Amer Cyder

One of the classic combinations in certain regions of France is Picon Biere, that is a Pilsener or Wheat beer with a splash of Amer Picon poured in.

Unfortunately, we don’t get Amer Picon here in these United States.

However, even if Diageo refuses to send us Amer Picon, we do get a lot of other Amaros…

With this series of posts we shall explore the possibilities we do have available.

Cyder Amaro

Cyder Amaro

I’ve been trying to think of the best Amaro (or related substance) to go with Cider.

The other night I was working at Alembic and the other bartender said, “Well, it’s about that time.” A quizzical look from me, “?” Exasperated, “About that time for a little Becherovka!” Oh, right. I should have known…

METHOD: Pour Cyder into the mason jar or glass of your choosing. Pour in 3/4 ounce (or to taste) of Becherovka.

Becherovka’s heavy spice and light bitter component makes it perfect for Cider, the only problem is figuring the amount. For this half liter glass of Chris Murray’s Sonoma Cyder, I found anything less than an ounce didn’t have much impact. Your mileage may, of course, may vary.

COTW–Wandering Aegnus

First, just a reminder that Sunday, July 31, 2011, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails, (they also have a great beer selection,) on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders, (and me,) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

Cider of the Week for a change!


Rancho Gordo Santa Maria Pinquitos!

Small, hearty and pink, Sta. Maria Pinquitos are the perfect accompaniment to your barbecues and cookouts. A regional favorite in sunny Santa Maria (California), these quick-cooking beans hold their shape and can be used in chilis as well.

New plants for the garden in back. Julep Mint!

Greek Oregano.

English Thyme.

Agastache ‘Apricot’.

What San Francisco back yards look like. At least I don’t have to mow.

Monty and I both wish Michele would hurry up and get home from Mountain View.

Roasting veggies for Salsa.

Cider of the week, Wandering Aengus Wanderlust.

Modeled after English ciders, a full bodied cider with a long ginger spice finish. Pairings – barbeque, pork, turkey, sausage, or acidic cheese such as aged cheddar. 6.9% Alc., 1% Res. Sugars, 6 months-apples to bottle.

Cider in a classy jar. I liked this Cider, not so sweet as most American Cider. Tasted very natural.

Laid back Chicken, ready for roasting.

“Conv” Roasting Chicken at 375 F.

First stab at recreating Papalote’s Roast Tomato Salsa. Not entirely successful.

Roasted Chicken.

Dinner! Roast Chicken with Beans, Greens, and salad.

General Harrison’s Egg Nogg

First, just a reminder that Sunday, May 22, 2011, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails, (they also have a great beer selection,) on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders, (and me,) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

General Harrison’s Egg Nogg
1 Egg. (1 Egg)
1 1/2 Teaspoonsful of Sugar. (1 1/2 Teaspoon Caster Sugar)
2 or 3 Small Lumps of Ice.
Fill the tumbler with Cider (4 oz Astarbe Natural Basque Cider), and shake well.

This is a splendid drink, and is very popular on the Mississippi river. It was the favourite beverage of William Henry Harrison, ninth President of the United States of America.

First off, and let’s get this out of the way, this isn’t Egg Nogg. As far as I am concerned, and no disrespect to the General, this a Cider Flip. Period.

Second, most modern American Hard Cider is awful. Most of them are sweet, vaguely alcoholic, highly carbonated, compounded beverages more closely resembling Zima or Wine Coolers than actual Cider.

William Henry Harrison lived from 1773 to 1841, he would not have recognized these beverages as Hard Cider, or even something fit for adult consumption.

When we talk about the nature of historical ingredients, we rarely talk about the obvious stuff.

The fact is, until relatively recently, fermentation was poorly understood. I mean, people understood the end result and they understood how to control the process, but they really did not understand that it was a specific organism that was consuming the sugars and producing the alcohol. Yeast was pretty much a mystery. This means most fermentation was done using things similar to sourdough starters. This also means most beer was probably sour and most wine far less predictably delightful. The industrialization of these industries just hadn’t happened in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

Likewise, Hard Cider was not inoculated with specific, delightful strains of yeast, it was just fermented with whatever wild yeasts and bacterias were in the air and on the fruit wherever it was being made. Hardly anybody does this anymore, because the results are not really predictable and the beverage you get on the other end may more closely resemble a tart Lambic Ale than an Apple Soda.

It is also worth noting, that opposed to the mild, juicy apples that are often now used to make Hard Cider and Apple Juice, the apples traditionally used to make cider were those you couldn’t eat out of hand. If you talk to someone who makes Calvados, another old, old tradition, they will tell you the only thing the many apple varieties used to make that beverage have in common are that they are small, ugly, and bitter.

So I was contemplating this, wondering if there was some cider I could find that would make sense to use in General Harrison’s Egg Nogg.

Over the past year or two, I’ve become a bit obsessed with naturally fermented beer and wine. I really like the unusual flavors you find in these beverages. I’d tried some more unusual beers and had some Natural wines which really made me perk up and take notice of things that stood outside of my frame of reference for fermented beverages.

One day, when I was visiting with Carl Sutton (of Sutton Cellars), he’d pulled out some Spanish Cider which blew me away. Not only did it have unusual flavors I didn’t associate with Cider, it also had a bracing acidity, that helped me to categorize many of the funky flavors I’d found in Calvados.

When we traveled to Spain last year, I made it my personal goal to try as many Natural Ciders as I could find while we traveled through the Basque and the Asturian regions of Spain. Well, after a couple bottles, none of my traveling companions really shared this enthusiasm. Tart, dry, funky and fairly alcoholic, they soon substituted Wine for the Cider I was drinking.

However, Spanish Cider makes complete sense as the type of Hard Cider someone would have been drinking in the late part of the 18th Century and early part of the 19th, and it makes total sense in the Harrison’s Egg Nogg. The acidity makes that amount of sugar sensible, the funkiness stands up against the egg, and the fact that it is barely carbonated makes it almost possible to shake the drinks without having it explode all over your kitchen or bar.

Forgot to turn on the music today before making the video. Note to self, feed the cats before making videos.

Safety Note: As with any recipe containing uncooked eggs, there is some small chance of salmonella. If that risk bothers you, use pasteurized eggs.

Finding Basque Cider: I got this Astarbe Cider at Healthy Spirits. When talking to them, they asked me to let them know what I thought. He’d gotten it a while ago, excited to find any Basque Cider available in the US. However, it really hadn’t sold very well. Personally, I had a hard time telling them that, yes, they should carry Basque Cider, when they have sold less than a case over what looks like about 5 years. If you disagree, let them know, as there’s only one bottle left. If that last bottle gets sold, and you still want to try Spanish Cider, K&L Wines does carry a Spanish and a Basque Cider.

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

Stone Fence Cocktail

Stone Fence
1 Lump of Ice.
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters.
1 Glass Scotch Whisky. (2 oz Suntory Hibiki 12)
Use long tumbler and fill with soda water (Oliver’s Herefordshire Dry Perry).

Soda? Who makes a Stone Fence with Soda? Well, I’ll be damned if I am going to make a Stone Fence with Soda! Unfortunately, I had no traditional Cider in the house, either, so texted Daniel at Alembic to see if he had any. Turned out he only had this rather fancy still Pear Cider, but why not?

The day I was making this cocktail, Alembic was hosting an event with Suntory’s Whiskies. Well, when in Rome…

Great article over at Cask Strength regarding Suntory’s Whiskies:

Japanese Odyssey-Part One

Suntory’s whiskies are made in a very similar manner to Scotch, in fact, all the malt used in the whisky is imported from Scotland!

However the different casks used, Japanese Oak, and different weather conditions for aging give Suntory’s whiskies a very different character from Scotch Whisky.

Of the several Suntory Whiskies we had available, Daniel picked the Hibiki 12 for the cocktail. It is their youngest blended Whisky.

I really enjoyed this version of the Stone Fence, a drink I could drink. Very dry, mostly flavor coming from the cider, but with the Japanese Whisky poking through. Some who tried it thought it could use a little sweetener, but I’ve never seen a Stone Fence recipe call for sweetener, just Cider and Booze. I did miss the bubbles a tad.

I will have to re-try it with some of my favorite French Ciders, like those from Eric Bordelet or Etienne Dupont. Or for an extra funky beverage, Basque or Asturian Sidra…

And yes, this is a very old recipe. It was probably already a very old recipe when Jerry Thomas included it in his “Bartender’s Guide”.

Though the Thomas recipe is as follows:

Stone Fence.
(Use large bar-glass.)
Take 1 wine-glass of Bourbon or rye whiskey.
2 or 3 small lumps of ice.
Fill up the glass with sweet cider.

Grumble, I suppose “sweet cider” really means apple juice. But what fun is that?

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.

Josey Packard

This is the second in an ongoing series of bartender features on the Underhill-Lounge.

Previously, I had experimented by asking the bartender at Montgomery Place to make me a Bombay Cocktail No. 2, but this just seemed to result in a grumpy bartender.

To make it less of a shock, I thought I would contact some local bartenders and give them a choice of the dozen or so Savoy Cocktails that might be coming up in the book.

Surprisingly, some actually were game.

NOTE: Since writing this up, Josey has moved back to the East Coast. When I last talked to her, she was looking for a bartending gig in the Boston area. I will post an update when I know more. I still, however, recommend putting Alembic on your short list of bars to visit in the San Francisco Bay Area.

After about a month of travel, sickness, and scheduling conflicts, I finally was able to get together with Josey Packard at The Alembic Bar to make some Savoy Cocktails. While we were at it, I asked her a couple questions.

Josey’s BIO: I’m a frequent victim of agape: widely varying passions have led me to several different occupations. A vocalist by training, day jobs for me have included that of seamstress, auto mechanic, office manager, carpenter, editor, audio producer, and flooring installer. A keen interest in cocktail history led me to take up work behind the bar, and it is there where I find myself able to marry both vocation and avocation; I’m proud to call myself a bartender. I developed the signature cocktail for the Boston Athenaeum’s 200th anniversary celebration, and have finalized the recipe for two original cocktails, the Wolfhound and the Northern Spy.

Diki-Diki Cocktail

1/6 Grape Fruit Juice.
1/6 Swedish Punch. (Carlshamm’s Flaggpunsch)
2/3 Calvados. (Le Merton Vieux Calvados)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

For comparison, Josey wanted to try this with both white grapefruit and ruby red grapefruit juice.

I think Josey’s first comment was, “Wow, that’s an adult cocktail!” and her second was, “I could drink the hell out of this!” Given the relatively small amount of Grapefruit juice, we were both a bit surprised that the we preferred the touch of sweetness and additional fruitiness that the Ruby Red Grapefruit brought to the cocktail. It was a subtle difference; but, enough to be noticeable. In any case, I agree with Josey about this cocktail. Definitely one of the highlights so far of the letter “D.”

From Google, as far as I can tell, “Diki-Diki” is a Filipino adjective used to convey “very small.” There is also a small African Antelope called a “Dik-Dik.”

Robert Vermeire, in his book, “Cocktails: How to Mix Them,” notes the following regarding this cocktail:

Diki-Diki is the chief monarch of the Island Ubian (Southern Philipines), who is now 37 years old, weighs 23 lb., and his height is 32 in. The author introduced this cocktail at the Embassy Club in London, February 1922.

Q: What ingredient have you been experimenting mixing with lately?

A: I’ve been experimenting with the Luxardo and Maraska Maraschino liqueurs. I was really surprised to discover how differently they work in cocktails and which gins work best with either one.

We had wanted to try the Desert Healer cocktail as well; but discovered the bar was out of ginger beer.

Devonia Cocktail
(6 People)

Pour into the shaker 4 glasses of Sparkling Cider (2 oz Two Rivers Gravenstein Apple Hard Cider) and 2 glasses of Gin (1 oz Gin.) Add some ice and a few drops of Orange Bitters. Shake lightly and serve.

The Devonia was particularly appealing as The Alembic Bar currently has a very nice Hard Cider from Two Rivers on tap. We first tried it with Plymouth Gin; but it was maybe a bit too adult. The Two Rivers Gravenstein cider is a very dry cider, almost like one of the French champagne-style ciders in character. Interesting, however, to compare the cider on its own with the cider, gin, orange bitters mix. Mixing the cider with the gin, really brought out the earthy, apple peel flavors of the cider, especially in the smell.

For a second try, Josey had the idea to try the Devonia with Anchor Distilling’s new Genevieve Genever-style gin. Even though we had no illusions that this cocktail is really a Devonia, we both preferred it. The complexity of the Genevieve worked well with the cider. And, I might add, the Genevieve is a really interesting taste all on its own. The young whisk(e)y character of the distillate comes across loud and clear in the smell, taste, and body of this new gin. Personally, I can’t wait to get a bottle myself and start experimenting with it.

Q: As Alembic is a restaurant and bar, have you found any particularly good food and cocktail pairings?

A: The obvious one is a Martini with our Catfish Cakes. The chef uses Gin in his Catfish cakes and Tonic in his tartar sauce. With a wet martini, it is a great combination. Another pairing that works very well is the Opera Cocktail with the Oxtails.

Q: Do you have an original cocktail or an old favorite you feel represents you and your style of mixing?

Northern Spy
2 oz. Applejack
1 oz. fresh apple cider (flash-pasteurized ok but no preservatives!)
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/4-1/2 oz. apricot brandy (amount depending on brand/sweetness)
Rim glass with cinnamon-sugar. Shake and strain into rimmed glass. Add a cranberry as garnish.
Note: this cocktail responds well to “royale” treatment, a.k.a. topping with champagne.

I am impossibly biased towards both The Alembic Bar and Josey Packard, so it is tough for me to even pretend impartiality here. Alembic is a great bar and Josey is a wonderfully engaged and engaging bartender.

If you’re in San Francisco and into cocktails, Alembic should be one of the two or three “musts” that goes on your “to do” list. You’ll find Josey there, usually earlier in the evening or during the day, 5 days a week.

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.

Neige Ice Cider

As it happens, I enjoy a good dessert wine, (or “pudding wine” as our English friends call them,) from time to time.

I have an especial weakness for Sauterne and Tokaji Aszú. Well, not to mention Port, Trockenbeerenauslese,  Pedro Ximénez…

Anyway, given this unhealthy interest in sweet wines, and an especial fondness for apples, I was interested to learn of Canadian Ice Ciders a few years ago.

Like ice wines, ice ciders are made from the concentrated juice squeezed from frozen fruit.

Unfortunately, it didn’t really seem like many were imported into the US so I kind of gave up on the idea of trying it.

However, while perusing the dessert wines at a local liquor store recently, I was surprised to see a single bottle of La Face Cachée de la Pomme‘s Neige Ice Cider. I asked the store manager about it, and he said if I wanted to try it, I should buy it, because that was the only bottle he had.

We finally tried it last night after dinner and all I can say is, “Wow!”

I truly hope this isn’t the last time I get to try Ice Cider, as Neige is really fantastic stuff.

Super concentrated, delicious and complex, apple flavor.  Very sweet, but with enough acidity and complexity to keep it from being cloying.  The aroma seemed to just fill the glass with the essence of apple.  It went well with the carrot cake we had for dessert, but I could also see it pairing with a cheese plate, Foie Gras, or Pate.

Apple Cocktail

Apple Cocktail
(6 People)
Take 2 glasses of sweet Cider (2 oz Martinelli’s Cider), 1 Glass Gin (1 oz. Beefeater’s), 1 Glass of Brandy (1 oz Korbel VSOP Brandy) and 2 glasses of Calvados (2 oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Jack). Shake and serve. (Garnish with thin horizontal slices of tart, green apple.)

Note: This is the cocktail doctors hate to recommend.

The above volume recommendations are for two cocktails. Be nice to go with a nice tart cider. Something with a little more spine than the Martinelli’s. If you have to use a mild apple juice style cider, a dash of lemon wouldn’t hurt. In any case, a tasty cocktail, and the apple slice was a nice addition which added a tasty booze soaked treat to the end of the cocktail.

Caution: Over enthusiastic consumption of this potent pomme potation may result in tawdry, if not downright original, sin.

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.