By Joel Levin
New Jersey Newspaper Group
Cocktails (And More)
February has two or three fewer days than most months have. It's also the only month with two Rs and an F. And my favorite holiday of the year, (because it's not a shopping occasion) Groundhog Day, is a great holiday for drinking, especially if the chubby mammal sees his shadow. But whether skies are cloudy or fair, February 2 offers a clear signal to drink for 26 more days. And for our friends in the southern hemisphere, any midsummer month is made for enjoyment of the grain and the grape...so, north or south, ENJOY these three new recipes!
Cocktail number one uses two bottles which are not found in every home bar, but may soon find a place there.
Magellan gin, a French import, is characterized by aromas of iris flowers. Then, basic gin flavorings of juniper and coriander up front kick in, with detectable notes of citrus peel, licorice, and cardamom. No one who is not a gardener will be able to name the iris essence, but everyone will love it. Magellan is dry enough to yield a great classic Martini, and versatile enough to use in other gin cocktails and highballs.
Figenza, from Germany, is a fig-flavored lower-proof vodka. It is a 62-proof, intensely floral and sweet drink. I don't know if any sweeteners beyond ripe figs are employed, but if it were any thicker, it would be a liqueur. I know figs, and I grow figs, but I cannot taste figs in Figenza. What I do find are juciy, ripe, fresh pears on the nose and on the palate. And, figgy name aside, that's OK, because this is a cocktail column and I can report that it's a great mixer.
1 oz. Magellan gin
3 oz. Figenza vodka
3 ounces Tropicana orange tangerine juice
HERE'S HOW: This is a big drink calling for an 8- or 9-ounce old fashioned glass or a small highball glass. Shake or stir all ingredients with just enough ice to chill it without over diluting. Strain or leave the ice cubes in, according to individual preference for taste or appearance. Gently squeeze a few small chunks of orange into the glass and drop in the wedges.
The Biggy Figgy will have you and your friends calling for more. It's perfect for both veteran tipplers and for those who think they don't like hard liquor.
The only acceptable replacement for the Tropicana orange/tangerine juice would be a homemade 50/50 mix of fresh tangerine juice and good orange juice.
FOR DESSERT, open your second bottle of Figenza and pour straight in large cordial glass or a small tulip glass over one perfect ice cube. Serve with a community plate of chunked Roth Kase Buttermilk Blue Cheese and slices of Comice or green d'Anjou pears, ripe ones for sweetness. The Buttermilk Blue is a Wisconsin "import," a raw cows' milk cheese inoculated with genuine Roquefort cultures. It's a mellow alternative to expensive Stilton and Roquefort and it loves Figenza.
CHERRY TOMATO GIMLET
This drink, a prizewinner, is from guest cocktailian Alex Valencia, a New York metro area consulting mixologist and lecturer. Alex runs master classes and has developed specialty cocktails for a number of cocktail palaces and restaurants. We first encountered his Cherry Tomato Gimlet at Patria, the beautiful Latin-fusion restaurant in Rahway, New Jersey, but it's easy for you to encounter it at home.
He tells us that cocktails don't have to be difficult to be delicioso. I would extend that to delicioso y diferente. What he has done here is substituted fresh lime juice for bottled, thus avoiding the "classic" metallic taste of a gimlet, and added pulp and juice from cherry tomatoes, available almost everywhere during every season.
3/4 oz. lime juice (fresh)
1-1/2 oz vodka. Double Cross preferred
2 pcs cherry tomatoes
3/4oz simple syrup
To make simple syrup, boil equal measures of water and white sugar, Stir until dissolved, and then let cool. You can make more than you need; it will keep in the refrigerator, corked or sealed, for at least a couple of weeks.
HERE'S HOW: Put the crushed tomatoes and simple syrup in a shaker and muddle. Do not overdo; only four presses with a muddler or wooden spoon are necessary to release flavor. Add vodka, lime juice, and ice. Shake and strain. Serve in a cocktail glass and garnish with a floating basil leaf and/or three tiny cherry tomatoes on a fancy toothpick. Be sure that fruit is unblemished and slightly firm.
I find that to produce a more pronounced basil flavor, you can first crush the stem between thumb and forefinger to release fragrant oils. Don't overdo it or your cocktail will taste like liquid pesto.
variation 1: CHERRY TOMATO GIN GIMLET
For those who like the distinctive tang of gin, substitute Bulldog gin for vodka.
variation 2: BLACKBERRY GIMLET
Substitute three blackberries for the tomatoes. Garnish with three berries on a long toothpick.
No, kids, this is not your tart-sour, salty summer Margarita with a final "A." It's a Margarit-O, a four-season cocktail for adults. Like a Margarita, it starts with tequila, but it never sees lime or sour mix.
Because this cocktail features two orange-heavy ingredients, plus orange-peel garnish, that final "O" is for orange. Its construction begins with a medium or expensive blanco (silver) or reposado (lightly barrel-aged) Tequila. Tequilas are fascinating and diverse, but for the Margarit-O, I'm partial to El Decreto for its herbal, citrusy, and smoky flavors. Side point: guests will love to take home the unique squarish bottle with the spout at one end, rather than in the middle.
The other main component, Clément liqueur, has macerated bitter oranges and secret spices in a base of white and dark Martinique rums. It is not triple sec, although it uses the same oranges. The rum's brandy-like dryness harmonizes beautifully with the sweetness, bitterness, and spice of the flavorings. It naturally plays well with the orange juice in this cocktail, but also makes a satisfying after-dinner digestif neat or on the rocks.
This drink is heavy and hearty, and so stands up well to ice.
1-1/2 oz. blanco or reposado tequila, El Decreto recommended
1 oz. Rhum Clément Creole Shrubb liqueur
3 oz. fresh or not-from-concentrate orange juice
HERE'S HOW: Simply mix the three ingredients and pour over ice. Garnish with a slice of orange dropped in the glass. Also cut a strip of orange peel, twist it, rub the peel around the rim, and drop the twist in also. NO SALT!
FINAL FEBRUARY THOUGHTS
Oysters and Scotch. If you believe that oysters are best in months with an "R," then February with its two "R"s must be best of all. To best enjoy their winter plumpness and sweetness, try chewing them for a few seconds before swallowing, so that much more flavor is released. And skip over the Chardonnay or Sancerre and head north for a glass of smoky Scotch from the southwest island of Islay. Bunnahabain, Ardbeg, and Lagavulin in their many iterations and ageings are favorites. When paired with oysters, they are best enjoyed with a slight chill and a few drops of water to make the flavors bloom. And when the final oyster has been devoured, the finish on your palate is better than what oysters or Scotch alone would leave.
Château Siran 2010. This venerable Bordeaux blend from Margaux has hit a peak in the fine 2010 vintage. Selling for $30 to $40 and also available in splits and magnums, this Siran would challenge many $100 Bordeaux for balance, quality, and drinkability. The '10 vintage blends Merlot (47%), Cabernet Sauvignon (42%), and 11% of Petit Verdot.
Previous years have seen a higher percentage of Merlot and the addition of a little Cabernet Franc, but the blend is where the art of the winemaker shows. The payoff is a wine that straddles Old World austerity amd New World richness. Flavors of cherry, cassis, wildflowers, and spice are set off against a light oaky backdrop.
This is one red that can be paired with rich seafood dishes as well as the traditional pairings with meat roasts and stews. We enjoyed it at home with large sea scallops sauteed in D'Artagnan truffle butter and sauced it with pan juices, slivered garlic, and -- of course -- a few ounces of reduced 2010 Siran. No complaints about seafood with red; just sighs.
We don't score wines by number, but this bottle will bring smiles to both wine snobs and the uninitiated.
© February 2013 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.