Monday, September 28, 2009

MxMo XLII: Dizzy Dairy and Rowley’s New Book

When I heard the theme for this month’s Mixology Monday—dairy cocktails—I gritted my teeth. In the last year I’ve had more milk and cream than at any time since my childhood. Why? Well, the rich history of, and modern innovation in, dairy cocktails is the topic of the book I’ve been working on.

Until I was ready to publish, I wasn’t eager to see public talk about them. No dice. MxMo host Chris Amirault over at eGullet has let the cow out of the barn with MxMo XLII: Dizzy Dairy. For one day, the majority of the world’s online cocktail writers will be blogging, tweeting, and posting Facebook updates on the very thing I’ve been keeping under wraps.

Ah, well. I know when to roll with new developments and, since this is hardly a secret topic anymore, let me tell you a little of what I’ve been up to and throw out a call for help.

As I’ve researched the book, I’ve sampled 1%, 2%, whole, raw, homogenized, and pasteurized milks from huge producers and small family farms. There’s been condensed, evaporated, caramelized, fermented, shelf-stable, and powdered samples decking the kitchen counters. I’ve looked into the dairy underground (where raw milk runners sometimes call their product “mooshine”), put archivists and librarians through their paces digging out manuscripts and old pamphlets, and ordered dairy cocktails in every city I visit. Some—like Ramos’ famous gin fizz—are classics. They can be as simple as Lebowski’s favorite White Russian or laced with fancy beurre noir and sage.

On a recent trip to Philadelphia, I dropped in Rum Bar to say hello to owner Adam Kanter. The milkiest drink on the menu? An orange batida. Long popular in Brazil, batidas often incorporate fruit and sweetened condensed milk (leite condensado) as well as cachaça, a hugely popular cane spirit gaining ground in the US. Bar manager Vena Edmonds kindly supplied the recipe. If you can't find Moleca, a three-year old wood-aged cachaça, consider substituting Leblon or Boca Loca brands. Not the same taste, but a little more funky than a lot of rums.
Orange Batida

1 oz Bacardi O
1 oz Moleca cachaça
1 barspoon of refined sugar (about a teaspoon)
1 oz sweetened condensed milk
½ oz orange juice

Shake hard with ice to fully mix the condensed milk and strain into an old fashioned glass with fresh ice. Garnish with an orange slice. You could also substitute simple syrup to taste for the sugar.

Of course, I was in Philly to hit libraries and archives, too. I’ve dug into the ethnographic, historic, culinary, and literary records from around the world for cultural and scientific information on the lactation of cows, goats, horses, buffalos, camels, and more. Want naturally rose-flavored milk? Grab your passport. The fermented Mongolian mare’s milk drink koumiss that used to be in all the bartenders’ manuals? Hard to find, but there’s an easy work-around. Beyond issues of palatability, I can tell you why we don’t milk pigs, why water buffalo cream is so thick, and how to break down milk punch into distinct families.

But I could use help. I’m looking for recipes to include—with attribution—in the book.

I’ve got more than enough historic American cocktail recipes. What would help are original dairy cocktails made by modern bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts—cocktails using milk, buttermilk, cream, butter (don’t look at me like that: you never heard of hot buttered rum?), or other dairy products. Innovative takes on older recipes and examples from outside the US are also good: Got experience with aged eggnogs, sloe gin fizzes, or pisco-spiked caramelized goat’s milk? I’d love to hear from you.

I can’t promise everyone’s recipe will make the final cut—my editor invariably cuts even my own recipes—but I can promise to talk with you about your cocktail(s), see if there’s room to include them, and give you all kinds of lavish credit if one or more of your recipes makes the final draft.

Email me at moonshinearchives [at] gmail [dot] com and let’s see what we can do.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Stick to the Cratur

It's no secret I'm fond of the cratur. The what? You might recognize it as the creature, short for one of the good creatures of the Lord. Still not ringing any bells? Oh, ok. Whiskey. Irish whiskey and specifically poitin, the homemade liquor still made in the west of Ireland, despite the common notion in both Dublin and Belfast that the stuff is no longer made.

Unless your ears are tuned to Irish dialects, cratur is an odd word. Here with just such a say-what? Irish accent is singer Tom Lenihan from 1967. The lyrics as posted on YouTube are not quite what he's singing, so I corrected them below. I think.



Let your quacks and newspapers be quotin’ their capers
About curing the vapors, the scratch, and the gout.
With their powders and potions, their serums and lotions
Upholding their notions, they're mighty put out.

We don’t know the true physic of all things prophetic
And pitch to the divil, cramp, colic, and spleen.
You'll find it I think if you take a big drink
With your mouth to the brink of a jug of poteen.

Then stick to the cratur the best thing in nature
For sinking your sorrows and raising your joys.
Oh what moderation or dose in the nation
Can give consolation like whiskey, me boys?

Come guess me this riddle, what beats pipe and fiddles
What's stronger than mustard and milder than cream?
What best wets your whistle, what's clearer than crystal,
Sweeter than honey and stronger than steam?

What will make the dumb talk, what will make the lame walk?
What’s the elixir of life and philosopher's stone?
And what helped Mr. Brunel to dig the Thames Tunnel
Sure, wasn't it whiskey from ould Inishowen?

Then stick to the cratur the best thing in nature
For sinking your sorrows and raising your joys.
Oh lord, I’d not wonder, if lightning and thunder
Weren't made from the plunder of whiskey, me boys.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Moonshine in the News

Today’s idea: Not content with home microbrewing,
artisinal types are distilling their own illicit “craft” moonshine —
more in an epicurean style than in the spirit of Prohibition
outlaws in backwoods Appalachia. Oregon grappa, anyone?

~ New York Times’ Idea of the Day

Decent articles about homemade liquor and moonshine crop up with increasing frequency. Seems like word is out that not all the shine out there is the rotgut that our parents and grandparents knew.

The past few weeks have given us the New York Times blog piece quoted above. And then there’s this Salon article that inspired the posting. In it, Bill Owens, president of the American Distilling Institute and consummate showman, makes a donut mash. Not something you’d really want to do, but he’s proving the point that sugar, regardless of the source, can yield liquor. The author, Catherine Price, quotes Alcademics writer Camper English and yours truly about who’s making moonshine these days and why.

"The distillers don't band together in public the way home brewers do," says Rowley. "And until they get organized, you won't see a change in legislation."

Though I’d love to see home distilling legalized as in New Zealand, I’m not holding my breath.

Want to know more? Snag a copy of Moonshine at Amazon.com. My favorite customer review so far: The author is a bit opinionated in a few places but doesn't come off preachy. He simply states his opinion and gives the information anyway.

That's me: opinionated but not preachy. Well...mostly.
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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Potka, Part II

Straight wash is very, very strong, and very soporific.
The first time I tried some, I drank 2.5oz
and smoked a 0.3 of oil.
It took me 2 HOURS to get of my couch
and go to bed once my movie ended!!


~ genkisan
stonerforums.com


Think listening to stoners talk tries your patience? Try reading stoner recipes. They tend to wander off, lost in the intricacies of their own details.

As a follow up to Friday’s post in which I talked about moonshine and pot, I’ve learned more about the technical aspects of producing potka in the last three days than in the last decade. Leave it to Volodimir “Wal” Pavliuchuk to pick up the potka theme, though, and run with it in his typically scholarly way.

Pavliuchuk, whose book of cordial recipes I wrote about back in April, posted several links over on Yahoo Distillers concerning the blend of ethanol and marijuana. Even though legal marijuana is readily available where I live, it’s just not one of my vices. For those who are curious, however, Wal has aggregated links that give an overview on marijuana-infused liqour.

You’ve heard of limoncello, the lemon cordial from the Amalfi coast? What of marjiuancello? Zoomata reports that Manlio Chianchiano’s plans for marijuana macerated in alcohol in Naples were scrapped when police investigated reports of marijuana growing at his home.

Wal links to The Marijuana Foods Handbook and its guidelines for producing sinsemilla liqueurs and in using ascorbic acid as a clearing agent. There’s also the stonerforum recipe quoted above that goes into overly stoner detail.

From an actual distiller’s point of view, however, see Rev. David M. Cunningham’s notes.

As always, send me whiskey and bring me brandy. But potka? I’ll pass. I’m sleepy enough as it is.

Photo: ANSA.


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Friday, September 18, 2009

Rowley Talks Potka, Moonshine & Old Recipes on NPR

This week I’m in Philadelphia. The time is flying by faster than I thought possible. Naturally, there’re beverages and research involved—a little rum, a little whiskey, some white dog, some beer. Philly may nickle-and-dime you to death, but its beverages do not suck.

Yesterday, I also dropped by NPR station WHYY for an interview with Jim Coleman, host of the Sunday talk show A Chef’s Table. Coleman and I talked about moonshine, home distilling, and interpreting old liquor recipes. He caught me off-guard, however, when he asked about the most unusual homemade liquor I’d ever encountered.

Forget for a moment that homemade whiskey is, in and of itself, pretty damn unusual for millions of people. I could have mentioned the apple brandy made from heirloom fruit I found in Missouri, Texas bierschnapps, or sorghum skimmin’s. Nope. I had to go with something doubly illicit in most of the US: potka, a combination of vodka and cannabis.

I couldn’t see the producer or the sound engineer from where I sat, but I’m fairly sure there was some frantic sign-making to remind Coleman just how illegal that could be. Mea culpa, Chef—it’s just that I live in California where medical marijuana is legal and obtaining a prescription (they tell me) is simplicity itself. For those with a scrip, the simple version doesn't seem illegal. No prescription, of course, and you're just inviting trouble.

In both San Francisco and Texas, I found potka among home distillers and cordial-makers. Otherwise, it’s not terribly well known. In its simplest form, cannabis is macerated in 80-100% vodka or neutral grain spirits. Makers report that THC in the marijuana is extracted into the liquor and they end up with a beverage that combines attributes of the two.

More recently, I’ve begun to see distillers who made the same maceration, then add water, and redistill to yield a high-proof cannabis-laced spirit. Now, for me, pot's a bit like Scotch whisky: I don't mind if my friends indulge, but it just doesn't hold much appeal. Potka? Holds even less personal appeal, but I understand why some like it and as a curiosity it’s worth documenting.

It occurs to me, though, that potka may be dangerous. Not just from a legal point of view, though there's truth enough in that, but because it’s potentially lethal as well. Here’s why: Medical marijuana is legal some places because, among other effects, it reduces nausea. This is important for, say, cancer patients undergoing chemo treatment. Helps them keep down food.

Liquor, on the other hand is a toxin—a delicious, mellifluous beverage and perfectly acceptable in small doses—but a toxin nonetheless. When you drink too much, your body naturally ejects it. We’re talking about the Technicolor yawn here. Laughing at the carpet. Hailing a Buick, calling up your buddy Ralph, and invoking the name of Wyatt Earp. Protein spill on Aisle Three. Un-eating, tossing your cookies, and falling on your knees to worship the welcoming and detested porcelain god. Yeah, drink too much and you puke. Vomiting is one way your body gets rid of excess toxins and ameliorates the poisoning you just gave it.

Combine typically high-proof (50%+abv) homemade distillates with a nausea-reducing cannabis in the same glass and it seems to me there’s a potential danger of overdrinking without our natural defense of hurling to boot the excess alcohol. It’s not a stretch to imagine that the result could be some serious alcohol poisoning.

Obviously, I’m no doctor—but common sense suggests that potka is just a mistake in a bottle that needs to be treated carefully.

Of course, that segment may just get edited out. I'll tune in Sunday or head to Coleman's website later in the week to see how it all falls out.

[Edit: see Potka, Part II for a followup from a few days later, days in which I got flooded with information and emails about mixing pot and moonshine]
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fanciest Moonshine Site Ever

Packing my bags today for a trip to Philadelphia for research, an interview on WHYY, visiting Rum Bar, and a family reunion. Since I’m generally known as Rowley, this reunion thing with a hundred or more Rowleys milling about may prove confusing, especially if whiskey is involved.

But before going offline for a few days, I’ll leave you with a link to one of the fanciest moonshine websites around: Ian Smiley’s L.S. Moonshine. Heads up that the site is in Chinese. Smiley, along with Mike McCaw, was on a panel with me at Tales of the Cocktail last year in which we discussed home distilling from historical and practical angles.

Smiley is also partner in a Huarong County (Hunan Province) distillery that provides Chinese drinkers with American-style corn whiskey, a taste some say compares favorably to bai jiu, a high-proof Chinese liquor that can be made from rice, sorghum, barley, or other grains. Production capacity is 90,000 liters per year.

Haven’t tasted any yet and I’m curious to get my hands on some. So far, LS Moonshine is not imported to the US, but with a growing appreciation of unaged spirits (i.e., white dog), we should be seeing increasing examples of similar raw spirits on liquor store shelves.

Which brings me to a request: if anyone else is distilling corn whiskey these days, drop me a line, eh? I’m putting together a survey of commercial liquors made with 80-100% corn in the grain bill, regardless of where it’s made or whether it’s called corn whiskey or something else entirely.

Email is moonshinearchives [at] gmail [dot] com.

Back next week, babies ~

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Real Cajun Simple Pork Sausage

Last week, I made Donald Link’s smothered pork strictly following his recipe in Real Cajun. For his simple pork sausage, I wasn’t interested in grilling or poaching sausage links, but in seasoned bulk sausage for pizzas, omelets, beans, stuffed bread, and other dishes that could use a bit of pork as a flavor and texture accent.

So this time I ditched the casings. If you want make links, use 6-8 feet of soaked and rinsed medium hog casings to make 4-inch sausages. Refrigerated, natural casings have a long shelf life and may or may not be packed in salt. Even if not, they’ll benefit from a soak. Refer to package directions. Once in casing, you can smoke the fresh links, grill them, or poach in beer or stock. But either use them within a day or two or freeze them; without smoking, they’re perishable.

Freezing the bulk sausage in 4-ouce pucks allows me to reach in the freezer, grab however many I need, and cook/crumble them in a skillet. Once I get back from the current trip, there’s a plate or three of biscuits and gravy waiting to be made.

Yeah, yeah, I’ll go the gym afterwards.

Simple Pork Sausage

6 lbs pork butt
1.5 lbs pork back fat
4 Tbl kosher salt
1 Tbl sugar
1 tsp ground fennel
1 tsp white pepper
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp seedless chili flakes
2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbl dried oregano
3 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbl minced garlic

Remove excess soft fat and connective tissues from the pork shoulder. Cut the pork and fat back into small cubes. Whisk together the salt, sugar, spices, Worcestershire, and garlic in a large bowl, add the pork and fat, and toss until evenly coated. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, grind the seasoned pork with mixer fitted with a grinding attachment. Place a biscuit cutter on a cookie sheet, form a small sausage ball with your hands (4 oz is a good size), then press the ball into the biscuit cutter. Lift the ring from the resulting patty, place it next to the patty, and fill again with more sausage. Repeat until all the forcemeat is used.

Technique tip: Wet your hands and the cutter between each new patty to assure clean edges and fast work.

Note to self: Must get better control of lighting. Tastes delicious, but pics look kinda nasty.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bookshelf: Donald Link’s Real Cajun

The bar of New Orleans chef Donald Link’s restaurant Cochon had a reputation as a place a casual drinker might get a snootful of legal liquors evoking moonshine’s tumultuous history. So during Tales of the Cocktail last year I brought together a band of professional and home distillers for a dinner at Cochon to run Chef Stephen Stryjewski and his crew through their paces—crawfish pie, boudin, fried rabbit livers, dark gumbo, the softball-sized cochon, rabbit & dumplings, oysters, and crispy breaded pig ears sliced pencil thin. Bar manager Audrey Rodriguez even brought out a bottle of Ted Breaux’s La Perique liqueur made from St. James Parish Perique tobacco. It was one of the best meals I’d eaten in 2008.

While I like what Stryjewski and Link do with the bounty of Louisiana, it’s their prowess with pork that keeps me coming back.

Fortunately, a trip to New Orleans isn’t strictly necessary to get a taste of what Link is up to. With the release of his cookbook Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana, a lot of those recipes are within reach whether you live in Iowa City, Sioux Falls, London, or Los Angeles.

The rabbit livers are there, though parading as chicken livers. So is boudin. And homemade bacon. There’s an entire chapter called simply “La Vie Cochon.” But by and large, and with some exceptions, this isn’t restaurant cooking. Link places his recipes squarely in the cookery traditions of rural south Louisiana, so you’ll find deer sausage, baked oysters, crawfish etouffe, dirty rice, and various gumbos. Even when he gets fancy, the foods’ country roots are apparent. Catfish fried in bacon fat, anyone?

The desserts in particular—Satsuma buttermilk pie, German chocolate cake, blueberry ice cream, and strawberries with cornmeal shortcakes—make me pine for Louisiana. Until I get back to Cochon, there's Real Cajun to keep my envie for boucherie at bay.

Donald Link with Paula Disbrowe (2009)
Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana
256 pages, hardback
Clarkson Potter
ISBN: 0307395812
$35.00

I wasn’t joshing about the appeal of Link’s pork recipes. Last week, I bought a 13-pound pork shoulder and made two recipes from Real Cajun—smothered pork roast (at right, photo by Chris Granger) and simple pork sausage. The smothered pork is great over rice, but I also froze a bit to use as filling for enchiladas (encebolladas?) once I get back from a road trip. The sausage I froze in small pucks to use in omelets, on pizza, tossed with green beans, cooked with white beans, stuffed into quesadillas, and on more pizza. We’ll get to the sausage recipe—and what I did to it—later this week.

Smothered Pork Roast over Rice
Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 (6- to 7-pound) boneless pork roast (shoulder or butt)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 large onions, thinly sliced
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon dried rosemary, crumbled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
Juice of ½ lemon (optional)
Steamed rice

Preheat the oven to 275˚ Fahrenheit.

Season the pork very generously with salt and pepper, rubbing the seasonings into the fat and flesh of the meat. Set the roast aside for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour at room temperature.

Combine the onions, garlic, thyme and rosemary in a medium mixing bowl and toss to combine.

Heat the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot, sear the meat on all sides until deeply browned and crusty, 10 to 12 minutes.

Transfer the meat to a plate, reduce the heat to medium, and then stir in the butter. When the butter has melted, stir in the flour to make a roux and continue to cook, stirring, until the roux turns a dark peanut butter color, about 10 minutes.

Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring, until all the ingredients are well coated and the mixture is thick. Whisk in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Return the pork to the Dutch oven, spoon some of the onion mixture over the meat, cover, and roast for about 3 hours, turning and basting the pork every 30 minutes or so, until the meat will break apart when pressed gently with a fork.

At this point, you can serve the roast right out of the pan, or transfer it to a plate, then simmer the pan drippings, skimming off excess fat, until reduced by about one-third, or until it coats the back of a spoon. Add the lemon juice and taste for seasonings.

Before serving, sprinkle the roast with some additional salt. Serve the roast smothered with a generous amount of sauce and hot steamed rice.
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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tiki Oasis 2009 & the Hyperreality of King Kukulele

The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth
--it is the truth which conceals that there is none.
The simulacrum is true.
~ Jean Baudrillard

Tiki culture—or Polynesian pop as some have it—is an odd duck. An argument can be made that nothing about it is real. After all, it’s a 21st century recreation of what our Mid-century parents and grandparents may have embraced as a wholly fabricated mish-mash of a re-imagined mythical South Seas paradise, fueled on rum, sex, tropical print shirts, and noble-savage-type primitivism.

Now, as a distiller, French literary criticism is not a tool I have all that much call to use, but that seems an awful lot like what Jean Baudrillard had in mind when he tackled notions of simulacra and hyperreality in which fantasy and reality are so blurred that one is indistinguishable from the other.

All that may all be true. And “authentic” is undeniably a slippery word to use for tiki gatherings and bars—but don’t think for a minute that tiki culture isn’t real. When the annual gathering Tiki Oasis pitched a tent in San Diego a few weeks ago, I got an insider’s look at an entire hotel filled with nothing but tiki aficionados and service staff.

The first thing you’ll notice in such a setting is that tiki is about fashion. Whether it’s the coconut-shell purses clutched by many of the lovely wahines in attendance, the tropical shirts on the men, the Bettie Page-style makeup, or the sea of hats, there’s a distinctive vintage look. Real? Meh. Real enough to the vendors who showed up to sell tiki mugs, carvings, jewelry, books, posters, glassware, barware, tiki drink guides, hats and fezzes, towels, coasters, and lawn ornaments.

Secondly—and it doesn’t take long to realize this—tiki folk are about the nicest bunch of people you’d ever want to meet. Their friendliness is as genuine as the sunrise. Truly, other than employees, everyone was there for Tiki Oasis. The attendees were friendly and eager to talk about their obsession hobby, sharing tips on what rums are best for their favorite drinks, salvaging old tiki architecture in Southern California…shoot, there was even a Tiki Friends of Bill group for recovering alcoholics who just couldn’t leave behind the scene when they gave up the bottle.

Martin Cate led a sampling of Appleton Estate rums paired with chocolates, Holden Westland of Tiki Farm sold mugs like they held the secrets of eternal youth, Brazilian filmmaker Duda Leite led showings of his short film Tikimentary, Baby Doe of the San Franscisco-based Devil-ettes gave go-go dancing lessons, and—in case you wanted to get all dolled up like a pin-up, San Diego’s burlesque queen Lady Borgia showed how in an afternoon session.

But my favorite discovery of the weekend had to be Denny Moynahan’s onstage persona as King Kukulele, ruling monarch of novelty ukulele songs. Complete with Converse sneaks, white socks, a plastic grass skirt, reed crown, and ukulele-on-a-string, he's one of the best acts I've seen all year. Yeah, I know. It doesn’t sound like my usual playlist (“Novelty songs, Rowley? For real? Lame.”), and he's about as authentically Hawaiian as I am, but you’ve got to see the King anytime he’s playing near you. Just go. He’s funny, charming, and totally disarming. He’s sweet with the kids and taunts adults good-naturedly. I don’t know if I need to book him for my next birthday ho-down or just plan on attending next year’s Tiki Oasis, but King Kukulele and I haven’t seen the last of each other.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Secret Bars of Southern Decadence

Any hot mess on Bourbon Street can get drunk during the five-day, mostly (but not entirely) gay extravaganza of Southern Decadence that’s ramping up this weekend. But civilized drinking in New Orleans requires an insider’s knowledge.

Put on a shirt, fix your hair, and ditch the go-cup daiquiris. Stride past the liquid hand grenades and the cratered sorority girls left in their wake. Slip instead into the rarefied dens of gentlemen for an education in elegant drinking. It’s time for a breather from the party to imbibe sublime cocktails under the tutelage of the Crescent City’s most revered bartenders. Best yet? Most are within walking distance of the French Quarter’s host venues.

Begin with a hot towel, a shave, and a tumbler of whiskey at eminently respectable Aiden Gill for Men. Aiden Gill’s place is a car ride away from the Quarter. But you’ll walk away with a baby smooth face and an appreciation of some of the treats waiting for you away from the hullabaloo.

Now it’s time to visit New Orleans bartenders who greet well-groomed and well-behaved drinkers with perfectly-crafted cocktails and professional demeanors. While their parlors may grow busy, the mood is always civil, for civility prevails on both sides of the bar. And, seriously, put on a shirt and wear pants.

  • Swizzle Stick Bar fixture Michael Glassberg will prepare a noontime fix to beat the heat with a rum swizzle (what’s in that bottle labeled secret stuff? Hint: it’s from Barbados and you can get some for your home bar at Martin Wine Cellar). Bottom floor of the Loew’s Hotel and part of Café Adelaide.
  • Dispensing with his famous giant ice maul in favor of a disassembled Hawthorn strainer, Bar UnCommon maestro Chris McMillian will shake, shake, shake his version of the Ramos gin fizz. Not as well known as his mint julep, but the better drink.
  • Chris Hannah will present Arnaud’s French 75 Bar namesake drink (if you thought a French 75 champagne cocktail was good with gin, Chris’ cognac twist could well make you book your next flight back).
  • Brooks Hamaker is a former brewer and distiller and can often be found behind the bar at John Besh’s restaurant Lüke. Ask for a venerable, only-in-New-Orleans beverage, the Ojen (pronounced "O hen") Cocktail. There are only a few bottles of the discontinued anise-flavored liqueur left, so don’t be crushed if he suggests an alternate. Trust him.
  • Maksym Pazuniak at Cure will entice worldly tipplers with his Creole Julep. Get a leg up on those queens back home by even knowing what a julep is. Danny Valdez and the rest of the crew are no slouches with the shakers, either.
  • A gentleman knows when to bid goodnight. Whether he’s going back to his room alone or with friends in tow, the perfect send-off is a Sazerac prepared by the white-jacketed bartenders at the restored Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel. The drink is so beloved by locals that it’s now the city’s official cocktail.

A final fashion note: New Orleans is a hat town. While many don hats under the sometimes brutal sun, gentlemen buy with pride at Meyer the Hatter (and those in on the secret know that behatted guests of the Swizzle Stick Bar are plied with free martinis—limit three, please: hot messes are frowned upon).

Where?

Aidan Gill For Men
2026 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
504.587.9090

Arnaud’s French 75 Bar
813 Bienville
New Orleans, LA 70112
504.523.5433

Bar UnCommon
817 Common St.
New Orleans, LA 70112

Cure
905 Freret Street
New Orleans LA 70115
504.302.2357

Lüke
333 St. Charles Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70130
504.378.2840

Martin’s Wine Cellar
3500 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70115
504.899.7411

Meyer the Hatter
120 St Charles Ave
New Orleans, LA 70130
504.525.1048

Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel
123 Baronne St
New Orleans, LA 70112-2303
504.529-4733

Swizzle Stick Bar
Loews New Orleans Hotel
300 Poydras Street
New Orleans, LA. 70130
504.595-3305

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Bittered Wine

Among bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts who make their own bitters, some recipes stand out for their uncommon ingredients—cocoa, chipotles, or mahleb, for instance. Others for their technique.

The usual method is to macerate seeds, bark, roots, leaves, and other aromatic and bittering agents in alcohol. Sometimes all the ingredients are put in a container all at once in a mass. Other methods call for a series of alcoholic tinctures (e.g., one jar of bitter orange peel, one of cardamom, one of gentian, one of cherry leaves or celery seeds, etc.) to be mixed once each has achieved a sufficient concentration.

M. E. Steedman falls under the "unusual technique" camp by calling for an actual fermentation of an aged bitter wine. Though related to cocktail bitters, bittered wines are older, less alcoholic, and more clearly intended to be tonic medicines. Here, his technique for a wormwood and gentian mash gets a dose of yeast to create a low-alcohol wash (probably around 6% abv), but not before boiling part of it. Finally, it’s cleared with isinglass and further fermentation stopped by adding brandy.

Slainte!

Bitter Wine

Boil 6 gallons of water, 15 lb. pure cane sugar and 3 oz. ginger together for half an hour, skimming when necessary, then pour into a large vessel containing 1½ pints of wormword, 3 pints each of red and green camomile, 3 oz. of camomile flowers, 1½ oz. of gentian root, and 2 handfuls of rosemary. Cover and infuse for five days, then boil part of the liquid and add it to the remainder to make the whole lukewarm. Stir in 6 table-spoonfuls of liquid yeast, and strain into a cask (reserving about a gallon to fill up the cask as the fermentation subsides), bung lightly til the hissing noise ceases, then add one and a half ounces of dissolved isinglass, and one and a half pints of good brandy. Stop the cask securely, and in 9 months bottle off and keep for six months longer.

~ Home-Made Beverages and American Drinks
M. E. Steedman (nd) The Food and Cookery Publishing Agency, London.

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