BOTW–Anchor Christmas Beer

Every year when Anchor Brewing releases its new Christmas Ale, we pick up a six pack and compare it to the previous year’s beer. Last year we finally finished our first six pack.

This year the holidays and various events have conspired to prevent us from holding our annual comparison before Christmas. But, I felt like it would be a shame to pass the holiday without featuring Anchor Christmas Beer on the Blog.

While every year the beer is a spiced brown ale, every year the mix of spices and character of the beer is a bit different. It also has a different tree on the label. This year is Quercus lobata (Valley Oak) a California Native. I detect vanilla and maybe a bit of citrus in the beer. As it warmed it almost had a sour character. Pleasant. Still, one bottle of this type of “spiced cake beer” is plenty for me.

Supposedly, Beer geeks know how to interpret this unusual sequence of numbers and letters for the information it contains. I put this up for their benefit and enjoyment.

St. George Absinthe Update

From the St. George Website:

St. George Absinthe Verte Update 12/22/07

Unfortunately, we have sold out of all our stock of absinthe!

We are in the process of making more and plan on having more in stock at the end of January. This time around, we are making twice as much to meet demand.

Be one of the first to be alerted to it’s release by signing up for our newsletter.

Holy moley, according to Camper English’ blog, they had 1600 bottles at the distillery! I don’t think even they expected to sell out in less than two days!

Don’t Fear the…


After months of negotiation with the TTB, St. George finally has the approval to sell its “Brandy with Herbs.”

The original label involved a skull with crossed bones. Apparently, not funny.

Another label, involving a monkey beating two bones on a skull. Also, not funny.

Finally, a monkey beating a cowbell with a bone. TTB approved.

I guess Blue Oyster Cult (or maybe Mountain) has an audience at the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau.

I will spare you further BOC puns and just tell you that St. George has done us proud. The first Absinthe legally manufactured and sold in the US since the ban went into effect in 1912 is well distilled and well flavored. There, I said it. This is an Absinthe.

The first batch is pretty slim, and from what I can tell most retailers have sold out their allocations in pre-sale. They do have a bunch at the St. George/Hangar One distillery in Alameda, but I wouldn’t really expect that to last much past the holiday season, given the current interest in Absinthe and the quality of the product.

They are expecting another batch available February-ish for those of you not in the vicinity. Get on the list at your local liquor emporium now!

Just a Bunch of Drinks

Over the years cocktails with a lot of drinks have been popular. Sort of compendiums of the state of the cocktail art, as it were. The first of these may have been “The Savoy Cocktail Book.” Other big ones include the various Mr. Boston Guides, Cocktail Bill Boothby’s “World Drinks and How to Mix Them,” and one of the most influential modern drink bibles, “Jones’ Complete Bar Guide.”

They tend to be long on recipes, but short on instructions, details, or information.

In his annually published DiffordsGuides to Cocktails, Simon Difford has been a bit different. He usually has a good section on methods, pictures for each cocktail, origin details for many cocktails, and little articles about featured cocktails. He also has an exceptional index of ingredients and recipes which include them. Not to mention a short list of some of the world’s best bars.

Now up to DiffordsGuide # 7, in many bars these annually released books have become the go to guides for young bartenders, especially those of the European persuasion.

In number of recipes, DiffordsGuide #7 does not let us down. Including over 2250 drink recipes, you’re not going to run dry any time soon.

One of the nicest things about Difford’s Guides is that they not only include drinks from American bartenders, but also from Europe and the world. It includes relatively recent cocktails from San Franciscans Jacques Bezuidenhout and Dominic Venegas, along with many of the leading lights of modern Europe’s bar scene.

I find it interesting that, as in all Mr. Difford’s books, there are rather a lot of very sweet sounding cocktails and many layered shots, (or “Shotails” as Mr. Difford likes to call them.)  I’m not sure if this is a difference between West Coast and European taste, or just Mr. Difford’s preference.

Still there are enough interesting old and new classics in Difford’s Guide #7 to keep any person entertained for, well, the rest of their life.  Certainly no cocktail enthusiast would complain if they found one under their Christmas, (or Valentine’s Day,) tree.

Full disclosure: When I read on the Spirits Review Blog that a new Difford’s Guide had been released, I sent a note to Christopher Carlsson asking how he had got his sweaty little hands on a copy. He suggested I contact them. I did, and they were kind enough to send a copy for review.

Alexander’s Jamaican Cousin

A while ago I posted the series of Alexander Cocktails: Alexander Cocktail (No. 1), Alexander Cocktail (No. 2), and Alexander’s Sister.

I didn’t post an original cocktail of my own, that I liked best of the bunch. Sorry, Mr. Craddock, we always love our children the best.

But, since Marleigh over at Sloshed! is posting about the Brandy Alexander, I figure I might as well put it up.

Alexander’s Jamaican Cousin

1 1/2 oz Flavorful Dark Rum
3/4 oz Pimento Dram (Jamaican Allspice Liqueur)
3/4 oz Cream

Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Grate on some fresh nutmeg.

If you try it, drop me a note and let me know what you think.

Angel Face Cocktail

Angel Face Cocktail

1/3 Dry Gin. (3/4 oz Softer Gin like Plymouth)
1/3 Apricot Brandy. (3/4 oz Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot liqueur)
1/3 Calvados. (3/4 oz AppleJack or Calvados)

Shake (stir please! ~Erik) well and strain into cocktail glass.

Gonna be a pretty different cocktail, depending on which apple spirit you choose. The Laird’s Bonded AppleJack is pretty good, but a little rougher than the French stuff, or the nicer American brands like Clear Creek or Germain-Robin.

I thought of the idea of the apple angel’s wings garnish on the way home and actually the flavor of the garnish and the cocktail complement each other nicely. The idea of trying to reproduce an angel’s face also occurred to me; but, then I could only think about the Rilke poem which sez, “every angel is terrifying,” and discarded the idea.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

BOTW–Avant Garde Ale

This week’s beer comes from Port Brewing in San Marcos, CA.

I’m just going to to say it is a delicious beer and quote their label, as it seemed particularly meaningful to me this week:

From the French word “Garde” meaning something worth keeping, this Farmhouse Style Ale is most delicious companion to a loaf of freshly baked bread from the oven. Grab a seat on the porch, some soft cheese and a tree ripened apple from your grandmother’s old orchard. Relax and watch the evening arrive as the afternoon sun is consumed by the illuminating moon over the gardens. We brewed Avant Garde for you, our friends and families. Here’s to things worth guarding over.

Every year we buy Persimmons from the Nuns at the Mission San Jose in Fremont, and every year I make this persimmon pudding from them. I love persimmons, and this is one of my absolute favorite desserts. It used to be up on the Robert Mondavi website, but now appears to have disappeared due to reorganization, so I will put it up here for posterity.

Steamed Persimmon Pudding

3 very ripe, soft persimmons (about 1 pound) stemmed
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In blender or food processor, puree persimmons (with skins); set aside. In large mixer bowl, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in egg to blend thoroughly. Into another bowl, sift the dry ingredients and mix into butter mixture alternately with milk in three additions. Mix in persimmon puree and vanilla to blend thoroughly. Generously butter a 1-quart mold. Pour batter into mold and cover tightly with a buttered lid or aluminum foil. Place a rack in a pot taller than the mold. Place the mold on rack and add enough boiling water to come halfway up side of mold. Cover the pot with a lid or aluminum foil.
Steam pudding over medium heat on the top of the stove or in a preheated 325-degree oven 1 1/2 hours, checking frequently and adding boiling water to maintain correct level. Remove mold from pot to cooling rack. Remove lid; set aside mold until lukewarm. Unmold onto plate and serve warm or at room temperature.

Another favorite thing is Salmon with Aromatic Vegetables from Julia Child’s, “The Way to Cook.” It is a very easy recipe, yet is so rewarding and delicious. Lately we’ve been serving it with Quinoa with peas and spring onions.

And, oh yeah, dessert!

American Beauty

American Beauty

1 Dash Crème de Menthe. (Brizard)
1/4 Orange Juice. (3/4 oz Fresh)
1/4 Grenadine. (3/4 oz homemade*)
1/4 French Vermouth. (3/4 oz Noilly Prat Dry)
1/4 Brandy. (3/4 oz Korbel VSOP)

Shake well and strain into medium size glass and top with a little port wine (Warre’s Warrior Porto).

I didn’t really have a lot of hope for this cocktail but it really surprised me. Probably using the homemade grenadine and fresh orange juice is a big advantage, as they are in any cocktail. The touch of mint really does provide a little something else exotic.

Aside from being the title of a Grateful Dead album and the name of an old garden rose variety, “American Beauty Rose” was the name of a song published around 1910. Mostly, it’s one of those, “Yeah, girls from other countries can be kind of hot; but, I prefer my good old fashioned American Beauty Rose,” type songs. No idea if there is a connection.

*1 Cup Pomegranate Juice (Knudsen Just Pomegranate)
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Pomegranate Concentrate
1/4 Cup Vodka

Combine sugar with juice and shake until dissolved. Add Pomegranate Concentrate and Vodka.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Soup Noodles

Well, that isn’t Soup Noodles, it’s a Fourth Degree Cocktail:

2 oz Junipero
1/2 oz M&R Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz Dolin Vermouth
Dash Absinthe
Lemon Peel

Stir with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze lemon peel over drink.

I just love how you can see the little droplets of lemon oil on the surface of the drink.

The original drink from the early 20th century is equal parts Italian Vermouth, French Vermouth, and Gin with a dash of Absinthe. I’ve dried it out slightly and this cocktail falls right into my sweet spot for aromatic cocktails. Complex, simple, not too sweet, and wonderfully balanced. Just a fantastic cocktail.

Now that’s Soup Noodles.

Soba noodles in broth with baked tofu, mushrooms, spinach and an egg. Usually go for the Chinese style broth with xiao shing rice wine, soy, chile, scallions, garlic, and ginger. Top it off with some cilantro.

Almond Cocktail

Almond Cocktail

(6 People)

Slightly warm 2 Glasses of Gin (2 oz Beefeaters Gin). Add a teaspoonful of powdered sugar (1/2 tsp. Caster Sugar). Soak in this six peeled almonds (4 halved and lightly roasted almonds) and if possible a crushed peach kernel (crushed plum kernel), and allow to cool. When the mixture is cold add a dessertspoonful of Kirsch (1 tablespoon Trimbach Kirsch), one of Peach Brandy (1 tablespoon Massenez creme de peche), a glass of French Vermouth (1 oz Noilly Pratt) and 2 glasses of any sweet White Wine (2 oz Bonny Doon Riesling). Shake thoroughly with plenty of ice.

Patrick Gavin Duffy gives this the lascivious sounding alternate name, “A Young Girl’s Fancy,” in his “Mixer’s Manual”. For all the work, my wife and I both thought this an odd tasting cocktail. Nutty, peachy and slightly but not overly sweet. Not bad, just kind of odd.

I also had some pyro fun, lighting the gin and pouring a long burning stream over the almonds. Mrs. Underhill did not approve. Something about burning down the house.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.