The Temperate Zone Cocktail

So, the Monday for Monday Mixer has effectively passed us by, but there was work to be done. It’s Mixology Monday, afterall, and I was working on something that would represent theLCP well. This month’s theme is hosted by Joseph Tkach over at Measure & Stir, whom we’ve actually discussed in the Spotlight: Three Great Booze Bloggers You Should Be Following post. Furthermore, congratulations to Joseph for being Freshly Pressed for his Gourd Vibrations post, which in no small measure spawned (I imagine) his vision for this month’s MxMo: Garnish Grandiloquence:

I’m always shocked by the way that an orange peel or a lemon peel can transform the experience of drinking a mixed drink from something mundane to something magical. In a similar vein, eating the olive in a martini will totally transform the imbiber’s perception of the drink. So this Mixology Monday, let’s really make a study of art of the garnish, by mixing up drinks where the garnish plays a central role in the experience of the drink. Of course, you don’t have to make a latticework out of orange peels, a pirate ship out of citrus, or a ferris wheel out of pineapple and squash, but it sure would warm my heart. This type of garnish is traditionally in the realm of tiki, but you could mix anything, so long as the garnish is the star of the show.

Here was the issue: I’m not a master of the garnish. So, I literally spent two weeks going back and forth between “grandiose” and “subtle class,” and was never satisfied with the result. Then I was at the store and cranberries were in season, which I’ve been waiting for so that I could macerate them and use them in some holiday cocktails!

I love cranberries! You know what else I love? Mai Tais. Though, even here in sunny, Southern California the weather has turned toward the autumn kind this past week and it’s not exactly “Mai Tai season.” But it could be, if we modified the ingredients just right.

A traditional Mai Tai, in the Trader Vic ilk, is light rum, dark rum, curacao, orgeat (almond) syrup and fresh lime juice. So, light rum white dog, dark rum rye whiskey, curacao sweet vermouth, walnut orgeat syrup and fresh lime orange juice, plus! A hint of cranberry. Afterall, we’re studying vermouth this month, so this week’s focus—Cinzano—had to make an appearance.

The Temperate Zone Cocktail

  • 1 oz. white dog (unaged whiskey);
  • 1 oz. rye whiskey;
  • 1 oz. Cinzano sweet vermouth;
  • ¼ oz. walnut orgeat syrup;
  • ½ oz. winter spice cranberry syrup;
  • 1 oz. orange juice;
  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters.

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice with spent orange peels in the shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into a rocks glass over a large ice cube. Fill an atomizer with 2:1 absinthe to peppermint schnapps. Spritz once over the drink. Garnish with an orange peel, sprig of rosemary and toothpick of fresh cranberries.

For the walnut orgeat syrup, see the recipe here and just replace the almonds with walnuts.

Winter Spice Cranberry Syrup

  1. Combine 2:1:1 just cranberry (unsweetened), brown sugar and water in a sauce pot and turn on heat;
  2. Stir until sugar dissolves;
  3. In a separate pan, toast a cinnamon stick and 1/4 tsp. each of ground mace, ground nutmeg and fennel seed;
  4. When brown (not burnt), place spices in the cranberry/sugar-water pot and turn to low;
  5. Let simmer for fifteen minutes or until entire mixture is reduced by half;
  6. Set aside and let cool;
  7. Strain out spices into an airtight container, add 1/2 ounce of high-proof, neutral grain spirit and store in the fridge (should keep for over a month).

You’ll notice a brandy bottle in the photos and rye whiskey in the recipe. I’ve been tweaking this cocktail straight up until this sentence, trying to balance the earliest version that was a bit too linear for my tastes. Even this recipe has a simple flavor in spite of its recipe, but it is a lovely marriage that went down in about thirty seconds flat. Any less than a full measure of vermouth gets it good and lost in the layers of walnut, vanilla and cranberry, so don’t be shy. The great play of Cinzano’s dark berry flavors really blends effortlessly with the cranberry notes. The bitters are absolutely necessary.

Tomorrow (or later today, rather), we’ll take a further look into vermouth, including the Piedmont region of Italy and Cinzano’s stake in the history of Torino’s aperitivo.

9 responses to “The Temperate Zone Cocktail

  1. I really like the Mai Tai variant, and the garnish is great. Cranberries should get used more. But I think the MXMO drinks are due the 19th- so you still have time. (I hope so, we are still working on ours)…

  2. So excited that you used the White Dog! I tried this for the first time at the Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky and it’s a very unique earthy flavor (plus it has a kick). The drink looks really interesting with the substituted ingredients and the garnish looks fantastic. You shouldn’t sell yourself short on the garnish skillz (yes, I used a “z”).

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