We are always excited when we come upon a recipe that allows us to use some of the more obscure ingredients in our collection. We are the proud owners of no less than four blue-tinged spirits boasting violet as a dominant flavor. We were overjoyed when Crème Yvette became available in our region and quickly snatched up a bottle, but the truth is that we have only found three or four cocktails that use the spirit. Similarly we purchased The Bitter Truth Violet while fantasizing of Aviations for years to come. Yet when we stumbled upon a bottle of the famed Crème de Violette on a recent trip to Hawaii we stood powerless before it and just had to bring it home. We can’t seem to help ourselves…
Armed with an arsenal of floral liqueurs we were more than ready to try out this recipe. Because we thought the Yvette, with it’s vanilla-berry-floral notes to be more complex than its cousin Crème de Violette, we chose it to star in the Blue Moon. The Yvette also boasts a more viscous texture and pronounced sweetness that we thought would befit the drink. The downside of using Yvette is that the finished cocktail is purple rather than a sky blue.
The Blue Moon is a pleasant drink; each sip seems to offer more nuances of the Yvette, which keeps me returning. The citrus is present but doesn’t dominate. The palate receives fruity notes of berry and lemon but the finish is floral without being soapy.
The drink is too subtle for D, who says, “It tastes like gin.” While I disagree I do understand where he’s coming from. The Algonquin, for instance, lost all distinction on my palate – all I tasted was rye. Not all drinks suit all palates; this is part of what makes cocktailing fun. That being said our tastes do evolve with patience and practice. As D nursed his drink he did start to find the Yvette both on the nose and the finish.
Never let it be said, dear reader, that we do a thing halfway. We may only have 3 followers but we want to make sure that you are fully informed. With that in mind we attempted a second version of this drink starring the aforementioned Crème de Violette. It was a hit. D much preferred the color and he liked the floral nose. It was much less subtle, but sometimes you need to be smacked in the face with flavor. As with the Aviation if you like a sweeter drink feel free to add a teaspoon of simple syrup to the mix.
The Blue Moon is not as multifaceted as The Aviation and given the choice between the two I would always choose the latter. But don’t let that deter you from giving this cocktail a shot. All in the name of the game…
The Blue Moon
- 2 ounces gin
- .5 ounce Crème de Violette or Crème Yvette
- .5 ounce fresh lemon juice
Shake over ice. Strain. Garnish with a lemon twist and a cherry.
Blue Moon Ingredients
Sunday Funday – Bitters
It’s official, we are cocktail geeks. We tried to reign ourselves in and focus on one project, recreating the 100 drinks in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, but alas we are multitaskers at heart. Forgive us as we digress… Somewhere along the way D and I christened the seventh day of each week “Sunday Funday.” On this day we follow our hearts’ desires, whether that would be trying out a new restaurant, taking a rambling miles-long walk, or diving into a new project. The last couple of Sundays have involved the latter. On Christmas morning D and I opened our stockings only to discover that Santa had deposited a copy of Brad Thomas Parsons’ Bitters in each of our stockings. With not one, but two copies of this book on hand we felt compelled to make a freshman attempt at bitters production. We selected the BTP House Bitters as our first endeavor, largely because of their versatility (Parsons claims that they can be used in place of Angostura Bitters in any recipe.) It took us two weeks to track down all the ingredients, the hardest to come by found in unexpected places. Who would have guessed that we’d find gentian root and cassia bark at a shop called Gaia Garden? It would seem that for the bitters enthusiast, the new-age apothecary is your best friend. With all the ingredients on hand the assembly seemed almost ridiculously simple. The hardest part is waiting the two weeks before you can strain the solution and boil down the solids, and then waiting two weeks again. As of this writing we have yet to try the fruits of our labors, but we are already plotting our next batches of bitters. We will let you know how things turn out. Patience grasshopper.
Blood and Sand
This is a familiar cocktail to us, especially to D. Along with the Rusty Nail it is one of only a handful of well known scotch cocktails, and certainly among the first suggested by bartenders when D requests a scotch-based bevvy. Until recently this drink was impossible to make in this province (correctly at least), but we revel in the recent arrival of Cherry Heering on our liquor store shelves. Cherry Heering is a syrupy liqueur with a deep burgundy hue and a finish reminiscent of sherry.
We once had this cocktail mixed erroneously with maraschino, an interesting substitution that I liked – largely because it was a much more pleasing color than the original, but D was not a fan. In retrospect the maraschino overpowered the scotch, whereas the Heering rounds out the base spirit, highlighting the spicy notes while muting any harshness.
Ted Haigh notes that the Blood and Sand is named after a film of the same title, though it’s easy to imagine that the moniker is a result of its murky rusty hue. But while the color may leave something to be desired this libation is a classic for a reason. It is a workshop in balance: sweet but boozy, citrusy but not overly so, smooth and quaffable even for the scotch novice. I prompted D for some tasting notes. “I like it!” says D. “Why?” says me. “It has scotch in it. I like scotch.” “And…?” I pressed. “There aren’t a lot of scotch cocktails.” Well there you have it. Give this a shot if only because it is one of a handful of mixed drinks with scotch as a base. Make it again because it is delicious.
Blood and Sand
- 1 ounce scotch (a blend such as Johnny Walker Red works well)
- 1 ounce fresh orange juice
- .75 ounce Cherry Heering
- .75 ounce sweet vermouth
Shake over ice. Strain. Garnish with a cherry.
Blood and Sand Ingredients
Sunday Funday –Barrel Aging
We really enjoy making the libations in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, but the nature of our project compels us to follow Ted Haigh’s recipes to the letter. Sometimes we feel like going rogue and adding our own touch to the cocktails we create. Enter the one liter oak barrel.
Having coveted these miniature casks for at least six months, D found the best deal he could online and ordered two barrels from oakbarrelsltd.com. Upon arrival we set to work prepping the barrels, a process that takes about 72 hours, while debating the pros and cons of the recipes on our short list.
DIY Barrel Prep
We decided that we would age one whiskey or rye cocktail and one gin, but which ones? As the gin drinker I settled on a Bijou cocktail for the simple reason that it is a drink I can go back to again and again – we are making a liter of this stuff, after all! Using my logic D decided on The Boulevardier for his creation.
As it turned out we were only to make one cocktail on our first attempt. One of the barrels continued to leak past the 72 hour mark and was deemed unfit. We will credit oakbarrelsltd.com here with amazing customer service. They replied to an email we sent almost immediately and a replacement barrel has been shipped. With a little luck the cask will be ready to go in a few days.
With only one barrel on the go we experienced a last minute change of heart vis-à-vis the recipe being aged. I wanted D to have first go at the oaking process but he wanted to ensure we made a libation we both enjoy. The Vieux Carre was the answer. Murray Stenson made me my first Vieux Carre at Canon in Seattle, leaving me with fond memories of both the drink and the man.
As of this writing the concoction is sitting snuggly in the barrel. We anticipate that the entire process will take about two weeks, but are intending to taste the work-in-progress when we top up the cask in a few days. The short list for what goes in next continues to grow…
Yum. Maybe D wasn’t the only one suffering from gin overload because I fully enjoyed this rye cocktail. Admittedly I love grapefruit and I love raspberry (I made the syrup myself, see below for recipe), but in the world of cocktails that is no guarantee that the final product will be a success. In the case of The Blinker all the ingredients work together to create a whole that is somehow more than the sum of their parts.
D is not a fan of grapefruit but he did concede that the raspberry syrup tames the bitter acidity of the citrus. He affirmed the potion to be refreshing, likening it to a cider. “Fitting for spring!” he declared, “Or Fall!” For my part I found The Blinker to have a pleasant sweetness, not cloying, but decidedly honeyed. I also enjoyed the texture – this drink has gravity. It is opaque, thickened by the grapefruit pulp and the syrup. No single flavor dominates. The rye is present but not patriarchal.
Because we like to be thorough, and because we had some on hand, we also tried the original Blinker recipe using grenadine. The grapefruit was way more prominent, which D did not like. The drink was also an unpleasant rust color, as compared to the peachy-pink of the raspberry version. The pomegranate grenadine was not able to tie the flavors together and the cocktail lost its balance and its mystique. D and I both preferred the raspberry version, a rare consensus. Props to Ted Haigh for improving this classic cocktail.
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup raspberries (I used frozen because it is not berry season)
In a small saucepan dissolve sugar in water over medium heat. Add raspberries and allow to simmer just below a boil, macerating the berries with a spoon. Continue to cook, but do not boil, until the syrup has reduced by about half. Cool, strain, bottle.
- 2 ounces rye (we used Bulleit)
- 1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
- 1 teaspoon raspberry syrup (preferably homemade)
Shake over ice. Strain. Garnish with a lemon twist.