Brandy Feed

Sexy And Sophisticated -- The Les Bon Temps Roulé

"Laissez les bon temps roulé" is French for "let the good times roll," and it's an unofficial slogan of the city of New Orleans. Ms. Cocktail Den and I first created the Les Bon Temps Roulé when we mixed beats and drinks at a D'Ussé cognac event during the Tales of the Cocktail conference.  The concoction was okay (especially considering we only had five minutes to create and execute an original cocktail), but not great. After I experimented at home, here is the new and improved version.

Les Bon Temps Roule2.25 ounces cognac or brandy
.5 ounces allspice dram
.25 ounces super simple syrup
3 dashes tiki bitters (I used Embitterment)

Combine in a mixing glass or shaker with ice, stir with some enlightened passion, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel garnish optional.

Like the rapper Pitbull's description of himself, I like to think the Les Bon Temps Roulé is sexy and sophisticated. The cognac or brandy you use is important.  After all, it is the primary ingredient.  While I certainly thank D'Ussé for inspiring me to create the Les Bon Temps Roulé, and it works well in the drink, use your preferred cognac or brandy.  They're all torched Dutch grapes. Just remember all cognac is brandy, but all brandy isn't cognac.

The Les Bon Temps Roulé is an intriguing mix of Old World (cognac or brandy) and New World (allspice dram and tiki bitters).  The allspice dram, a rum based liqueur in other drinks such as the Donna Maria, and tiki bitters give the drink some lively flavors. It's easy to find allspice dram and tiki bitters online if your local store doesn't carry them.

Will the Les Bon Temps Roulé end up in the pantheon of great well known New Orleans drinks such as the Vieux Carré, Sazerac, and Hurricane, or great but less well known drinks such as the Antoine's Smile? Time will tell.  But in the meantime -- let the good times roll!


A CFIT Cocktail -- The Burnt Fuselage

CFIT is an aviation acronym that stands for "controlled flight into terrain."  It's a benign sounding term for a catastrophic event -- a type of crash.  The Burnt Fuselage is a creation from Chuck Kerwood, a fighter pilot in the Lafayette Escadrille, which was a squadron mostly composed of American volunteers who flew for France in World War I. Kerwood survived the war, and the Burnt Fuselage lives on thanks to advocates such as cocktail historian and author David Wondrich.

Burnt Fuselage1 ounce Cognac
1 ounce Grand Marnier
1 ounce dry vermouth, preferably French (I used Noilly Prat)

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with joyous relief of not being part of a burnt fuselage, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon peel garnish optional.

Despite its ominous name, the Burnt Fuselage is a well structured and lively drink. Given its history, it's appropriate to use all French spirits. In discussing torched Dutch grapes we learned all Cognac is brandy, but all brandy isn't Cognac. Definitely use Grand Marnier.  Its distinctive blend of orange liqueur and Cognac really works well.  Even though I'm a big fan of Cointreau, an orange liqueur I use in drinks such as the Margarita and Orange Satchmo, my experiment using it in the Burnt Fuselage sort of went down in flames (pun intended).

The Burnt Fuselage is another example of Americans creating cocktails abroad.  My guess is Prohibition was a big reason for this pattern in cocktail history.  Other examples of Americans creating cocktails abroad include the Pisco Sour, the Boulevardier, and the Mary Pickford.

If you see fit (get it? if not, say it out loud) to try a Burnt Fuselage, you'll be a cocktail ace.


DJ Cocktail -- Mixing Beats And Drinks

Who knew being a DJ is like being a bartender? I never thought about it until Ms. Cocktail Den and I attended an event hosted by D'Ussé cognac at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. Whether they're professionals or amateurs (or as I described myself during the event, a professional amateur) DJs and bartenders are artists. One has music as their medium and the other has cocktails.

D'Usse event 1The first part of the event was about the music.  9th Wonder, a big time hip hop record producer and DJ, spoke about DJing and laid down a few beats. I must confess I had not heard of him, but I certainly have heard of many of the artists with whom he's worked, e.g. Beyoncé and Ludacris. Along with Jay Clipp, a nationally known DJ, 9th Wonder showed what goes into spinning records (or audio files on a computer) and creating some great music. It's a lot harder than it looks. The presentation was really interesting, even for someone like me who has very little knowledge of hip hop and no musical talent. Ms. Cocktail Den, who has musical talent, thought the connections are fascinating.

The second part of the event focused on D'Ussé cognac and using it in drinks. Everyone stood at tables, each of which had glasses of D'Ussé and bar tools such as mixing glasses, jiggers, and shakers. First Colin Asare-Appiah, the dynamic D'Ussé brand ambassador, had us taste the cognac.  It's quite good and pretty smooth.  The brand has a music connection, as rapper and producer Jay-Z is a part owner.

Mixing the Les Bon Temps Roule (D'Usse cognac, simple syrup, allspice dram, tiki bitters).
Mixing the Les Bon Temps Roulé ( 2 ounces D'Ussé cognac, 1/2 ounce simple syrup, 1/2 ounce allspice dram, 2 dashes tiki bitters, orange peel garnish -- I thought the result was too sweet).

After tasting the cognac, Colin presented everyone with a challenge -- create a cocktail using D'Ussé as the base spirit in five minutes. Everyone had access to other possible ingredients including a small selection of other spirits, syrups, citrus, and bitters.  I admit I got flustered, in large part because most people in the room were highly accomplished professional bartenders. For example, the people standing behind us were from Le Syndicat, a Tales nominee for the best International Cocktail Bar.  Ms. Cocktail Den and I persevered. Our spur of the moment creation, the Les Bon Temps Roulé ("the good times roll" in French, "let the good times roll" is an unofficial slogan in New Orleans), didn't turn out quite as well I would have hoped (recipe is in the photo caption). Nonetheless, merci to D'Ussé for a great experience. We got to learn things, create a cocktail, and meet fun and interesting people such as Kapri Robinson and Josh Davis. I even got an offer to do a guest bartending gig; I'm still not sure if he was serious.

So what some of the parallels between mixing records and mixing drinks?

1.   As Colin astutely noted, the standard four count in music is akin to the four components of a cocktail -- spirit, sugar, water, and bitters. The spirit is the beat. You want it to be consistent and noticeable, but not overwhelming.

2.  Mixing records is like mixing drinks. If you mix records abruptly, the effect is jarring. 9th Wonder and Jay Clipp described it as "shoes in the dryer" or "trainwrecking." An unbalanced drink has the same effect on your taste buds as trainwrecking has on your ears.

3.  What's old is new again. Samples from 1970s records appear in a lot of modern music hits. 9th Wonder used a snippet from a Beyonce song to illustrate this point. Similarly, cocktails from pre-Prohibition and Prohibition eras increasingly appear on modern drink menus. The rediscovery of various spirits and recipes have inspired people to create current spins on older cocktails.

Are you ready to be a DJ of drinks? I know you are. Let the good times roll!


Drinking Like Jersey Boys and Girls -- The Newark

I've never been to Newark (only through it), but I've repeatedly heard it is not one of New Jersey's highlights.  That didn't stop Jim Meehan and John Deragon at PDT in New York City from creating a cocktail in its honor. The Newark is not far removed from a Manhattan or a Brooklyn.  Tony Soprano would like the Newark because most or all of its ingredients come from New Jersey and Italy.  Am I good with that?  Fuggedaboudit.

Newark2 ounces Laird's apple brandy or applejack
1 ounce sweet vermouth
.25 ounces Fernet Branca
.25 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the resoluteness of being Jersey tough, and strain into a chilled glass (preferably a coupe).

Laird's, which originated in New Jersey, makes apple brandy and applejack.  The two spirits aren't very different.  When you compare apples to apples, it's about exploiting different boiling and freezing points. In modern times Laird's applejack is a mix of apple brandy and other spirits. Add the sweet vermouth (most of which comes from Italy) and the Fernet Branca and Luxardo maraschino liqueur (both of which come from Italy), and you have one great cocktail. Want some accompanying music from some real Jersey boys?  I suggest Frank Sinatra (you might associate him with New York, but he was born and raised in New Jersey) or Bon Jovi.

As anyone who's seen the musical or movie Jersey Boys would tell you, big girls (and boys) don't cry.  They drink Newarks.


Offbeat Cocktail Rhythm -- The Syncopation

Syncopation is a musical term that refers to stressing an offbeat note.  In 1919 the iconic American songwriter Irving Berlin (his canon includes such classics as "God Bless America," "Puttin on the Ritz," and "White Christmas") wrote "A Syncopated Cocktail." There was no such cocktail at the time, but presumably the song inspired the drink. Harry McElhone, who introduced the Boulevardier to the world, included the Syncopation in his 1927 book.

IMG_20171220_1924481 ounce brandy
.5 ounces Cointreau
.5 ounces apple brandy
Juice from 1/4 lemon
1 dash Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the "jazzy melody" Berlin mentioned in the song, and strain into a chilled glass.

If you like a Sidecar or Corpse Reviver #1, you'll like the Syncopation. It appears the Syncopation traditionally called for Cognac as the brandy and Calvados as the apple brandy (Cognac is a torched Dutch grape from a particular place, and the same goes for Calvados, which is part of the Flower of Normandy). McElhone was in Paris when he came up with the Syncopation, so I figure he would have had easy access to French spirits.  Speaking of French spirits, you don't have to use Cointreau (my favorite triple sec), but you should use an orange liqueur. If you want an American spirit in the mix, use brandy from Copper & Kings or Laird's.

To take a line from the song, the Syncopation is fascinating and intoxicating. Now go make some cocktail music of your own.


Great Taste, No Tragedy -- The Widow's Kiss

Yes, this cocktail has an odd name.  No, I do not know the widow for whom the drink is named.  No one does.  What we do know is the Widow's Kiss first appeared in a 1895 book from George Kappeler, an esteemed New York City bartender.  Even though it's not clear if he created the Widow's Kiss (many people presume he did), Kappeler definitely put it on the imbibing public's radar (yes, I know radar was not developed until 40 years later).  Many thanks to the Alley Cat Lounge in Savannah for introducing me to this liquid smooch.

The Widow's Kiss at Alley Cat Lounge is intriguing and tasty.
The Widow's Kiss at Alley Cat Lounge is intriguing, flavorful, strong, and not deadly.

1.5 ounces apple brandy
.75 ounces yellow Chartreuse
.75 ounces Benedictine DOM
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the solemn grace of a famous widow such as Jackie Kennedy, and strain into a chilled glass. Luxardo cherry garnish optional.

The Widow's Kiss is high powered. No ingredient has less than 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).  If you want to go all French use Calvados, an apple brandy from the region in France.  I recommend using yellow Chartreuse (a component of other cocktails such as the Renegade) because it's 40% ABV and slightly sweeter.  If you have to use green Chartreuse (55% ABV; you'll use it in drinks like the Last Word), use no more than .5 ounces.  The Widow's Kiss should smooch your liver, not kill it. There is no real substitute for the Benedictine DOM (not the same as B&B), which you also can use in classics such as the Vieux Carre or originals such as the Mooch.

Are you curious about the Widow's Kiss?  Curiosity may kill the proverbial cat, but the Widow's Kiss won't make someone a widow or widower. I'm living proof.


D-Day Triumph Without Death -- The Flower Of Normandy

Flower of Normandy 2June 6, 1944.  On that day Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy in France, fought the Nazis, and won a pivotal battle of World War II.  The Flower of Normandy does not celebrate this victory over the evil Nazis (I know, that's redundant).  Instead, it celebrates Calvados, the apple brandy that only comes from Normandy.  Many thanks to Embitterment for introducing me to one of its signature cocktails.

2 ounces Calvados or other apple brandy
.5 ounces elderflower liqueur (I used St. Germain)
2-3 dashes orange bitters (ideally from Embitterment)

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with a calmness that most certainly did not exist on D-Day, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel garnish optional.

Flower of Normandy 1The Flower of Normandy is a truly French cocktail if you use Calvados and St. Germain.  Calvados is to apple brandy like Cognac is to brandy.  If you recall the post about torched Dutch grapes, it's all about geography. Calvados, or apple brandy generally, is a key part of cocktails such as the Corpse Reviver #1 and the Antoine's Smile.

If you want to mix cocktails and history, make yourself a Flower of Normandy and sit down with a book about D-Day (I highly recommend D Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II by Stephen Ambrose) or watch a movie such as Saving Private Ryan (the opening sequence is viscerally stunning and unforgettable). Or just savor the drink on its own and remember -- some things are worth fighting for.


Across The Globe -- The Intercontinental

See the world through a drink.  Traveling to other countries makes you realize how good you have it (I'm speaking to you, my fellow Americans), and you'll realize there are many things that unite us -- like a high quality cocktail.  The Intercontinental is one of many examples.  Thanks to Imbibe magazine for introducing me to it.

Intercontinental1 ounce brandy
1 ounce Averna
.5 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the sexy and sophisticated demeanor of a world traveler, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange garnish optional.

The original Intercontinental recipe calls for Cognac, but use whatever brandy you prefer.  Keep in mind all Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac (it is all torched Dutch grapes).  Brandy can come from anywhere, e.g. the pisco in a Pisco Sour comes from South America, but Averna and Luxardo maraschino liqueur only come from Italy.

I've had the good fortune to travel to various parts of the world, and I've embarrassed my wife, aka Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den, in many countries.  We believe in trying the local stuff.  We've had good experiences, e.g. Mekhong, a Thai "whiskey" (it is the base of the Mekhong Manhattan), and bad, e.g. Turkish beer.  Either way we're richer for the experience.

Have passport, have liver, will travel.

 


Comparing Apples To Apples

I'm not comparing apples to oranges.  I'm comparing apples (brandy) to apples (jack).  Apple brandy is featured in drinks such as the Corpse Reviver #1 and the Antoine's Smile, while applejack is featured in drinks such as the Ship to Shore and the Applejack Sidecar. As I mentioned in a recent post about the American Apple, the two are similar but not the same.  They both come from fermented apple cider.

Apples to applesSo what's the difference?  Traditionally it's a matter of hot and cold.  Apple brandy uses the regular distilling process.   This involves heating the cider so that the alcohol evaporates, capturing the vapor, and cooling the vapor so it becomes a liquid again.  Applejack involves freezing the cider and siphoning off the liquid alcohol after the water freezes.  Both processes separate the alcohol from the water by exploiting their different boiling or freezing points.

Why use the word "traditionally?" Because there's a problem with the old fashioned way of making applejack.  When one freezes cider most of the impurities stay with the alcohol.  In comparison, when one heats cider most of the impurities stay with the liquid, not the alcoholic vapor.

Fortunately modern applejack doesn't have this problem. Laird's (the only applejack producer of which I am aware) blends apple brandy with other neutral spirits. Laird's consists of a blend of 35% apple brandy and 65% neutral grain spirits.

Now you know you can compare apples to apples.


How About Them Apples -- The American Apple

Apples, cinnamon, and whiskey.  Any one of those flavors can evoke the autumn season.  Combine them into a drink, and you'll definitely fall (pun intended) for the result. You don't hear the phrase "how about them apples" much anymore (to my non-American readers -- it's an expression that means "what do you think about that?"), but as Matt Damon showed us in this scene from Good Will Hunting, sometimes it really hits the right note.

The American Apple is my variation on a Canadian whiskey based cocktail recipe that I saw on the barnonedrinks.com website.

American Apple for Laird's1.5 ounces bourbon or rye (I like Bulleit and Willett)
.75 ounces apple brandy (Laird's is American)
Juice from 1/8 lemon
.5 ounces super simple syrup
2 dashes cinnamon

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with Will's swagger, and strain into a chilled glass. Apple slice garnish optional.

Apple brandy also plays a prominent role in cocktails such as Antoine's Smile and the Corpse Reviver #1.  It is similar to applejack, but they're not the same. I mention this because Laird's, which I used in the American Apple, makes both kinds of spirits (it's all about comparing apples to apples).  The American Apple will taste a little different depending on whether you use bourbon or rye.  Bourbon is a liquid example of American exceptionalism, and rye is a liquid example of an American comeback kid. You win either way.

So how about them American apples?