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Mixology Monday: Smoke on the Vine Cocktail

For this month’s Mixology Monday, I found myself with an already half-concocted recipe I could leap off with for January’s theme of “Fortified Wines”. Which was great, because I’ve already given up on resolutions and have been spending my time waiting for the temps to rise nursing Hot Toddies to my heart’s content not posting on here and needed an already running start. Hosted this time around by Jordan Devereaux of Chemistry of the Cocktail, he’s asked us to try our hands at mixing fortified wines (sherry, port, etc…) into a cocktail.

I usually enjoy a glass of Port by itself, but have yet to delve very far into trying much else with them. After reading through the PDT Cocktail Book lately, I noticed a few drinks calling for Port and Sherry as an ingredient. This piqued my interest and spawned an earlier version of this cocktail. Needing some guidance for proportions, the end result, Smoke on the Vine, is a variation on the La Perla cocktail (a tequila and sherry base that I subbed out Mezcal and a Tawny Port for).

This particular cocktail project also helped make Twitter useful for me. Last month, I got so busy with Holiday crap that I forgot all about checking websites and missed the last assignment. This month I changed my settings to get an alert whenever the MxMo account tweets, which thankfully is not every 30 minutes. Now I can just let my phone remind me about such things.

And here we go…

1-1/2 oz Vida Organic Mezcal
1-1/2 oz Yalumba Antique Tawny Port
3/4 oz Rothman & Winter Apricot Liqueur
2 dashes of Miracle Mile Forbidden Bitters
Lemon peel for garnish

Fill a mixing glass 2/3 with ice, add all ingredients except for garnish. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Twist the lemon peel over the drink, expelling the oil into it and drop the peel in.

Mezcal sometimes needs a strong companion in a drink, otherwise it will dominate the palate, your nose, and anything else it comes into contact with. Dividing the main stars of the drink up 50/50, the Port provides a syrupy sweetness that balances well with the savory nature of the Vida. It also gives the drink a nice, rich mouthfeel. Adding a touch of acidity and your first hit on the nose, the lemon oil and lemon peel are more than just a garnish. Opting for a wide open glass, your nose will sink into that lingering lemon oil mixed with the strong hit of mezcal, punching everything up until you sip into the sweet layer of Port. And that Apricot liqueur! I’m putting it in all kinds of drinks lately. Notes of cumin and wood, as well as a necessary dryness provides that last balancing act for this cocktail to work. The bitters, while just barely there, I found cut the sweetness back by just the right amount (earlier takes of this drink, while pleasant, tipped a bit too much to the sweet side making the drink sit flat).

Now I can pat myself on the back for getting this done and get back to business on here thanks to the MxMo gang.

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Here’s the round up post of everyone’s drinks from this month’s MxMo!

The Bar Keeper Margarita

I’m not usually a big tequila drinker unless there is a plate of tacos and refried beans in front of me. It also helps if a Mariachi Band is playing 10 feet in front of me. This weekend the stars aligned. I had a craving for nachos earlier in the week but didn’t want to go out. So my husband picked up some fixings and chose the most expensive bottle of tequila he could find… at a Ralph’s supermarket. Which, actually, was kind of pricey at $40. So I made us margaritas based on Regan’s recipe and he made giant mounds of nachos.

Fast forward to a Saturday soon after and my bi-weekly visit to Bar Keeper in Silver Lake (if I lived walking distance to this place I’d go broke in a month). With a running list of ‘extras’ for our bar, I try and make one special purchase every time I’m at the shop while stocking up on the usually necessities. This time it was a bottle of Dry Orange Curaçao. I ended up in a conversation with the owner, Joe Keeper, and he begged me to try it just by itself, on ice, and I’d be blown away (which frankly was just fantastically delicious). And then proceeded to give me a rough recipe for a margarita using this Curaçao. The kicker? Atomizing some Vida Mezcal over the finished product. Nice touch, I just happened to have a bottle of that at home.

Immediately upon arriving home I was so smitten with this recipe that I broke out everything and then realized, well, an atomizer I did not have. Not even a spray bottle. The question then was just how much of the Mezcal should make its way into the drink? If one is just spritzing it over the top, then you don’t need that much to go into the drink. My first attempt was a 1/4 ounce, completely killing the drink. All smoke and no other flavors.

So on the next take I tried just rinsing the glass with the Mezcal. Perfection.

Just as described by Mr. Keeper, you first get hit with a smoky aroma from the Mezcal and then that wonderful sweet Curaçao, the tequila and a tangy citrus bite from the lime juice. It was really better than any margarita I’d had out with a Mariachi band and plate of tacos.

This drink I give all the credit to the folks over at Bar Keeper who constantly help fill up my liquor bucket list, and who are always as enthusiastic about cocktails as I am.

1-1/2 oz. Avión Silver Tequila
1 oz. Ferrand Dry Orange Curaçao
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
pinch of smoked sea salt
Vida Mezcal for rinse
lime wedge

Rinse a chilled cocktail coupe with about 1/2 tsp of the Mezcal. Toss remaining liquid. Combine tequila, curaçao, lime juice and salt into a shaker half filled with ice. Shake well to combine and strain into coupe. Garnish with lime wedge.

Why is there no salt rim on this margarita? I find that a small pinch of the smoked sea salt shaken into the drink fulfills my need for salt without feeling like you are crunching on a salt lick, and it keeps the glass nice and clean. Granted, if you like crunching on a salt lick, by all means, rim away!

A Little T&C

Necessity breeds imagination. Isn’t there a saying along those lines? This weekend we’ve holed up in the house for a couple reasons. One, work. Work work. My husband has a lot of it. 90% involving computer and programming and other things that make no sense to me. Second is also work. House work. Lots of dusting due to the start of what is to be a long, drawn out construction project that has already resulted in the loss of use of the downstairs bathroom. And a couple of fights with the home insurance agency. Third, the closure of the 405 freeway. For a short while now we’ve been warned by the transit authorities to STAY AWAY from the west side of town. Avoid the airport!! Avoid leaving your houses!! Better yet, just leave town until Monday morning. Last check all the freeways were green and I’m sure all those idiots who paid for expensive helicopter rides over what was supposed to be insane gridlock for 40 miles in every direction are kicking themselves right now. Deservedly so in my opinion.

Anyway, we bought some grill fixings and decided to just stay put for two days. No biggie. Except that we somehow forgot to stock up the liquor cabinet. It’s been slowing bleeding out for the last month or so. Company comes over and there goes that bottle of Buffalo Trace. And oddly a whole bottle of Jägermeister (how did that get in there?). And wasn’t there a bottle of Finlandia for Bloody Marys?

Surprisingly though we had a couple of almost depleted Tequila bottles. Enough to make some cocktails. But with no whole limes around the house either, a Margarita was out of the question. And I have just been informed by the husband that he really isn’t a fan of them anyway.

There was a whole bottle of Campari though. No gin- the Aviation got used up in some martinis two days ago. Home bartenders are hanging their heads at this sorry state of this liquor cabinet right now.

So a quick search on the internet for tequila and campari brought me to the A Dash of Bitters blog. And this post here. This recipe below is only a slight modification. I upped the Campari by a ¼ ounce to blow out the tequila and make the Campari stand out more (my reasoning was that I wanted this to taste like Campari, not just a slight bitter aftertaste). I also added a squeeze of lime. I felt it needed a touch of an acid. And tequila and lime, blah blah blah. So here you go! It’s slightly bitter and tangy and a hint of that rich reposado tequila is there in the background, which is where I wanted him to be.

2 oz. Cazadores Reposado Tequila
½ oz Campari
¼ oz French Dry Vermouth
¼ oz Fee Brothers Maraschino Cherry Syrup (finally broke into this!)
dash of Peychaud’s Bitters
Squeeze of a ¼ lime

Stir all of the ingredients together with ice. Strain into a chilled rocks glass. Garnish with spent lime.

After I made this I glanced down at the comments and realized that others were also adding limes. I think I’d nix the Maraschino syrup next time because I don’t feel like it adds much. In fact, for the next round I made this with Aperol instead of Campari and left out the syrup. Then I subbed out some Castillian Bitters from Miracle Mile Bitters (a local, artisanal bitters company in L.A.) I thought it worked, but another taste tester, not being a fan of the Aperol, thought it tasted too medicinal. To each his own.

I will be enjoying this on the porch by my little lime tree that is slooooooowwwly growing me some new limes. The biggest about the size of my thumb.

Fancy Hombre

Admittedly I really had no idea what St. Germaine was until their clever marketing campaign of old timey postcards of scantily clad women came across my way. A framed woman from the 20’s stands nonchalantly with a croquet bat (bat? Not sure what they are really called at the moment) in the master bath at the house, sans clothes, grandfathered in from my husband’s bachelor days. There is some draw to these photos.. oh but we should be moving on to the drink here. Anyways, I picked up a bottle after trying a cocktail out where they had slipped some in with gin and tonic water. It was just enough to give the G&T an extra layer of flavor without being overwhelmingly sweet (which you can do if you pour too much in. Which I have done and wasted a drink over.). Then came the day when I was out of tonic, and gin, and still had this HUGE BOTTLE of elderflower liquor sitting on the shelf getting dusty. I slightly modified a drink on the St. Germain site and came up with this:

2-1/2 oz Tequila
1 oz St. Germain
Dash of Dry Vermouth

I’ve had it both stirred with ice and strained into a chilled cocktail glass, or just mixed and kept over ice. However if you drink it too slow over ice it dulls the flavors and washes it out a bit. So I would just stir it gently with ice and strain. Or would that be stirred?