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December 2014

A Tale Of Two Bartenders

You can great cocktails to go with the beautiful scenery in Ko Olina
You can get great cocktails to go with the beautiful scenery in Ko Olina

With apologies to Charles Dickens, this is not about the best of bartenders and the worst of bartenders.  It is about two fine bartenders my wife and I met earlier this month when we were in Hawaii.

The first is Charlie (aka Charles) at Monkeypod in the Ko Olina section of Oahu.  Along with the fantastic food, Charlie was part of our great experience.  He was dynamic, knew what he was doing, and even introduced us to two liquors (Averna and Ransom).  Who knew that I would discover a Sicilian amaro and an aged Old Tom style gin in Hawaii?

The second is Brian at Roy's in Waikiki.  Roy's has many locations in Hawaii and some on the mainland.  The food and drinks have been excellent at every one to which I've been.  In addition to making a great cocktail, Brian was more than happy to speak with us about recipes, tradecraft, etc. I learned a lot from him. Conversations like that are one reason why I love the world of cocktails.

Northeast of NYC -- The Maple Manhattan

The Kentucky version
The Kentucky version

Do you like maple syrup?  Of course you do.  Everyone loves it.   It is made on both sides of U.S.-Canada border, and Canada even stockpiles a reserve of it.  The really good stuff comes from north of New York City's most famous and most photographic borough. This cocktail gives you the opportunity to combine that wonderful maple flavor with some tasty brown liquors.  It's so easy to mapelize (I know that is not a real word) a Manhattan even I can do it:

2.5 ounces maple bourbon or whiskey (see below)
1 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine into a shaker with ice, stir as if you've just come in from the cold (not in the John le Carre sense of the expression as it pertains to spies), and strain into a chilled glass.

The Canadian version
The New Hampshire version

Kentucky version -- use Knob Creek smoked maple bourbon

New Hampshire version -- use Cabin Fever maple whiskey

You can't go wrong with either version.  It really depends on how much you want a taste of smoke. If you cannot acquire a bottle of either liquor, both of which are quite good, use your favorite bourbon and add a teaspoon of maple syrup.

Regardless of what you use for the bourbon or whiskey (you do know that all bourbon is whiskey but all whiskey is not bourbon, right?) I recommend using Carpano Antica as your sweet vermouth.  To paraphrase the hilariously classic line from Spinal Tap, this sweet vermouth goes to 11.

Un Cocktail Avec Intensite -- The Intense Ginger Sidecar

When you hear the phrase "baby it's cold outside" you know what comes next is going to be good.  Ok, actually my wife said "it's cold so let's have a drink that'll warm us up, maybe with ginger?"  But what happened next is quite good.

For when your baby says it's cold/hot/whatever outside
For when your baby says it's cold/hot/whatever outside

Inspired by something on the cocktail menu at Mortons, this cocktail is simply a Sidecar, which was created in France, with ginger liqueur.  It's not really a cold weather cocktail  (as far as I'm concerned it is a year round cocktail), but when the temperature is dropping it will warm you up.

1.5 ounces VSOP or XO brandy
.75 ounces Barrows Intense ginger liqueur
.75 ounces Cointreau
Juice from 1/4 lemon

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake like you're in the midst of the most intense (use your imagination) of your life, and strain into a chilled glass.

This combination will give you a noticeable, but not overwhelming, taste of ginger.  If you're like me and love ginger, I suggest you make this with equal parts of booze (one ounce each of brandy, Barrows Intense, and Cointreau).  If you can't get your hands on a bottle of Barrows Intense, use Domaine de Canton, but keep in mind the ginger flavor is not as strong (although the proof is higher). 


A Cocktail A Day May Keep The Doctor Away

Forget apples.  According to this article (click here to read it), a study in Oregon indicates that moderate alcohol consumption may boost your immune system. The general gist is that consuming alcohol at a level where you can't drive legally depresses your immune system (no surprise there), and moderate alcohol consumption helps your immune system more than if you had none at all. After reading this article, I have two comments:

1.  Take your health care into your own hands and have a cocktail!
2.  You have to love a scientific study that involves drinking monkeys.

A Cuban Classic -- The Mojito

Even though it is now late December, I decided to make mojitos for two reasons: (1) Cuba is in the news because of President Obama's recent announcement to normalize relations, and (2) I happened to have all of the ingredients (whenever someone gives you two reasons the second one usually is the real one).

The mojito is a Cuban cocktail that is closely related to a real daiquiri. The major difference between the two is mint.  My mojito making method (try saying that a few times fast) is a little different:

Viva Cuba Libre!
Viva Cuba Libre!

2 ounces light rum
.75 ounces super simple syrup
Juice from 1/2 a lime
4-5 mint leaves
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters

Put the mint and super simple syrup in a shaker, muddle the mint, add ice and the other ingredients, shake like you're a mambo maniac, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with mint and/or lime optional.

When I say muddle the mint leaves, I mean  press them gently, not beat them into oblivion.  You don't need to put much effort into muddling.

There are three things about this method that might strike you as unusual.  First, I use Angostura bitters.  They give the cocktail an interesting twist.   Second, I don't use club soda.  When most places serve you a mojito you'll get it in a tall glass topped off with club soda.  That's not how the Wulf Cocktail Den does it.  I just don't care for carbonated beverages.  Third, I shake the cocktail, not stir it, because of the lime juice.  It all ties back to the Hamlet Cocktail Condundrum.

P.S.  Contrary to popular belief, a Cuba Libre is not the same thing as a rum and Coke.  It is a rum and Coke with lime juice.

Aloha Scratching -- The Tropical Itch

If you think about Hawaii, do tiki drinks come to mind? 

Aloha!  Sunrise over Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach.
Aloha! Sunrise over Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach.

Recently my wife had a business trip to Honolulu.  As I am a shameless freeloader, I had to tag along and conduct "field research" on local libations (the things I have to do for the Wulf Cocktail Den).  The trip gave me the opportunity to revisit a favorite restaurant and its legendary libation.  The flagshhip location of Duke's is on the world famous Waikiki Beach in Honolulu.  Rumor has it that the bar there is one of the busiest in the country, and it serves a lot of Tropical Itches.  I make this simple version  at home:

A Tropical Itch is a great companion for a sunset in Hawaii.
A Tropical Itch is a great liquid companion for a sunset in Hawaii.

1 ounce vodka
1 ounce light rum
.5 ounces Grand Marnier
2.5 ounces passion fruit juice

Combine in shaker with ice, stir with the cool precision of someone cutting through the waves on the North Shore, and strain into a chilled glass.  If you want a little more booze and a good visual effect, add a float of dark rum after straining.  If you want some tropical kitsch, garnish with a backscratcher.

Tropical Itch meets Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man
Tropical Itch meets Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man

This cocktail is not as "alcohol forward" as most of the other libations in the Wulf Cocktail Den.  Half of it is non-alcoholic.  In a way, this actually makes the Tropical Itch more dangerous.  You can alter the proportions to make the drink stronger or weaker.

Speaking of the ingredients, you can substitute orange curacao for the Grand Marnier.  You may be able to substitute other orange flavored liqueurs, e.g. Cointreau, and achieve the desired result.  As for the vodka and light rum, use what you like.  If you want to use with homegrown Hawaiian booze, I recommend 808 vodka (808 is the area code for Hawaii, and the POG vodka is great on its own) and Koloa rum (the spice rum is quite good).

Side note -- In my opinion Honolulu is a big city that happens to be in Hawaii, and Waikiki is its temple to commercialism.  If you want to see why Hawaii truly is unique, go to another part of the island of Oahu and/or to some of the other islands (I prefer Maui and Kauai).

Raspberries, Italian Style -- Lamponecello

Don't let the color fool you.  This packs a hell of a punch.
Don't let the color fool you. This liqueur packs a hell of a punch.

After successful experiments with Italian citrus based liqueurs such as limoncello and arancello, my wife suggested I use berries. Raspberries to be specific (lampone is the Italian word for raspberry).  The process is very similar to making the citrus based liqueurs, but the difference is the first stage doesn't take nearly as long. Here's how to do it:

Stage One:
Put 18 ounces of raspberries (preferably organic) in a container with 750 milliliters of 190 proof grain alcohol (I used Everclear).  Wait five to seven days, or until the berries turn white.  Seriously, that's it.

Stage Two:
Make super simple syrup with three cups of water and two and a quarter cups of sugar.  Wait until it cools to room temperature.  Strain the raspberries out of the Stage One mixture and combine with the super simple syrup.   Store in a cool, dark place for four weeks.

Stage Three:
Enjoy, perhaps while listening to an appropriate song such as Raspberry Beret by Prince.  Unlike the beret he describes in the song, this liqueur is not something you'd find in a secondhand store.