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June 2019

May 2019

A Puerto Rican Beauty -- The Pina Colada

Pina Colada -- 2019 (1)The Pina Colada is the premier cocktail of Puerto Rico. It evokes fond memories of a trip Ms. Cocktail Den and I took to this American island for a Tales on Tour conference. Meaning "strained pineapple," the modern Pina Colada came about in San Juan either in the early 1950s or early 1960s.  Regardless of who created the Pina Colada and when they created it, like the Margarita or the Daiquiri, it is a wonderful and simple drink that's easy to make.

1.25 ounces light rum (I prefer Don Q Cristal)
1.25 ounces fresh pineapple juice
1 ounce cream of coconut

Combine in a shaker or blender with ice, shake or blend with the energy of the La Placita area in San Juan (when we were there, the place was rockin' on a Sunday night), and strain into a chilled glass. Pineapple wedge garnish optional.

Pina Colada -- 2019 (2)
Condado Beach, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Use Puerto Rican rum if you can. Bacardi is the most famous. Don Q's profile is increasing, and my informal survey indicated it is the rum most Puerto Ricans prefer. For the pineapple juice, fresh is key. Cream of coconut, which is not hard to find, is not the same as coconut milk. Although both come from shredded coconut, cream of coconut has less water and is sweeter. If you have to use coconut milk, make sure it is sweetened. Some variations of the Pina Colada add lime juice into the mix.  This makes the cocktail vaguely reminiscent of a Cuban drink with the same name in the 1920s.  However, that Pina Colada didn't contain coconut, so it essentially was a pineapple Daiquiri.

Like the resurgence of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, I like to think the Pina Colada is making a comeback. Pina Colada se levanta.


Colorful French Monks -- Chartreuse

Char what? Chartreuse is an indispensable ingredient in famous drinks such as the Last Word, or lesser known but equally amazing drinks such as the Widow's Kiss, the Bijou, and the Diamondback. But what exactly is it? Chartreuse is an herbal liqueur made by the Carthusians, a small order of Catholic monks many of whom live in the French Alps.

ChartreuseThere are two types of Chartreuse -- yellow and green. Liqueurs have a higher sugar content, but that doesn't mean they're weak. Au contraire, as the French would say.  Yellow Chartreuse is 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof), which puts in on par with unflavored vodkas and lower end (in terms of strength, not quality) whiskies.  Green Chartreuse clocks in at a whopping 55% alcohol by volume (110 proof), which is stronger than all but a handful of whiskies.

So why is May 16 Chartreuse Day?  In 1605 a high ranking French military officer gave the Carthusians a manuscript containing a recipe for an elixir that became Chartreuse.  In the United States the shorthand for May 16 is 05/16, but in France, and much of the rest of the world, it is 16/05.

Yellow Chartreuse is slightly sweeter, and some say it has a bit of a honey flavor. Green Chartreuse has a more pronounced herbal taste to me. The colors are natural. Chartreuse's recipe is secret like any other herbal liqueur or amaro, as well as non-alcoholic libations such as Coca-Cola. Legend has it Chartreuse consists of a blend of 130 different ingredients, and at any one time only two monks know the entire recipe. So when should you use yellow Chartreuse or green Chartreuse?  It depends on your mood, what you're making, and even the background music (perhaps Chartreuse by ZZ Top?).  Or you could follow the advice I got from a guy working the door at an event at the great Jack Rose bar in Washington, D.C. -- yellow by day, green at night.

Just as Chartreuse doesn't pull any punches on your liver, I'm not going to pull a punch about its price.  It is expensive, at least in the United States. That being said, it is worth every penny, pound, euro, or whatever currency you use. A little bit of Chartreuse goes a long way. These French monks aren't wrong.


A Sexy Cocktail In The City (Or Anywhere) -- The Cosmopolitan

Many people think pink drinks are weak. Wrong. This misguided notion happens with cocktails such as the Cosmopolitan. Commonly associated with the Sex and the City series on HBO in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Cosmopolitan actually dates to the mid 1980s, and possibly the 1970s. It became ubiquitous on cocktail menus, and unfortunately too often it was a sickly sweet hot mess. A good cocktail should give you a pleasant drinking experience, not diabetes. When executed well, the Cosmopolitan is a sexy and powerful drink.

Cosmopolitan2 ounces vodka (I like Zyr)
.75 ounces triple sec (I prefer Cointreau)
Juice from 1/4 lime
.25 ounces cranberry juice
.25 ounces super simple syrup (optional, see below)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the intensity of (look at the second word of this post's title and use your imagination), and strain into a chilled glass. Lime twist garnish optional.

Many versions of the Cosmopolitan call for citrus flavored vodka, but I think that's unnecessary. The Cointreau and lime juice give you all the citrus flavors you need. Cointreau is a brand of triple sec. Triple sec is a general and somewhat misleading term for orange liqueurs. Some people understandably think glorious grenadine makes the Cosmopolitan sweet and pink. The pink color comes from the tiny splash of cranberry juice. If you use unsweetened cranberry juice, I suggest adding super simple syrup unless you want a tart drink.  If you want a sweeter drink, rim the edge of the glass with sugar, add the super simple syrup even if you're using sweetened cranberry juice, or both. For the cranberry juice, less is more. Ideally the Cosmopolitan should be a lighter pink like the El Presidente.

Don't let the color fool you and have a Cosmopolitan or two. Carrie and the ladies would approve.