?  Here's my absolutely definitive one word answer -- maybe. Drink with us and find out.

Zodiac signs


Iceland Iceland Baby -- Kol

Think great cocktails and food in Reykjavik, Iceland, not the musical abomination from Vanilla Ice (who brazenly ripped off the bassline in the great song Under Pressure from Queen and David Bowie).  Sometimes you find fantastic places when you're wandering. That's exactly how Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den and I discovered Kol in Reykjavik. 

Gulfoss waterfall is spectacular, even when the rain is coming in sideways.
Gulfoss waterfall is spectacular, even when the rain is coming in sideways.

I have no idea how to say "wonderful surprise" in Icelandic (all I learned was "takk," which means "thanks"), but that's exactly how I would describe our experience at Kol restaurant. When we entered Kol we had absolutely no idea it has a top notch cocktail program.  Asgeir Mar Björnsson created the program. High quality ingredients (I was stunned to see such a wide ranging selection of whiskey in Iceland), expert proficiency behind the bar, and careful attention to details and presentation.  The bar would do well anywhere in the world.  The same goes for the restaurant, as the food and service are outstanding.  

Duck Fat Sazerac
Duck Fat Sazerac

Kol divides its drinks menu for the type of drinker you are or want to be -- accessible, advanced, professional, and responsible.  Don't focus on the categories, focus on the ingredients you might like.  All of the cocktails we had were excellent, and I loved some of the names.  For example, the Duck Season (duck fat washed bourbon, maraschino liqueur, lemon) had me channel my love of classic Warner Brothers cartoons and exclaim "Rabbit season!" like Daffy Duck.

After some conversation with the maître d', he was kind enough to give us a copy of Kol's cocktail book. Granted, it is in Icelandic, but if we can't figure it out we'll use Google Translate.

Like Iceland, Kol is expensive, but it is worth every single krone (the Icelandic currency).  Your wallet might be under pressure there.  Your taste buds and liver will not.

Takk to Kol!